First of all a little pespective as to where these thoughts have come from. Recent talks from James Smith of Athlete Consulting have stirred the coaching pot across all disciplines in a very approriate way. In a loose paraphrase his message is that the figure head of a sporting organisation should have the education to understand all facets of the company e.g. technical, tactical, physical, psychological? Secondly, to this Coach Toni Minichiello (famously known for being the lead coach of Jessica Ennis Hill) wrote a very insightful blog post in his road to rio blog. He spoke about the qualification of a ‘coach’ and how easily this can be attained here in the UK. For example I can become a badminton coach in a weekend if I wish and I can be a personal trainer in a weekend qualification. I can receive a certificate in what I am willing to pay for. Now im sure we can all see the problem with this model. Coach Toni contrasted this with the American systems where the word ‘Coach’ is a repsected term held in high regard due to the journey that is taken to hold this title. It is not bought and sold just to help your son/daughter out on the weekend or after school. Along with some personal experiences being both sides of the whistle I thought id provide some thoughts on the matter. Fundamentally I do not feel this is a flaw with the coaches but the sytem they are qualified from. Being a Level 2 Rugby Coach and being qualified to look after a full team I was never educated on these facets of the training process. My strength and conditioning knowledge and experience helps me to be a more profficient skill aquisition practitioner (e.g. movement skills, speed and rugby skills when I have had the pleasure to coach).
Have a Layered Plan
Now this may seem obvious… However there are lots of nuts and bolts that go into an effective train plan. Planning training isnt about whole part whole in the general sense, it is comprised of many layers of exposure. A couple of questions I will ask myself;
- What is my end game? e.g. What do my atheltes have to be superior and to Win at their level.
- Where is my current development level? e.g. What can the athlete do regularly very well.
- What are my athletes rate of development? e.g. How fast can they graps new concepts and actualise these new skills?
These three simple questions 9/10 times give me a solid pespective as to where my training direction should go and where on the motor learning path my athletes are. I will then put together a solid block of targetted training to ensure adaptation is dose appropriately whilst in the mean time fine tuning the ‘art’ as I go along. A big gripe of mine is progressing an athletes just to entertain yourself as a coach. Basics, basics, basics.
When considering a single session it is imperitive to highlight a single goal, now this is again a very simple concept. When considering skill attainment and mastery there is plenty of literature regarding clear and objective outcomes to be verbally communicated prior to the task itself. This is from novice to experienced practitioner. Playing games and expecting an outcome to occur without guiding the bow will not yeild results. Your athletes will just be left executing skills poorly whilst playing games. No good will come from this if there hase been no teaching. Inversely to this I am a fan of chaotic exposures; but this is all about timing.
Have a solid session structure
Session structure is king. In the physical preparation world profficient coaches will structure their sessions based on then CNS demand. High demand, high priority first. Now out on the feild this obviously isnt going to be of prime importance. However principally there can be alot to learn from a structure like this. The example I have given cross references skill learning, energy system stress and psychological demand. See example:
- Closed skill development
- Sport Tactical learning
- Applied Skill Practice
- Game Speed practive
- Above Game Speed Stress
The above will follow a template of Simple to Complex in task demand, Extensive to Intensive in energy system and mechanical stress, and Low to high pressure in psychological demand (in terms of thought processing). Extreemly linear but highly effective. This may become repetitive but how else will you gauge development? Within all of those headings you could have a menu orf 5-10 practices based on certain performance skills of your sport all increasing in variability and difficulty which leads onto my next point.
Have a development Stream
This is something I wish I had started doing alot earlier in my career. Creating streams are essential for prioritizing and building your athletes. Here you are creating a pathway for development for all of your skills, physiological markers and performace parameters. Essentially you are building a ‘timeline’. Whilst this is time consuming it actually helps you weed out the fluff and get to the detail. It also gives you a clear picture of what your brain constantly confuses. This falls back to the question; What is the end game?
Like I mentioned; just a few thoughts that could influence and clean up team practices. If i ever had the opporutnity to write a coaching course; these principles would be first on the list. Thank you for taking the time to read this short post.