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Posted in: General

Is there such a thing as 'coaching'?

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  • Coach_Browning

    Possibly a wierd thing to post in a coaching community forum, but something I have been thinking about for a while. 

    We talk all the time about how coaching can be individual to the sport, the level, the team, the age, the gender, and even the individual day! The great blog post about Liam McCarthy - There are no 'golden rules' to coaching women - talks about the different tools that you need. Richard Cheetham gives an excellent account of how to be creative in coaching sessions. We read about challenging the traditional ways of doing things. Embrace technology. Dont be afriad to be new and innovative. Think outside the box. And so on...

    Therefore, Is 'coaching', in the traditional sense, now dead and buried? Is it possible to teach someone how to coach anymore? Is there a model of what a coach looks like? Or should our attention instead be on the variety of tools available and making sure coaches know how to use these in different situations?

    I would be interested to hear how different sports teach coaching.

  • jturner83

    I think you hit the nail on the head there, and this is why I have problems with the professionalisation movement and certification. I think there are fundamental qualities first of all that a coach needs, and those are embedded in a person either hereditary or childhood nurture. That might be hard to accept for some people, but If we were honest, the more experienced coaches can watch a novice coach practice and almost immediately know if that person is going to be a 'good' coach or not. However, I know there are people that will argue that with me until the moon turns pink. Secondly, I think there are fundamental skills (tools) that all coaches need to have and be taught, either through informal or formal education. And this is where the problem begins. The current UKCC, delivered through NGBs, concentrates more on technical and tactical elements of their particular sport, and not enough about those core tools. I personally think it is killing off the autonomous coach, and just like standardisation did with teaching, is creating a generation of 'coaches' that are fine if everything goes according to the handbook, but struggle when the real complexity and fluidity of coaching shows.

    What I would prefer to see, if we are going down the certification route, is a UKCC course 1-3 of the core coaching skills. The same units across all sports, then have optional 'units' or elements which are specific to the sport you are in and decided on by the NGB. I'd like to see a lot more problem-based learning, mentoring, apprenticeships and reflective practice to help create autonomous coaches.

    I also think there is a confusion surrounding the term 'sports coach' in society anyway. Often clumsily used to describe a multitude of occupations and roles. That needs to be addressed.

    Break rant over, back to work.

  • JonWoodward74

    Great post by Simon and interesting response from James...

    WHAT IS COACHING?!?!?!? It is a question i ask most days, and get asked most days (and don't get me started on the debates I have with my teacher wife around what is teaching...)

    There are core units that NGBs follow through the placement on the appropriate framework and as guided by the UKCC criteria. It is the the choice of the NGB then to add/include the sport specific bits to make it relevant to their coaches, their envinronment and their sport. The UKCC is not a limiting factor in the development of coach education -it shows the outline and framework of what should be covered and should be built on to develop the coaches in their relevant areas. All the things you mention, James, sit within the criteria and are encouraged to be developed.

    Qualifications are only part of the journey as a development for a coach, and often receives the negative view. Development does not begin and end with a 'Level' qualification, but is merely the starting point of the journey. This is often lost. I didn't complete my Level 3 and think I have made it. I attend workshops, read, watch, observe, listen, etc to develop myself as a coach - not enough 'coaches' do that and I believe that is the issue.

    James - I have also found this for you - maybe useful to stop an arguement in the future.....

    Great post with some good thoughts and ideas!




  • jturner83

    In theory Rob, in reality the content on courses are still not percieved as relivent to practice, to much content is technical and tactical and coaches still largely get most of their information from observation and talking to other coaches. 13 years on from the coaching task force report (2002) and I still know of coaches with no badges at all, or some that send their relatives on coaches courses to get certificates for them. This is government money we are spending, I dread to think what the general public would think about millions of pounds  spent in the last decade on a national certificate scheme that athletics don't even want to touch.

    Back to coaching. I have been trying to get to the bottom of  this question of 'what is sports coaching?' Do you think it's being over complicated and hijacked by researchers, when coaching is more of a tacit practice that should be simply measured by results?

  • IanMahoney

    A lot of the coach educatiom is on how to coacg rather than what to coach.

    dependant on the sport, until you knoe the atjltes age, gender and goals, 'how to coac' goe 'out the window', Some athletes prefer being told, some prefer watching and the mist important fot us as coaches some who prfer to have a go, make mistakes and learn from them it get better.

    self evaluation  of sessionawith feed back from you 'charges'.can provide an insight whether you show and tell and/or let some of your athletes to 'get on with it' with in the background proding ocassional advice and lots of priise for trying.

    Say :"good effort" athltes 'warm' to that.

  • andrewb62

    Hi Simon - this is an important question for this group, I believe, given the diversity of sports, backgrounds, experience etc. of the group members.

    I not sure there is such _a_ (singular) thing as coaching - as you say, the word can mean different things depending on the speaker, the context, even the day of the week (coaching on match day will be quite different to what happens between fixtures).

    But if we could agree on a definition of the aims of coaching ("to help players/participants be the best they can be"?), I think there probably are common skills that could (should) be taught to all coaches.

    I would look for the following qualities in any coach (all of which can be taught (or at least encouraged): 

    • empathy (emotional intelligence; "knowing your players" - "coach the player (the individual in front of you, at a particular time and place), not the skill");
    • the ability to differentiate (during sessions; between sessions with different players or groups);
    • creativity (make it relevant; make it (appropriately) challenging; make it fun)

    I'm sure there are many more.

    But probably mostly "soft" skills, as the most universally applicable to all coaches.

    As to how these are taught...

  • andrewb62
    On 18/04/16 12:19, Ian Mahoney said:

    A lot of the coach education is on how to coach rather than what to coach.

    This certainly matches my experience of coach education - cricket levels 1 & 2, and post level 2 CPD, 2009 onwards; football level 1, 2014).

    Level 1 football dealt mostly with how to deliver prescribed drills, with no technical content whatsoever- if the players could not complete a drill because they did not know what skills to use, the course provided no guidance whatsover to the coaches.

    I remember being surprised at how little technical content there was in the level 2 cricket - the only element that was actually tested was our ability to deliver demonstrations of perhaps half a dozen individual skills.  But we spent a lot of time learning how to deliver coaching sessions, and practicing this.

    Interestingly, some misgivings have been expressed about the content of the "new" level 2 cricket coaching course (new in 2013/14) - experienced coaches (for which read "those who qualified some time ago") have highlighted the fact that the new level 2 coaches have received very little, if any, technical advice.

    This (reducing technical content in coach education in favour of "how to coach" skills) could be the way some sports choose to go in future.

    I came across this, from Tony Dallimore, Education Director at Coachwise (parent body for 1st4Sports Qualifications, the awarding body for many coaching qualifications in the UK) on the role of the sports activator (and, in passing, on the level 2 qualification).

    Specifically, Tony writes (my emphasis) "...some sports are finding that they don't have the assistant roles for the people they've trained [to level 1] and are now looking at the alternatives. One approach could be to start coaches on a smaller Level 2 qualification (which means they can work without supervision), progressing to the current industry-standard Level 2 Certificate in a particular sport."

  • garyfowler

    Based on the original Q and the responses, I've 2 trains of thought.

    The old coaching company I worked for described it as "helping someone achieve a level they wouldn't be able to on their own." It's quite loose but I always liked the idea of helping as it put the onus on the the coachee too - how much help do they want, and what is that to them? It so varied and if you remove sport and think of coaching in any walk of life the first definition you get is "a form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific or professional goal."

    The most important person is the coachee. I think this is supported by success stories at the highest level of sport. I think back to watching the class of 92 dvd and the story of Raphael Burke. All the players agreed he was the most talented and Eric Harrison supported this. But what Harrison and Burke agreed on was that the players that made the grade wanted more help and worked harder to achieve.

    To me this is the most difficult part of grass roots coaching, the wide variety of individuals. Whilst of course you can make a difference to the players, the amount of difference you can make is affected by the coachee themselves and their motivations for being there. This is something I'm currently experiencing with my U17 team as half are pushing into our U20 team and the other half are starting to drift to 5-a-side or recreational football. This is no real surprise based on what I have seen ovetr the last 2 seasons.

    To focus on some of the answers regarding coaching course content I have experience of delivering parent/coach certification classes in USA. as many of the parents ddint grow up playing soccer their tech/tact knowledge would be lower than many equivalents here in UK. I agree with the point about the perfect session yet noy knowing what to do if things go wrong. I changed the focus on the practical aspect of the course as really any of them can read a game or drill from a manual and set it up. I focused on what mistakes/problems they could expect to encounter and therefore how to help the child correct and progress. The feedback was really rewarding as they felt more confident is having realistic practical outcomes from the course that they could use in the season.

    Even now I still feel this on courses, I don't need as an adult to spend 30mins going through the game as if I'm 5. Give me practical help in what I can use. Which in some ways goes full circle back to the original point. On a course I'm now the coachee, the most important person, and I want the tutor/coach to help me be able to acheive a new level!

  • jturner83

    I really like John Lyle's work on this topic, worth looking at this and some of his other work.

    Lyle, J. (2011) ‘What is a coach and what is coaching?’ In Stafford, I. (ed.) Coaching Children In Sport. London: Routledge, pp. 5-16

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