I actually drive a 101 miles from my 9 to 5 to practice, something I had not recognised at first but for some reason I had clocked the distance today. It didn’t bother me in the slightest, I was invested in these 15 young men, in our relationship as coach-athlete and more importantly, in supporting what they wanted to achieve. I still hold on very tightly to the word coach, the idea of self as coach, it is an important part of who I am, my self identity and how I see the world in front of me. In fact, whilst out shopping with family once, a regional player walked past me and greeted me as coach. My family smiled at me, they knew that the greeting had just made my day.
I arrived in plenty of time and sat and watched a blend of Academy and University players move through drills at the tone and charge of the coach. Funnily enough, I recognised one of the drills as something I had planned to delivery. Would the players notice? Would they think I was copying what the other coach was doing? Perception is everything, player and parent perception of coach ability, practice and success. As coaches we suffer the onslaught of subjective opinion and attempt to hold on to any sense of capital we can grasp. I wasn’t worried, I coach for the young people in front of me, my messages, my concepts and my philosophy are relatively stable, I see what I believe is true and attempt to deliver this through my practice and through the relationships I build.
We got into practice and it was very much a roller coaster, we had highs and lows, moments of brilliance and lows that should not be repeated in the written word. I tried to stay patient, to allow the practice to come to me and for the players to explore their ability through mistakes, dialogue and questioning. I even attempted to have a little fun with some of the players, to talk a little trash as I kept making shot after shot to start each repetition of our ‘rebound and go’ drill. I managed to draw out some smiles, players began to offer quick and witty retorts to my performance. I wasn’t sure whether or not this was a distraction as we continued to fall short of where we wanted to be. I moved on in an attempt to refocus us, to get us going.
I finally broke, I challenged one player and barked at another. My frustration had won out over my attempts to be patient and I now demanded more from them. More that I know they have, that they are capable of producing with just a little effort and concentration. We faced the second placed team this coming weekend and we needed to be mentally and physically ready. We tended to have moments of absence, short periods of time when we are nowhere, and following the ‘scout’ I was acutely aware that we could not afford do to this against this weekends opposition. I wanted them to focus, to execute with precision and to communicate everything we did. We weren’t even close, we made mistakes without needing to and failed to lead in all that we did. I knew there was a better us in there, i just couldn’t find us, I couldn’t bring us out and my response was to fall prey to the traditionalist persona once more.
We didn’t finish how I wanted, we couldn’t see beyond fatigue, complacency and perhaps my barking! The drive home was one of reflection, foregrounding relationships, planning and the theories of learning and communication as places I needed to revisit, to embrace as a means of battling through the traditional approach to my practice.