I arrived at my desk at 6.50am, determined to complete my day, plan my evening and get to practice on time. I loved the thought of teaching and coaching, of my professional identities being a reflection of the practice I love. I felt like a coach, attempted to dress like one, act like one and be one, it was who I was. The day before I had attended a Premier League football club in the north of the country to debate, discuss and share ideas surrounding psychological and physiological resilience. I introduced myself as coach and was treated accordingly throughout the day. As I enjoyed my status I considered the facilities around me, they were phenomenal, everything you could wish for in sport, the Academy and professional football club catered for everybody from an U9 team up to the first team.
Earlier, as I had walked into the facility, a roar of power had screamed out from the car park. I turned to exam what i was sure to be a high end car of some description. A Range Rover Sport sped through the narrow lines of the parking provision situated at the front of the venue. I had smiled to myself, if only. I had always dreamed of being a professional coach, of walking into a practice facility stuffed with everything needed to be the medias daily topic. I was however satisfied with my reality, I too was called coach.
I was one of the first to arrive at practice, hooray!! Not only was it possible but I had achieved it, it did take me 2 hours and 45 minutes but I had done it. I sat on the bench and watched the early attendees warm up, shoot the ball, attempt NBA style shots. I wanted to intervene, ask them how well they were utilising their access to the court. I didn’t, instead I pressed my lips firmly together. I wanted them to express themselves and if this was how they did, it was for them to decide. I sat on my hands and waited for the clock to strike 6.30pm. As the half hour struck I set them on their way, our first activity was very much about leadership, problem-solving and team work. I gave them distance and allowed them to unpick the movement patterns of our game model, discuss with each other how they saw the advantages avail themselves as a result of our movement and enjoy some small success as they journeyed to the basket.
The momentum continued to build as we moved through our practice unit, players were engaged, focused (to a degree) and I was ploughing through content, tweaking movements and generally enjoying our time together. It was however not to last, I had sought their attention in a moment of feedback and asked the players to hold the ball. I had to ask again, a position that frustrated me. We weren’t in school, this was an optional activity, why would you not want to be engaged? It didn’t stop there. I then had to ask the players to be in the moment as opposed to being somewhere else doing something other than engaging in basketball movement. I then had to ask again and lost all the composure, patients and calmness with which I attempt to approach our training sessions. For the first time in a very long time I excluded a player, withdrew from them and continued our practice with one less. It didn’t feel good, it wasn’t what I wanted but I also knew that I had to followthrough on my word.
We finished practice on a semi-high, there was now an ‘elephant’ in the room. I gathered my things, checked logistics for our upcoming east coast fixture and departed. I didn’t feel much like a coach now, it wasn’t as exciting as it was early, it now felt like an additional challenge that would need to be addressed. A faltering relationship where the lines of communication had broken down and needed repairing. As I weaved my way through the evening traffic, I tried to reconstruct our practice and pinpoint the moment where I could have done something different. There is always a moment, an opportunity when you are presented with two options, much like the platform scene in the 1998 movie ‘Sliding Doors’ (Gwyneth Paltrow), each with a very different outcome. Had I gotten on the wrong train?