What are we doing when we coach? — What is coaching? (3)

I posted a couple of pieces last week about the process of coaching — how coaching is, perhaps, a bit like gardening. But I didn’t consider the “product” of sports coaching — for all of the tilling and watering (and weeding), what actually comes out the other end?

Or what it is that coaches actually do when they coach.

If I write “I am a cricket coach”, what am I claiming?

Professional status? That I am qualified to coach?

I have several certificates that say I am.

Or that I belong to a body of professional cricket coaches?

I pay my subs, at least.

That I enjoy coaching?

I do…maybe not as much as I used to, but it was great to get back into school in June.

But what do (cricket) coaches actually do? What is coaching?

Jim Hughes on coaching

A fascinating podcast from Mark Boyns at Opening Up Cricket, in conversation with Jim Hughes of Untamed, provided some suggestions — not about sports coaching, specifically, but perhaps relevant to what we (are trying to) do when we coach.

Going Upstairs podcast

Well worth a listen (as are the other podcast series from Opening Up).

Lots to think about.

Jim defined his work with “humble high performers” as “working with someone…helping people transform…[and]…discover blindspots…, creating…a space for…discussions to happen”.

Which sounds not so far removed from athlete-centred coaching, and the (sports) coaching mantra of “coach the athlete, not the sport”. I wonder how many of us actually adhere to this, all (even most) of the time?

“Creating space for discussions to happen” might find a sports coaching analogy in the ecological dynamics/constraints-led approach, where the sports coach and athlete co-create an environment where skill acquisition and learning is allowed to happen.

Jim drew a clear distinction between the coach who knows stuff (educated, perhaps opinionated), and the coach who is secure enough to realise that it is about the client, not them.

Indeed, Jim’s thoughts on coach education and development were challenging.

“…if you turn up for this amount of hours [on a coaching course]…you qualify…” but “…there’s no value in that in terms of protecting the nature of being a coach…”

The “nature of being a coach” can’t be represented by a collection of certificates.

Ultimately, perhaps, “you can’t teach good coaching”.

Are we coaches? Or are we instructors?

I have written before about what “coaching” is, and what it is not, without really managing to pin down quite what it is that we (cricket coaches) do when we coach.

And the truth is that we do many different things, sometimes in the same session — instructing, encouraging, challenging

A lot of coach ed seems to concentrate on what to say and how to say it — important, essential, even, but it does not speak to the “nature of coaching”, I fear.

The new (2019) ECB Advanced Coach award (replacing the old “level 3” awards) does look to have a heavy emphasis on the technical and practical aspects of coaching (this content might have been revised since launch) — 7 modules (out of 19) on the techniques of batting, bowling & fielding, one each on sports psych and fitness, nothing obviously about how to be a better coach or coaching methodologies, nothing on how people — children & adults, beginners to world-class performers — learn and improve.

Do we need more on self-awareness and reflection before, during, and after the act of coaching?

Or do we leave this to coaches to find out for themselves?

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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