Develop Excellence and Expertise in Coaches

Rowden 2011

The prime component of any expert system is significant, pertinent and ongoing knowledge and experience. Such experience is never transferable in its entirety to other areas or subjects, though some parts may be. Regarding for example top athletes being fast-tracked into coaching, the downside is that unless their own coach was a great teacher and had them fully understanding the whys and wherefores of workout designs, they are completely missing the foundational skills of coaching. Doing and knowing are rarely the same thing.

Coaches therefore require a substantial core of relevant and up-to-date information and continual experience – in other words they need to be doing the job all the time and learning as they are doing it.

New coaches need access to continued professional development at a high level but any system needs not only to provide data and instruction but also to create the means for change. There is more to coach development than just gathering data, there is understanding what you have gathered and learning the relevant applications.

1. Informing – giving coaches new information

2. Forming – changing the way coaches do things

3. Transforming – changing the way coaches think or look at things, which results in a permanent change in their behaviour

Of the above three aspects that of giving new information is both the easiest and the most basic. Because of the structure of courses in Europe and time constraints, too much time is almost always spent on 1 (giving out information), very little on 2 and nothing on 3. To maximise the effectiveness of any educational programme there has to be a shift towards more forming (learning activities) and transforming (guided discovery and contemplation).

Many resources can be developed (written, web sites, DVD’s) to deliver information outside of tutor contact, which would release time to allow for the required repetition of activities and for discussion and awareness seminars to reform and master the necessary skills and thinking. We should of course also develop specific opportunities within CPD to allow coaches to get more training in any specialist areas where they have an interest. Updated courses should allow for maximum active learning time to form new skills and to think in different ways.

What about the value of sending out experts into the club environment to work with both coaches and players? This would give additional input on the technical/tactical, physical and mental factors of player development. Also it would enable coaches to see first hand and at close range, the experts’ values and the qualities that make them what they are. This is often more important then what they do or know.

The United States Olympic Committee recently surveyed their coaches regarding the skills they considered most important. The order of skills was as follows:
• Communication
• Knowledge
• Skill development
• Team development
• Passion

The difference of course between beginner and elite coaches is the way skills are used!

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