Looking forward in the mirrior

I have always see the summer as a cauldron of hires and fires, of strategic moves, initiated by the federation and the clubs, and participated in by the ranks of the players and coaches. Who will get the next National Team job? That was an interesting move for them to go to that club! The landscape represents itself as one large chess board with the players pausing prior to the next move! Pat Riley once said, “you are only as good as the players you coach”, interesting concept. Does this mean we must attach ourselves to good players? That players must seek out those coaches they believe will take them to the next level? Is this a behaviourist sensibility clouding our thinking? If so, where does the player development start? Who teaches who, when and where?

I have been told that in order to advance my practice I must work with advanced players (in the UK this would mean within an Academy system, or at least U16 / U18 EBL Premier League team). The thinking being that I practice within an elevated sphere of play. However, if this is indeed the case, the question then becomes, where do I find such an opportunity? My current club has representation at this level of play, however, the Director of Coaching takes on these opportunities, may be as a means of elevating their practice, or perhaps, quite simply, because it is their club and they select who they coach. Either way, I don’t mind, I like working with young players that wish to learn, full stop. This being said, I wonder what this means for my practice and my ultimate goal of wishing to coach at the highest level I can reach.

I sat and observed the England U14 & U15 coaches ply their trade in preparation for their upcoming tournament to Copenhagen. They were delivering the curriculum I had wrote, developing players through a principled approach, meshing the game together through four moments of play and towards advancing their basketball knowledge (tactics, strategy, roles etc.). However, the questioning was limited, at best it took on a convergent dimension and supported an instructive climate, one that ‘filled’ empty vessels and steered them into port. I found myself coaching from the bleaches, working through how I would have approached the delivery of stations. In fact, it was at that very moment that I realised that coaching was about confidence, the display of assurance and the removal of self doubt. Surely this is to be supported by the quality of the relationships you build, the autonomy you promote and the sharing of ideas?

I was excited at the prospect of coaching the Regional U15 Boys squad this summer, a chance to work with the very best from across the territory, and to learn from them. In my busy life of responsibilities, teaching and learning resides my constant driver, my aspiration to coach full time. I may not ever get there, in part due to the lack of opportunities and a reduced mobility issue. Can I really ask that we move 200-300 miles across the country to a role that isn’t guaranteed? I do however continue to hold on to the point that set me on my path, in fact I can recall the moment vividly, which suggests that it is still very important to me. It keeps me alive, it fuels my day’s and shapes my practice. I am happy to be called coach, to want to coach and to work towards being a better version of my coach self.

As I look forward, I hope that the summer months will provide me with the opportunity to realise some of my thoughts and develop my practice further. As I observe coaches, debate and challenge my own thoughts and share ideas with great minds, I continue to want more and to see more. To this end, I wrap my thinking around my feelings and actions and submerse myself into a process of reflection. It is often a messy process as I wish to find multiple answer in a short space of time. However, what is evident and true, is that I continue to search for answers to my coaching questions as a means of improvement. The goals, aspirations and desires to continue to coach, to be an effective coach and to advance my practice exist in each mirror that catches my gaze.

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