I had just finished planning tonight’s session when the phone rang, the Head Coach wanted to integrate our two teams and set up a game based practice to test the two squads. I was more than happy to go along with the idea, playing against the Academy squad would be a suitable test of where we where as a unit. I finished my teaching early, gathered my belongings and made the 100 mile journey over to practice.
Numbers were low, we had a total of 9 of 15 players in attendance, not quite what I was hoping for. I chattered with the Head Coach for a while prior to the start of practice. I have always enjoyed his perspective on the game, player development and coaching in general. I often learn a great deal from just listening, just being in the room and observing what is going on around me, not fully engaged in conversation, rather acting as a secondary participant floating around on the periphery gathering intel and making it my own.
The evening was spent essentially assisting the Head Coach, engaging with and talking to the players, offering an opinion when and where appropriate and generally observing an alternative approach to mine. Interestingly, my players responded a great deal differently to the Head Coach then they did to me, not better or worse, just differently. I wasn’t sure why, or even why to any great extent, however, I knew I was going to spend some time thinking through this point, exploring the why and the rationale behind it. But for the moment I was happy to just observe, learn and contribute when and where needed.
I had attended the GB senior women’s game the previous evening and spent the entire game watching the two opposing coaches in action, much like tonight. Their interaction with the players was almost at polar opposites, one was very hands on, responding to every movement on the court, player mistakes and successes, and the calls of the officials. The other appeared more interested in the officials and spent the majority of their time ‘getting after’ the referees. Throughout the game I envisaged myself coaching the two teams, what I would be saying at each and every moment of the game, where I would make changes and what changes I would make. I was almost in attendance at my own development clinic, extracting what it was I could from the two coaches and making sense of it through my own personalised thoughts and feelings.
To this end, I left the game with some very clear intentions, resolutions if you like that I took into my practice and continued to hold on to as I sat and reflected on my coaching practice from the previous week. They are quite simple, I would continue to enjoy what I do and to t his end wished to further advance my practice with a view to taking a national team into competition. What this development would look like, whether it would be formal, informal or non-formal I am yet to decide. I suspect it will be a combination of all, but it will take place and I will continue to improve my ability to develop coach-athlete relationships, to offer opinion and knowledge, and to share in the construction of a team direction that reflects independent thinking athletes working together towards a shared and competitive performance on the court.
I drove home content that although I had not contributed mush to the evenings session, I had indeed learnt a great deal about my coachself, who I currently was and where it was I wanted to go.