Monday, October 22, 2012

The value of running a session as a guest coach

One of the best methods to refine your coaching technique to coach somebody else's team.

I had a good conversation with a coaching friend from Milton and it got me remembering how enjoyable it was to run sessions as a guest coach.  This past season I ran 10 sessions as a guest coach for boys and girls, over a wide age spectrum.

After being with the same group for multiple sessions/weeks/months,  you could start falling in a trap of less specific practice plans, looser themes, sloppier explanations or short cuts because the players know your methods and follow along quicker.   You always work to not get to that point, but you are human and familiarity can set in.

You want to visit a strange team, run a good practice, leave the coach with something to work with and exit the experience a little more refined than how you entered.

Running sessions for younger groups with beginner coaches really tunes you back in to reality and is a great thing for all coaches to do.  The basic of all grass roots soccer, 1 ball per player, demonstrating and teaching things again for the very first time.

Running a session for another group forces you to bring all of your coaching qualities back to square one:
  • Personal appearance
  • Organization/planning
  • Enjoyment for players
  • Explanations
  • Demonstrations
  • Adherence to theme of the session
  • Quickly adjusting and thinking on your feet for the unexpected
  • Age appropriate topics
  • Knowledge of topic
  • Establishing a rapport with players, quickly
If running a session makes you nervous, that is your first step in making sure you are ready to deliver the topic.  "Butterflies in your stomach" are good.

Tips to help you succeed as a guest coach:
  • Review the topic with the coach and ensure it meshes with what they are doing
  • Between you and the coach, confirm the suitability and availability of the field and the equipment
  • Find out how many players to expect, and be ready for less or more
  • Find out which 3 players can give you the best demos.  Use them first then use the others
  • Do not depend on the coach to be 100% ready for you.  In fact, this is rarely the case
  • No jargon, slang or inside jokes with the new group.
  • Introduce yourself, where you're from, thank them for the invitation, do equipment check, tell them the goal of the session and ensure you know any and all existing injuries 
  • Practice your ability to get instant feedback by reading their faces and listening to their questions, and be ready to adjust your session.
  • Make and effort to learn their names.
  • Have fun!
  • Debrief the session, ensure everybody is OK and thank them again for inviting you
Running a guest session takes practice, but it's good therapy.  I've been doing it for 10 years and I am still cautious about all the details in advance. 

How do you become a guest coach?  Do you just "ask" to run somebody's session?  The answer is yes.  I've been asked most of the times but if I am going to a coaching course I like to prepare by being a guest coach.  In those cases, I bluntly ask.

If you are new to coaching, I would not jump into guest coaching just yet.  You have to be comfortable in your skin and trained and experienced in the art of delivering a session.  The fact is that you want to be a better coach, but you have to bring quality to the practice or your reputation as a guest coach will not be good.