Monday 28th January 2019 – I make specific reference to this date as I will remember it as a day of professional advancement within my coaching practice. As you would expect from my musings, it was a typical Monday evening practice, I had made the 90 mile journey from the East Midlands to Yorkshire following a day of teaching, a day that I had thoroughly enjoyed. I arrived at practice very early as I was due to cover a U14 session prior to my usual time with the U16’s. I spoke with the boys for all of five minutes, introducing myself, asking questions of them and painting a picture of where our next 60 minutes would go. Before I knew it the session was over, we had had so much fun, and hopefully, learnt something about the game. In short, I had asked questions, proposed a number of simple ideas and asked the boys to have a go at demonstrating them. We took this concept all the way through to a small sided game where I offered praise and minimal corrective feedback as a means of helping the players to shape their own experience.
Having concluded one session and moved straight into my regular time and space for the evening it was fair to conclude that I felt energised, ready to apply some of the fun and enjoyment gained from the U14 session into my time with the U16’s. We spent 10 minutes talking through ‘who we are’ and I introduced the ‘Golden Circle’. The model is a marketing tool, however, I felt I could repurpose the model to serve as a series of questions that we would ask ourselves within each moment of the game (practice). Essentially, the model would challenge the players to respond to three simple questions: What did I do? How did I do it? Why did I do it? The premise being that the ‘what’ is a low level inquiry, a question that would be easy to respond to. However, the ‘how’ and then the ‘why’ would present higher order thinking and an opportunity for the player to reflect on their movement, action or decision in that moment. To think beyond our surface activity and explore the rationale, purpose or meaning of what it was we had just completed. I would ask them the question following a action or decision, they would then have to work through the levels of reflection and document the ‘why’ on the board – one short sentence covering their thought process or driver to the action, decision or behaviour.
What followed was fantastic for us as a team, we demonstrated some real progress within our ability to communicate, to hold each other to account and to think beyond a low order set of processes. Players were laughing, asking each other ‘what’, which was our prompt to document the ‘why’ on the board, and most importantly of all for me, the level of communication, without even realising that we had altered our behaviour, went through the roof.
Practice continued in this vain and at a high level of intensity, it was great to be a part of the 90 minutes, to witness a visible improvement in their confidence, connectivity with each other and their overall enjoyment. We also managed to get through a great deal of content, visiting various concepts, sharing ideas, making one or two adjustments and generally being good team mates. An interesting byproduct to this climate of learning and fun was my overall mood. In fact, it is difficult to recall any real strong emotions in either direction. I felt somewhat free, light and unburdened by aims and objectives, by meeting expectations and achieving goals. What I saw in front of me pleased me no end, I saw collaboration, communication and an environment that offered support, friendship and possibly some learning. This would be the first time this year that the players had reached this level of intensity, this volume of communication and this degree of output, and all with a smile on their faces.
I drove home feeling as though I was the best coach / teacher on the planet, not something I would put my name to for a myriad of reasons, least of all because I believe that we are all a work in progress. This being said, the good feeling I was experiencing was as a result of my day of teaching and coaching, of sharing ideas, presenting opportunities to come together and exchange thinking in pursuit of a solution to the problem we shared. I drove home a happy coach/teacher, comfortable in my day’s contribution and with my role in the construction of these shared experiences. My only question to self was a simple one, how do I repeat such a day?