I walked through the doors of the practice venue in my khaki chinos, shirt and jacket. Not what I would typically wear to practice, but then my practice plan looked somewhat different for tonight’s offering. Gathered in front of me were players and parents alike, at the behest of myself, to meet, greet and share our progress to-date, as well as explore any and all concerns, applauses and my philosophy as an aspiring coach. In other words, who coach Messam was and what we were hoping to construct over the course of our season. I had spent some time planning the evening, thinking of the potential questions and what my responses would be. However, the activity wasn’t new to me, I had played it out on a number of occasions and it had always served the team well.
I introduced myself, my ideas for the evening, and what I was hoping to get out of the activity. I then proceeded to share what the team had already constructed, our ‘keys to success’, expectations – player, coach and season, and how we felt as a group we would achieve our collective goals. Unfortunately I spoke more than I wished, I had hoped to listen, field ideas and hear what the wider stakeholder group had to say. All good plans and that…I wanted to shut up but I also felt the need to set the scene, present a little bit of our utopia, the vision for our season. The session did however gain some momentum and we started to ‘throw’ ideas around the room. The players voiced a number of opinions, when prompted, and the parents offered their perspective on what had currently passed and what they hoped for collectively. It felt good to listen, to hear what others felt, how they saw what we did and how they valued their child’s participation in what we were doing.
We spent a little bit of time ‘unpicking’ the weekends game, it was comforting to hear that it didn’t appear as bad from the spectator seating as I had framed it. Perhaps I was just being too hard on me? Perhaps not! We moved beyond the game and finished on a more positive note, it was good to talk, even better to listen and all in all the messages were clear and shared, we were doing the right things fort he boys in each and every moment we shared. I thanked everybody for their time, support and participation, we now had a collective, a stakeholder group that had shared who we are, what we do and how we wish to do it.
Following our mass gathering I took to hosting a number of 1 on 1 conversations in an attempt to assess the players individual motivations to-date, their goals for the season and to give them an opportunity to talk to me individually. The purpose was not to profile the players or indeed offer them feedback on their performance to-date, rather to listen, to agree their role and share any thoughts that emerged as a result of our earlier meeting. Whilst I conducted these individual sessions, the rest of the players engaged in self-directed practice. I had asked the captain to run the session and to focus on shooting. A second player suggested that the warm up should resemble the game day activity. Great idea, I was happy to agree. The players set about coaching their collective movement and I set up stall in the corridor of our practice venue.
Following the conclusion of the four individual sessions I re-entered the sports hall to observe the team competing in a conditioned game against the second team. This activity had not been factored in to my planning for the year, however, it had served us well, it was a great confidence builder and an opportunity for the players to see the game from the coach’s chair, to to read plays, observe our mistakes and learn from our success, it really did serve us well. As I entered the court the noise level was high, I could hear and see feedback, instruction, correction and praise. The boys appeared to be fully immersed in their practice, motivated and enthused with purpose. I smiled, today was a good day, today had been a successful coaching day.