Change the game…or change the coach? ECB Coaches Association Conference, part 3

The theme for the 2017 ECB Coaches Conference was “change the game”.

Over the weekend, we were challenged to think about how we coach, what we coach, about the type of coach we were or aspired to be, even about the environment in which we coach.

So perhaps, rather than changing the game, we were really being challenged to change the coach!

Change the coach?

Coaching 2.0 – Stuart Armstrong

Stuart Armstrong, Head of Coaching with Sport England and avowed scourge of drills and cones, started the second day of the Conference with a string of questions.

  • What is coaching?
  • What is skillful coaching?
  • How did you (or how will you) develop your coaching skills?

In 2016, Sport England has published Stuart’s report Coaching in an Active Nation: Coaching Plan for England. This document offers a definition of the role of coaching beyond the development of sports-related skills, to embrace the participant’s engagement and motivation.

As coaches we might sometimes acknowledge the importance of “fun” in our sessions if we are to encourage players to return next week, but, whilst important, simple enjoyment is not the only factor that encourages an ongoing engagement with physical activity.

Coaches will need a better understanding of the participants’ many and varied motivations.  Stuart highlighted the need for coaches to create an experience so that participants do not leave…but then challenged us to define what the best experience might be.

The Social Age – Julian Stodd

Post-manufacturing, post-information, even post-digital, Julian explained how, in the  emerging Social Age, we all belong to diverse groups (probably to multiple, often overlapping groups), and that our role within the group(s) will be dynamic and ever-changing – sometimes leading, sometimes following, sometimes supporting.

Membership is be defined by trust in fellow members of the “tribe” and pride (in membership of the tribe) rather than by the traditional hierarchical structures.

And as this is the age that athletes (and coaches) are now (or soon will be) inhabiting, it becomes ever more important that coaches develop the skills needed to thrive within such a community.

Julian’s challenge for coaches: don’t just observe change – learn how to build communities that offer the space for excellence to emerge.

Challenges for coaches; challenges for coach education

Coaches could usefully be introduced to the (academic) theories of learning – without a basic understanding of how learners learn, it is impossible to design appropriate learning environments.

Challenge – how to convert dense academic treatises into short, usable guidelines for coaches?

Coaches should begin to learn how to design & apply appropriate training interventions, in particular to understand the strengths and weaknesses of games-based learning.

When do we play games? What games work? When do we “coach”?

This new learning could extend to the theories underlying non-linear pedagogy, especially that games should be “representative” and adhere to the “principles of play”.

Coaches could be encouraged to develop and to inhabit with the players alternative coaching environments – not just the traditional “industrial age”, hierarchical model with coach-as-guru, but perhaps a more networked “social age” model where the athletes are encouraged to generate and share their own solutions.

Heady stuff.

But we do all want to get better at coaching, don’t we?

And I don’t think that can mean running the same drills (or even running new, better drills) in the hope that the players will finally “learn their lessons”.

As Ian Renshaw put it – players are shaped by the environment in which they learn to play; the clever coach shapes that environment.

See also:

Simplicity and focus in 1-to-1s – ECB Coaches Association Conference review, part 1

The challenge of games – ECB Coaches Association Conference review, part 2

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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