Ten Coaching Tips to Ensure a Successful Season
Posted by Dean Holden at October 4th, 2014
by Dean Holden, 4 October 2014
Yours Truly in Asiago, Italy; proudly holding the Korean flag after Team Korea’s best-ever finish (Bronze) at the highest level World Championship’s they have competed in to date… April 12, 2014
With the start of another fall / winter sporting season, I have identified ten coaching tips that seem to stand out based on my reflections across almost thirty years in coaching. Here they are…
1) Conceptualize your Coaching Philosophy: Personal Deportment, Non-Negotiable Values
This step provides the foundation for everything else. Sadly, almost all coaches do not take the time to commit their values to paper; nor do they review (fine-tune) it regularly! It will be the product of who coached / taught you in your past, how your parents raised you, & a by-product of the coach certification system – for better or for worse. Read it daily before you coach as it helps provide clarity of purpose. This document must be crystal clear so far as how you approach your coaching duties; how you will act and expect those around you to act (even when you think nobody is watching – that’s integrity!); as well as defining what is truly important to you. Challenge yourself to know it, live it, love it!
2) Determine the Ideal Coaching Methodology: Maximize Activity Time, Minimize Talking, Incorporate Bandwidth Feedback
Study successful & unsuccessful coaches to provide high & low benchmarks & stay up-to-date on current coaching research. Examine what you have done in the past & compare / contrast to how it worked & also to how other coaches operate… this can shorten your learning time! Pre-ice your staff & players whenever possible such that coaches spend less time explaining activities on the ice. Limit your explanations to 30-45 seconds using common Key Teaching Points / Cues & use a questioning technique to ensure you understand what the players understand! Don’t be a play-by-play coach; shut up & let them play. Intervene only if it is a safety concern or a complete lack of understanding. Kids want to ‘play’, not ‘work’ hockey! Practice should ‘look ugly’ while they learn & get better over time. You want players to be on the razor’s edge of ugliness, so you will be constantly fine-tuning your activities & your bandwidth feedback to help keep them on this improvement course. I incorporate fun, competition, positivity & accountability into my lesson plans. Do you?
3) Decide on Age and Level-Appropriate Curriculum: SMART Goals
I hope this is fairly self-explanatory so far as level-appropriate curriculum. Use your prior knowledge or that of other coaches familiar with your age & skill level. Seek out other resources or a mentor if required. SMART means: Specific (Hockey stance – feet shoulder width apart, knees bent & over toes, back upright & slightly bent at the waist so shoulders over knees, head & eyes up, one (or two) hands on stick, stick on the ice, head shouldn’t bob when striding, use your legs / core); Measureable (Warm-up shots – must hit the goalie 10 out of 10 times, not the post, crossbar or boards / glass); Attainable (with effort – not too easy, not too hard… just right; like the Three Bears story! Adapt to the individual), Realistic (if they can’t execute a successful pass & reception at high speed across the ice, move them closer together, go back to stationary passing with good technique… this will be highly individualistic); Timely (regarding individual development, is the activity done at the ‘right’ time of the practice / month / year? IE: speed work after a good warm-up, while they are fresh, at a proper work:rest ratio.)
4) Establish Team Rules / Expectations for Players, Staff & Parents: Build Life Skills Under Pressure!
Keep it simple! Items can include when to arrive at the rink before games & practices, dress code (if any), dressing room supervision, language expectations, behaviour towards opponents / officials / staff, warm-up routines, etc. This is where coaches can reflect back on their philosophy to determine how they carry themselves on a daily basis while coaching; it defines what is most important to them & tries to project how they will handle ‘what-if’ situations ahead of time. As coaches gain experience, they will deal with numerous, variable real-life situations & will need their foundation (philosophy) to act accordingly. Consistency is the ultimate goal, but there will be mistakes made along the way. It takes a strong person to recognize they made a mistake (hindsight being what it is!) & admit it to their team… but this will also demonstrate to the players that the coach isn’t perfect and is trying hard to be the best they can be… which in turn will help increase the respect for that coach! Sport should be used as a ‘development zone’: coaches should be in the business of teaching life skills through sport by setting a positive role model for their kids & staff.
5) CONNECT with People: Concern for the Individual Away From the Sport
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” A simple sentence that reflects the greatest truth in coaching: a genuine interest in a person, both in and out of sport, goes a long way in developing a positive coach-player relationship! Take time to build rapport & connect daily with as many people on your team as you can – players & staff. Don’t avoid / ostracize the parents / view them as the enemy; they are an important piece of your team & good communication will often eliminate problems in advance. Ensure you have a communication strategy in place for parental concerns – a 24-hour cooling off period before they call the manager to vent is a sound process!
6) Coach by Objective: FIne-Tune Your Coaching Methodology / Incorporate Analytics When Possible
This refers to a systematic & organized approach that allows coaches to focus on SMART goals & to attain the best possible results from the available resources. Coaches study the game, set objectives & then break these down into more specific goals or key results. I have created my own coaching methodology from almost thirty years of coaching experience & education; it is personaly tailored to fit my needs. It is highly unique & I have not found anything like it anywhere else. I have taken many positive aspects from others & added my own personal values / techniques. Over time, you will do the same…
Make sure that everybody within your organization (association members, parents, manager, assistants, & players) has a clear understanding of the aims, or objectives, of that organization, as well as awareness of their own roles & responsibilities in achieving those aims. This is a big-picture evaluation process that starts where you want to be at the end of the year & work backwards to today: where are your individual athletes along the roadmap? Essentially, this is the development of your seasonal or yearly training plan & communicating it to your team.
While analytics have recently gained notoriety, I have been a believer & user of them for several years, particularly pertaining to the imortance of possession. This means my teams must continually work on their skills & performance under pressure. I use a lot of game-like drills (‘Grills’) and Small Area Games to help me achieve this end. In order to best prepare for a game, one needs to play the game! Mistakes can be made & learned from under competitive situations where the mistakes are not fatal but rather, valuable learning opportunities. Analytics can help fine-tune my coaching methodology, curriculum & CBO details, when applicable.
7) Apply Critical Analysis (Evaluation) After Each Event: Schedule Regular Meetings
In hindsight, my most successful seasons have been when I had a SMART seasonal plan (roadmap) from the beginning; & when I also kept daily notes on my practices, games, activities & individuals. The 30-45 minutes of daily self-reflection & de-brief with other coaches and players / leaders on the team were imperative to improving the process every day. I can’t emphasize this enough – find time to do it, record it, refer back to it! In conjunction with this, schedule regular meetings with your players & your coaching staff / trainer / manager. Find a way to regularly give each person at least five minutes of focussed time per month to discuss where they are in their own development, how they can improve & concrete, SMART ways to get there. Make notes & hold them accountable. This is your job; it’s a partnership between you & the player / staff.
8) Pursue Excellence (How can I make it better / do it better?)
The Japanese have a word for constant improvement: Kaizen. As a Chartered Professional Coach since 1994, I consider this to be my quest to find the Holy Grail of Coaching! It never ends… & I never tire of the process!
9) Embrace Professional Development and Personal Growth
Rleated to point 8, I subscribe to Dr. Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset, keeping an open mind while considering professional development. Read books, attend coaching clinics, interview role models, hire a mentor, watch videos, listen to podcasts… the sky is the limit! Set some goals for annual improvement.
Even the best, most dedicated at their craft schedule time for fitness, quiet reflection, down time to relax, recharge & regenerate. Make time for yourself & your family. Find other hobbies or activities that you enjoy or volunteer in other ways. This helps keep you sane (& possibly married!) & will make you hungry when the season starts again.
Have a great year!
Category: analytics, art of coaching, Ask the Experts, communication, curiosity, deliberate practice, deportment, education, evaluation, expertise, feedback, focus, game intelligence, leadership, learning, metrics / measures, mindset, motivation, parents, passion, perseverance, philosophy, planning / periodization, practices, respect, responsibility, self-awareness, self-improvement, small area games, sport psychology, sporting culture, sportsmanship, statistics, tactics, teaching