We had performed well under quite unique conditions and I wanted to celebrate that with the players’, perhaps as a means of developing their collective confidence, but more so because they deserved to be recognised. After a quick team talk and some direction we began practice and it started well. The intensity levels were high, there was a great amount of visible focus, collaboration and ‘chat’ between the players and very little from me, just how I like it. I stood and observed, focusing on the fine detail and offering the odd comment, corrective feedback and praise where I felt appropriate. We moved through a number of activities at pace, not rushing, rather transitioning from one to the next with efficiency and effort, it looked good. I was however mindful that some of what I observed was not where we wanted it to be so I jumped in and out of the practice, offering small tweaks and demonstrations as a means of really trying to force home one or two key messages. I wasn’t sure how much impact my messages were having. Often this is the sole focus of my curiosity, in part because it is after all my research question, but also because it is something I believe to be important and central to the very concept of coaching as a relational activity.
I spoke generally to a few players’ and more specifically to a few others, I wanted to engage with them, offer them an expression of congratulations for their performance at the weekend and for holding up under very challenging conditions. My relationship with the players’ differs dependent upon whom I am talking with. I have some very strong bonds with some of the players’, we respond well to one another, there is a high degree of respect and trust between us and we are free and confident in our communication. On the other hand, there are some players’ that I have difficulty reaching, I am not quite sure why, but they feel distant, out of reach and beyond my immediate influence. I am not sure how I feel about this, I think I am failing them and need to do better in my attempts to connect with this small group of people. During our game at the weekend I had a real sense of responsibility, almost a protective state of being, I was the allocated guardian and I would do all that I could to protect and keep them safe. Unfortunately, I don’t feel as though I am achieving this with all of the players’ and that does not sit well with me. The challenge is how do I improve this? I have started to employ various social media tools to connect technically and tactically with them, as well as engage in conversations around who we are as a team, what it is we are trying to achieve and how we better come together. It is a work in progress, but one that feels worthy of the effort.
We finished practice with a conditioned scrimmage against the second team; this provided us with an opportunity to work on a number of areas that we felt needed further improvement. I am not sure how much we achieved but I did not stop them, rather I allowed them to work through everything they felt was important. It was a good lesson for me; they did eventually start to improve their execution and apparent understanding of what we had been doing for the last hour or so. I played cheerleader, offering congratulations and celebrations for high-level successes, especially to those players that I wanted to get closer with.
My drive home was a mix of emotion, I so enjoy the idea and practice of what I do, the strategising, the relationship building and the developing of something more than what the players see on the court. However, I was struggling to conceptualise a way forward through the difficult bonds, the challenges of a disconnect, almost a parent-child confrontation. I would continue to explore with a view to solving my relational concerns.