Destroy the Flair and Spontaneity

Rowden Fullen (2004)

Some players more than others may like to be guided throughout their careers but coaches must always be aware that strong guidance can in fact be detrimental to the full realization of such players’ innate flair and spontaneity of play. Instead of thinking for themselves and understanding how they should perform in differing situations they come to rely on others and their ability to make their own assessments and react accordingly is reduced.

The potentially negative consequences of over-coaching must be more appreciated by those involved in developing our young stars and especially by those working with girl players. It is all too easy for the much older male senior coach to dominate young impressionable females so that they stop thinking for themselves. The difference in confidence and motivation levels in the case of players learning for themselves as opposed to being taught is often a significant factor in a player’s development and in the achievement of his or her ultimate potential. Coaches should understand that their role is to help players attain self-sufficiency at a relatively early stage in their career, not to hold their hand for the remainder of their lives.

Another danger is that many coaches and even national centres have a false perspective – they know or think they know how the top players should play. This in itself is not a major problem, but it becomes a problem when they try to force their own players or those coming under their control into the same mould. There is not just one way of playing or indeed one route to the top and this is especially true in the women’s game. Coaches should above all appreciate that no player is going to reach full potential unless his or her own natural capabilities are allowed to grow and flower.

There is a further dilemma in coaching girls. Often they lack confidence and can easily come to rely heavily upon their coach. In addition girls need more coaching and more coaching time than boys due to the fact that the girls’ game is more technically varied and they usually have more difficulty than boys in learning the technical practicalities. Finally girls have less time to play than boys (they play closer to the table) and as a result their technique needs to be better. These factors lead to them spending more individual time with their coach and it is therefore harder for the coach to keep a balance between coaching and over-coaching.

As a result it is imperative that even from a young age coaches foster this aspect of self-sufficiency with girl players, encourage them to question at all times, rather than just accepting. Help them to understand how they are effective and how they should train to reach their full potential. Above all show them where they are going, how they will ultimately play and how to get there.