Coaching patience

Sitting and watching the session before mine had become a common undertaking within my weekly coach duties, and something that I gleaned a great deal from. It gave me the opportunity to explore my own practice through the actions and behaviours of others, almost a series of prompts from which I could begin the almost hourly critique of what I labelled coaching practice. My floor positioning, voice projection, degrees of interaction, language and terminology had all surfaced within my consciousness and I was now acutely aware of my delivery, for good and for bad.
Monday practice was a shared affair, court, time and purpose and I used the opportunity to promote intensity, concentration and focus. To this end, I employed a form of chaos theory to my session design, randomly ‘throwing’ lots of information, challenges and targets at the players and then standing back and observing how they solved the various problems within the set tasks and the scenarios presented to them. We got off to a good start, the energy was high and I could hear a great deal of politicking, collaboration and general directives being shared. The aesthetics were not great, it looked unorganised, almost messy, but in among the chatter there was a distinct sense of ownership. It suddenly dawned on me, the players were actually engaged in problem solving and decision-making and had been for some time now. What was missing was my acknowledgement of the fact, in part because I didn’t recognise their efforts earlier, but more so because it didn’t necessarily look like how I would have expected it to. At that moment I committed to exercising a little more patience, to allow the players to be who they were and for the their learning to emerge at their pace.
Due to the limited space and shared provision of this particular practice unit, we would utilise the last thirty minutes of practice to play against the second team. As always I assigned a player-coach to each of the two fives I had and then allowed them to do what they thought was best for our game model. The only parameters set were that they had to be able to rationalise their approach, that they must hold each other to account on our ‘keys to success’ (establish ‘Home’, guard the ball, rebound & run) and these must be done under our defensive and offensive principles. I set 4-minutes on the clock and granted possession to the second five.
Much like our practice, the game appeared chaotic, lots of over dribbling by some, our movement wasn’t at all sharp and we didn’t defend the ball particularly well. This being said, what we did manage to achieve was legitimate attempts at all of what we had agreed. We pushed the ball (strongside), made one or two early movements from our set pieces (although our timing was out), and most importantly, we held each other to account. What played out before me was a reflection of our approach to practice, we were attempting to execute our game model and I just needed to apply more patience to my assessment. I needed to actually allow the players to work through the problems, to make mistakes and to recognise that they are not always going to look and move in straight lines, that it won’t always look the way I believe it perhaps should, as constructed within my minds eye. I still held reservations, I still wanted a greater deal of ‘sharpness’ to our movement, but I held myself back. I refrained from correcting, offering an opinion that was my own or indeed condemning their efforts. Instead, seeking to get them to think, I posed a number of questions and allowed them time to talk amongst themselves.

We finished out our practice, grabbed our belongings and made our way to the door. I talked to one or two of the players as we walked across the carpark, their mood seemed positively upbeat. If this was to be taken as a sign of their contentment at the session content and their learning I was happy to accept it. I got into my car feeling good, my initial feedback to self was good session.

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