I spent a few hours today watching the live stream of @sportscoachuk’s latest #alldaytalentbreakfast, featuring Stuart Lancaster, England Rugby Union Head Coach, and Mark Lane, Head Coach of England Women’s Cricket.
Perhaps most enlightening (for me, as a volunteer cricket coach working with junior players) was the emphasis both speakers placed on the importance of a strong foundation (at representative level below national, and senior club, Academy and junior sport) to the ultimate success of the senior national teams.
Having heard Lancaster and Lane speak, it can be no surprise that England Rugby Union and the Women’s Cricket set-ups are both on the up.
It is unfair to try to summarise the presentations here – if you are at all interested in what makes a good coach, I can thoroughly recommend that you seek out the webinars from sports coach UK.
But a couple of points stood out for me.
Stuart Lancaster’s first lesson (out of 30 lessons – he was once a teacher…) – to shape culture, you need to understand that culture. It is not enough to say “this is the way things are going to be from now on” – the coach needs to understand how a team, or a club, or a national organisation thinks about its sport, and about how it interacts with the world outside the sport, before he can hope to influence the sport.
He went on to speak about the need to actively teach “connection and extension” – to spread understanding of the culture throughout the coaches and other support staff, the playing team, to the committees and admin staff, right on to the crowd at Twickenham, and even to the whole country.
There’s a challenge for the club coach, perhaps – to convince the selection committee to select a promising young player (or not to select him), not solely for playing reasons, but because that decision supports a longer term “cultural” aspiration – to be perceived as a club that actively promotes ambitious youth (or one that nurtures and protects young talent until it is properly ready).
Mark Lane also spoke about the need to get the culture right, and not just in the dressing room. He described the challenges (and ultimate successes) of empowering players to make their own, individual leadership decisions, to “own the process”, whether that means sticking to a plan in a difficult match situation or committing during practice sessions.