Create the Optimal Coaching Environment – Challenges and Solutions
Skill Development & Your Coaching Environment
I get genuinely excited about the opportunities to meet those amateur sports coaches responsible for developing our youth, particularly considering many haven’t ever had access to a specialist kicking coach such as myself.
In some ways I see it as a responsibility and a duty of care for professional sports coaches to be active in the education of volunteer coaches, particularly at junior club level.
When invited recently to deliver a Rugby Kicking presentation by a local rugby governing body, I was certain that I would use this opportunity to share NOT only some technical, academic knowledge (What To), but rather concentrate the delivery on some key points to help their coaching environment (How To).
Although best practice is moving coaching practice swiftly towards modified games/guided discovery, there still exists in many pockets of rugby, a “drill” culture, without so much attention devoted to how to deliver the practice activities for the benefit of transfer to improve learning and performance.
It is still the done thing, across many sports to provide CPD that is geared toward technical observations, coaching interventions and drills.
It is simply naive to think that well spaced markers and a whistle constitute good practice delivery. So we contemplate that the acquisition of knowledge is not nearly as important as how we use it in our coaching context.
Although there certainly was some kicking specific information for the eager group, the following points were delivered to stimulate thought regarding the environment that each coach was to create with their team.
The following is a brief account of some of the themes discussed. By no means do I give you all the answers (I don’t have them myself!), but I do hope to shift your mindset a little when spending time with your team and other coaching staff.
Regardless of which sport you coach (ie Hockey, Football, Netball, Cricket etc), the information below offers a practical insight as to how you may adapt the principles to your coaching context….feel free to replace the words Rugby and/or Kicking with your chosen sport!
I opened by suggesting that:
Coaching is NOT about instructing per say, but rather about creating an optimal environment for player learning & retention…
Coaches need to understand that they are, in fact coaching people, not delivering programs. So the content of the session planner/drill booklet is not nearly as important as the relationship in achieving improvement.
To take that a step further, although there are some very good kicking games for rugby in coaching manuals, coaches are much better served creating their own that are specific to their teams needs and abilities. I know of many good coaches that don’t use drill books, instead always manipulating variations of themes when required to suit.
Much has been written about the Empowerment style of coaching, some refer to it as Player Centred. Much of my coaching energy the past couple of years has been geared towards, talking less and observing more. And I still have some improvements I want to make in this area!
An empowering coaching style is driven by a commitment to the learning and improvement from players. Your ego must take a back seat.
Warning: Some coaches will feel weak as a result.
Peer pressure and the urge to be seen as the “fountain of knowledge” will prevent many from discovering the wonderful benefits. If you are for your players, you will understand. There is a movement from many people in my coaching network that are even asking for coaches to render themselves REDUNDANT! A brave mindset and philosophy, no doubt, but the point is clear. Let’s give our players the tools to coach themselves.
Central to this is not only a particular philosophy of delivery but the creation of an open environment that allows self discovery. Empowering players allows them to assume some responsibility for their development journey. Much has been written on this particular subject, for me most notably by the renowned Lynn Kidman. One such successful coach at the professional level using this style is Wayne Smith.
For what may appear to the untrained practitioner a “weaker” style of delivery (due to less instruction, regulated feedback etc), is in fact a magical vehicle for unlocking a player’s true potential. I encourage you to read more on this subject as I am certain that this holds a big key for the improvement of your team’s kickers.
As coaches we need to present the problems (challenges, constraints etc) and allow our players to find the solutions.
Central to this style of coaching is formulating and asking meaningful questions within the coaching context. These questions will highlight coachable moments and allow for greater learning and retention.
This is certainly an evidence based approach to coaching that warrants your further study and consideration. It has changed my life.
Written by Stuart Lierich of Kick Coaching & Rugby Kicking Institue
Stuart Lierich is an internationally regarded “Specialist Rugby Kicking Coach” who has worked with clubs and programs at all levels of competition in Australia, Europe & Argentina.
Although active with junior rugby development, coaching at clubs and schools, Stuart has also worked with professional clubs such as Glasgow Warriors, Edinburgh Rugby (Euro Pro12) and (UK Superleague) teams Wigan Warriors, Widnes Vikings and Castleford Tigers as well as contribute to the Australian Rugby Union Talent Pathway, Melbourne Storm NRL Academy and is currently coaching Racing Metro star Juan Martin Hernandez.