Lectures, discussion groups, on-court clinics and our first assessment

We are 96 hours into the programme and I am feeling it. The day’s are long and full of content. Added to the pressure of synthesising the very high loads of information is the task of networking and advancing myself through informal opportunities to listen and learn. In fact, if I am honest, at every opportunity, I find myself recharging, if only for ten minutes, before entering back into one of the most diverse learning environments I have ever experienced in my twenty-four years of seeking to be a better coach. We have moved through differing spaces of learning, varied pedagogical styles of delivery and a broad range of activities as a means of advancing our coach self. In doing so, I have attempted to soak up as much learning as I possibly can.

The lectures are interesting, they often touch on issues associated with contemporary literature, for example, the coach-athlete relationship, coaching pedagogy and the coaching process. The lecturers offer us their own personal opinion, built on experience and knowledge of the game, and we as students attempt to capture as much information as possible, dissect the material and make sense of the thinking through our own contextual frames. The use of practitioners active within the field of professional basketball coaching is a great means of creating a coach conversation (yes, back to this concept) that both inspires and motivates learning, all be it that some of what is on offer is disguised in personal anecdotes and inflated rhetoric. This being said, the knowledge on offer is both visible and tangible to the coach eye, and the sixty or so candidates, including myself, can be seen reaching for, interpreting and making their own sense of the words being shared.

Beyond the mild fatigue setting into my more than middle-aged frame, I feel good about my participation, about what is being presented to me and what it is I will walk away with at the end of this week. I am enthused by the content, it has both meaning and value to me as a coach, and I can see where it will enable me to improve my practice, to develop my thinking and become more effective within all that I do. I am also impressed by the knowledge of my peers and their willingness to share their journeys, the personal coach stories that make each delegate special within their own context. I begin to share my story, to talk to the research I have conducted and lessons learnt from my ethnographical and autoethnographical observations of practice in action, of the behaviours of a wide range of coaches and of self. My musings are warmly received, some of the coaches extend their interest to a deeper level and we engage in thought provoking dialogue as a means of continuing our learning.

The assessment presents us with an interesting concept, a role play of sorts in which we conduct a player review in front of a 30-strong audience and three assessors. I am third within my small group of three and when called upon, I move straight into my coach self. I greet my athlete, inquire about his well-being and general feelings with regards to the game (we scouted the Latvia vs. Macedonia group stage game of the FIBA U16 Boys European Championships). One-to-one conversations have become easier and easier for me over the years, in fact, I have lost count of how many I have conducted. Throughout the assessment activity I pose questions, explore the players thoughts and feeling and probe for reasoning as a means of promoting deep reflection. The conversation is natural in both its flow and content and it isn’t long before I am finished and proceeding to a separate room to receive my feedback.

The lecturer complimented me on my approach and used questioning as a model of excellence, my peers referred to me as Professor and I felt pretty good about my initial assessment performance. I received a handshake, a few pats on the back and a general nod of approval for my approach, style and management of the review process. This being said, I am yet to receive a grade for the task so it is difficult to get overly excited. However, I allowed myself five minutes of gloating and boasting, privately of course, before returning to the realities of being a FECC candidate.

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