Sports Coaching Tips: 5 Great Bits of Advice
We’ve been busy looking back at our blog posts from 2014 and there’s a real wealth of great information within them. In this post we’ve hand-picked five of the best sports coaching tips to share with you. Whether you’re just starting out on the coaching ladder or are more experienced, we hope you will learn something from the information below.
Don’t just bark out orders
So if we are agreed that American Football is coach-centric then we must agree that Hockey and Football is player centric and Rugby teams need to battle to remain player centric in order to be successful.
This surely means that the days of a coach barking out instructions as the fountain of all knowledge are numbered. Well kind of. Professional coaches have definitely modernised their approach and they do consult with multiple specialist staff who get their information from various technologies carrying big data. The delivery however remains on the most part the same, once the coach has this information he continues to bark it at the players. Yes it is more accurate but it’s still not an effective way of changing the habits of players who will continue to make bad decisions due to a lack of game sense.
In a sport where the decisions players make are key why do we take all decisions away from them during training sessions, command them to do A for outcome B or feed them objective data with no context and no player discovery process? Imagine the impact of a player being in control of analysing their own performance and feeding back their thoughts to the coach?
How to overcome choking when it really matters
Self – paced skills are those that are instigated by the performer. They control the timing of the performance, taking as much or as little time as they want.
Golf Putting, Basketball Free Throws and Place Kicking from a tee are all examples of self-paced skills.
It is these types of skills (as opposed to ‘externally’ affected) that anxiety has a window of opportunity to incubate. The structured nature of execution for these skills, if no strategies exist, can be riddled with conscious controlling thoughts.
The aim for any athlete performing these skill types is to develop a system and routine that (eventually!) has that player operating on autopilot. Building trust and a sound focus of attention appears to be key.
We cannot simply make anxiety disappear, but we can regulate its existence and tame its effect on outcomes.
The part of an athlete’s process that offers the greatest opportunity to prevent anxiety is the ‘pre performance routine’. (Think just before the golf putt, free throw etc, what does the player do to get mentally ready?)
Taking your first steps as a coach
In the first few sessions with the players everything is great. As a new coach you have never dropped them or had to point out their flaws during a video session. You are helping with technique, the pre-season sun is shining, and the rugby sessions form a welcome break from the heavy weight lifting and high intensity shuttle running that is the bulk of the work at this time of the year.
You are building relationships with players, they are getting to know you and your terminology, ideas and way of working, and you are getting to know what motivates them, where they want to go in rugby, what their fears are, and how you can develop them to become the best they can be.
This doesn’t last forever. As the season approaches the techniques have to be turned into skills. This can only be done by practising the technique under extreme levels of pressure, normally fatigue, competition, or a combination of the two. Following these tough, often exposing sessions you need to review them, so that the whole squad can benefit from seeing where an individual could improve.
Invariably you get the looks from those at fault that say – “come on Bruce I thought we were mates”. When I got my first one of these I had a moment of realisation – now you’re coaching!
Emotional Intelligence tips
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is about being smart with your emotions. It’s about tuning into yourself and others and then using this valuable information to better manage yourself and your relationships with others.
Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ“ sets out four main elements to EI.
The ability to read your own emotions and recognize their impact while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
Controlling your own emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
The ability to sense, understand and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks.
The ability to inspire, influence and develop others while managing conflict.
Recovery and training techniques
With regard to training techniques, there are a few things to take into consideration during a tournament. First, there is no fitness to be gained during this time. Days between games should be used for recovery and maintenance of range of motion. There has been minimal demonstrable benefit from stretching, at least in the research, but it may help. Perhaps the best, and often over-looked, method of encouraging recovery is a simple post-exercise cool down. Of all the techniques and devices which have been studied, this basic and inexpensive method has the best evidence behind it.
In cycling, you will routinely see riders spinning easily on a stationary trainer after a hard stage in the mountains. This is not because they hope to get a few more minutes of training! Rather, the five or ten minutes at very low intensity helps shift their metabolism back to one of recovery rather than racing. In other sports, a simple jog or spin on a stationary bike will have the same benefits.