The travel over to practice was almost pleasurable, I say this as a measure of the traffic I faced, which on this occasion, was considerable less than usual. The result was a great deal more time to go through my practice plan and consider exactly what it is I was looking for and what the players needed from this evenings session. The concept of outcomes used to be something I took for granted. I knew in my own mind what it was I was planning to cover and built practice around this without ever clearly articulating the metric that would enable me and the players to measure what it was we had achieved. However, I was now very aware of the point we were hoping to reach each session, the steps that would provide us with the opportunity to get there and the questions that would inform how we did this.
Practice started well, the players were engaged and confident in what they were doing, a sense of independence if you like. I gave them the first 15 minutes before jumping in to talk about where we where, what we where hoping to achieve in the next few weeks and what I thought we needed to focus on. I then asked the players what they felt and if it was that they felt the same or differently about our direction. The question wasn’t particularly well formed and as a consequence, the response was less than informative. I moved on quickly, wishing to retain the energy with which the players had started practice. I ‘got into them’, lots of commentary, some of it humour, some of it corrective feedback. I felt the need to interact with them more tonight, to challenge and push them a little harder than normal. With this in mind, I set the parameters for the rest of the evening, we were not going to walk anywhere, we where going to hold each other to account, challenge one another and work together.
The players responded well to begin with, encouraging each other, sharing ideas and helping each other when we failed to be in the right spot. Unfortunately, we quickly began to make mistake after mistake, which seemingly took away from our ‘pace’ and intensity, almost like some of our third quarter performances. In a bid to ‘push’ back and get them to consider more carefully what it was they were doing I employed a punishment (shuttle runs), not something I have done in a very long time and not something I really believe in to any great extent. However, the result was a short, sharp increase in the collective intensity of the players effort, concentration and work rate. I repeated this process three or four times throughout the remainder of the session, I had gotten it in to my head that it was working, that it was good to get them running as a means of sharpening up their thinking and narrowing their focus. I am not sure that I really achieved any of this.
We ended practice well having achieved some short term gains and a number of successes. How sustainable these were is up for debate, however, for the moments following practice the energy was high, players appeared to be happy and the session was well received. It appeared that some learning had occurred, that each individual had taken something away from the content presented to them, the question was, how do I know for sure? Would it present itself within the game, within our gamecraft? Of would I have to wait and see, question and consult with individuals as a means of appraising their competence and understanding of our game model? Once again I felt uneasy in my coach skin, almost as though I was no longer sure of myself, my knowledge and my ability to conduct a meaningful session that would lead to the development of meaning and the acquisition of knowledge.