Friday, 29 May 2009

'What I learned...' - Coaching and Reflective Practice

Hi All,

I have been giving some thought recently to the concept of 'reflective practice'. Essentially a key component of any coach aspiring to become a high level or level 4 coach is the capacity to critically analyse thier coaching, have the discipline to document this analysis and then act on the findings in order to bring about changes in their coaching behaviour. But it then got me should a coach should go about this process? Obviously we are all very busy and all actually doing our coaching, is it realistic to expect a coach to reflect and write their thoughts down after every session or every day?

The answer to this is probably not, however an expert or high level coach would be expected to record their key learning experiences over a period of time. This may well be done in the form of an article, journal, presentation, video diary, podcast, interview, question and answer session or practical session which highlights the ideas and elements learned and can be shared with other coaches and then critiqued and appraised. This process of having the piece analysed by others will refine the thoughts and make the ideas stronger. Too many coaches are reluctant to share their learning experiences with others as they feel that they will be giving away 'their secrets' or allowing others to gain an advantage in what can often be a commercially competitive market place......these coaches will never be able to fully develop their capabilities because the same thought process which limits them from sharing will be the one that linits them from receving the thoughts of others and therefore strnthening their own knowldge in the process. 

Dr Paul Schemp of the University of Georgia in the US often states that one of the things that sets an expert coach apart from a less able coach is the desire to constantly learn and improve. The high level coach recognises that the best way to gain knowledge is to be willing to give knowledge and as such benefits from the exchange process. He or she should also be seeking to innovate and create new programmes and delivery methods, the only way that these methods and programmes can be effectively analysed and evaluated is for others in the same situation to provide their feedback. This turns a coaching theory or opinion into a coaching is full of opinions and theories....lets have more critically appraised and evaluated methodologies.

So where do you start? Try this as a starting point...most high level coaches are always reading things about the game they coach or looking to pick up tips. The next time you read an article or book or see something interesting on TV or at a seminar write a short 1 page review of the book/article/programme/seminar putting across your thoughts and what you took from it. This will demonstrate the knowledge you have gained and also highlight what your own thoughts on the subject are. If you can get into a habit of doing this once a month you will be well on your way. 

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Rory McIlroy, a talent nurtured

At the Masters the bubbly and ever engaging past Masters champion and genuine legend of the game, Gary Player said this about the young Irish star, Rory McIlroy...

“This young man is brilliant. His golf swing is unbelievable and his theory side, his swing, is better than Tiger Woods."

“He’s an incredible talent and has excelled already at a very young age. I believe he’s a very nice young man too and I hope he goes from strength to strength."

What this doesn't tell is the story of how Rory got to where he is now and the impact that a number of people had on his career.....

Back in 2001 I was working for the Golf Foundation and covering Ireland, I was invited to deliver a 'Golf Leaders' course by the junior organiser of a club in Belfast called 'Shandon Park'...the organisers' name was Ronny McNeice and a kinder, more generous and fun loving gentlemen you would find it hard to meet.

Ronny had researched on the internet and found that the GF provided Leaders courses which had only been launched the year before and he had asked me to come over and deliver the course for him and a number of other organisers from his club and clubs in the area. He arranged everything and saw to it that the club provided for our every need including the cost of our accomodation. The 2 day course was a great success and the people on it were really keen and enthusiastic to support the young people in their clubs.

Half way through the 1st day during the lunch break Ronny asked me to come and meet one of the junior golfers that was practicing on the putting green outside the club house. He called him over and this curly haired little 10 year old enthusiastically bounced over to me, Ronny introduced me and the little boy calmly and confidently held out his hand and said 'my names Rory...pleased to meet you!'. We chatted for a little while and Rory told me that he had just returned from the World Junior Golf Championships, which he had won and the various other things that he had done in his short career. I made a mental note after we chatted to keep an eye on this young man's progress!!

I wonder how Rory's development would have been affected had he not been at a club that was so committed to junior golfers. I also wonder what would have happened had he not had a junior organiser like Ronny who was so committed to youngsters and wanted to do the best for them at any cost?

I don't work in Ireland anymore but if I did I would ensure that Ronny McNeice was given an award...people like him are the unsung heroes, the guys who set kids off on the right path, who unearth the talent, nurture it, create the environment so it can thrive.

So here's my tribute to you Ronny.... the golfing world needs more people like you!!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

The 5 C's

I have just come away from a conference where they have been talking about the way we coach children and how we should develop them as people and athletes. They suggested that we should be looking to develop the '5 C's' in kids whenever we coach them. So what are the 5 C's....? 

  1. Competence - Every session and every exercise or game should be designed with the development of the player's abilities in mind. Our responsibility is to ensure that they leave every session, a little more able than before. 

  2. Confidence - We should be aiming to get youngsters to develop their skills in a non threatening learning environment where they can build self reliance and their understanding of themselves. We should make sure that they are able to perform under pressure so that they feel comfortable in such surroundings. 

  3. Compassion - The players should feel connected to their peers, their coaches and parents. Developing an understanding of their teammates needs and individual characteristics helps them to develop as people and as sports people. 

  4. Character - Young peoples' personalities should be nurtured and developed through sport with the principles of fair play and equality reinforced. Equally children should be encouraged to explore and understand how their personal characteristics affect their their team mates and their own performance at sport. 

  5. Creativity - We should strive to encourage children to develop their own solutions to problems and challenges they face in sport. By doing this they will develop a sense of ownership of their abilities. By creating exercises and games that challenge the players and encourage them to find their own ways of dealing with them we can often be surprised by the ways in which children can solve the problems. 
The 5 C's should be used as a reference point for our coaching so that we can evaluate our effectiveness as coaches. By deveoping sessions and programmes which develop the 5 C's and then reviewing their effectiveness against this framework we can monitor our performance and improve the quality of our delivery. 

Personally I will be using this as a mental checklist whenever I work with youngsters....I will probably do it with adults too for that matter!!