Saturday, October 27, 2012

Getting feedback on your session

We expect our players to accept our feedback for their own improvement.  Have you ever subjected yourself to somebody else's feedback when coaching?

This might sound crazy, but my favourite part of the coaching license process was being assessed and going through the feedback later.  The pressure of the assessor with clipboard forced you to organize the best session of your life.

I was fortunate as I've always had assessors who had constructive attitudes.  Most of my assessments went OK, but I did not pass them all and one was a complete train-wreck.  The feedback was so valuable that I always felt ready for the next progression.  To date, through all my courses I've been through 12 formal coaching assessments and several informal ones as preparation.  As a student in teachers college, I've also had many assessments in delivering classroom lessons. 

If you are at a club that has a licensed technical director or have a connection to one, ask for feedback at a level that you are comfortable with.  The more experience you have, the more confident you should be in having somebody observe one of your sessions and the more you will get out of it.

Here is a suggested process if you have a lot of experience and looking to get into the licensing process:
  • Pick a topic
  • Review it with your technical director/observer
  • Confirm your players' attendance, equipment and location
  • Deliver your session
  • Review the session with your technical director and record the feedback.  Have an open mind.
  • Arrange another time to be observed
  • Run a few sessions without an observer, keeping the feedback in mind
  • Depending on your experience level, for the next observed session, decide whether you will deliver the same session or a new one.  If you are less experienced, run the same one again.
  • Review your plan with your technical director and review what could be improved from last time
  • Confirm your players' attendance, equipment and location
  • Deliver your session
  • Receive second set of feedback.
Your technical director should be able to determine your experience level and set up a process that suits you best. Feedback could simply be asking somebody to review your plan for the night, week, month or season.  You and a peer can compare notes if that is a comfortable place to start.

Everybody can benefit from constructive feedback: player, employee, student.  Yes, even a coach.

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.