Reviewing Your Own Performance As A Coach
One of the most difficult aspects of coaching, be it at the very top of the game or at the grassroots level, is evaluating your own performance as a coach. Working with players of all levels, we are (as a profession) comfortable providing feedback to others, and have developed skills which allow us to assess performance of players and adapt our practice based on the needs of the participants. Yet when it comes to looking at our own practice, how we are acting or the information we are giving, the process suddenly becomes a lot more difficult.
The modern day coach is blessed with a range of technology designed to help the planning and preparation of the coaching sessions they deliver. Digital tactics boards, email session plans and animated drills make putting together an enjoyable and challenging session much easier than many years ago. Whilst this may be seen as a paper exercise, or even just one that ensures the coach knows their own plan of action, it has created a professional environment at all levels of the game, replacing the ‘coach’ who would turn up, set up a pitch and then proceed to shout at players for an hour! I am aware of coaches across all levels of the game that plan thoroughly to ensure the needs of their players are met in each session.
Yet when the session concludes, many coaches will pack up, walk away, and simply forget about what they have done. There may be some time for reflection with players on how they have performed during the session, perhaps there will have been a social issue regarding players or parents that cropped up at the end of the session and as a result, the coaches own performance in the session gets swept under the rug. All the hard work, planning and then delivery filters away into nothing, and the coach starts again from scratch the following week.
There are a number of ways in which governing bodies and top sports psychologists recommend coaching sessions to be assessed and evaluated. Whilst techniques such as peer to peer feedback (using your assistant coach / a parents to provide you with their opinion) or mentoring are fantastic in principal, the truth is at times they are far from practical or realistic, especially in the volunteer end of the scale. Creating notes, either in the form of text or even using a Dictaphone are excellent ways of beginning to self-reflect, these methods are often heavily biased towards your own memories of the session and what you are ‘feeling’ at the time of making the note. The level of detail put into a written evaluation will decrease significantly if performed while watching TV, and the longer you leave the note making, the less accurate or vivid the actual evaluation will be.
Videoing coaching sessions is an exceptionally powerful tool. And whether it is in a sports hall or simply down the local playing fields, handheld camcorders, tablets and smart phones are ideal tools for capturing your own performance on camera. By filming a couple of sessions, even if for 10/15 minute slots, and taking the time to watch them back, you will begin to really appreciate not only the content of the sessions you are delivering, but your own performance as a coach as well.
Personal reflection is something that I personally had to get on board with very quickly. On my third day as an Academy coach, my coaching session was filmed, and a DVD of the practice was sent across to me for my own review. I sat there, for nearly two hours, cringing in parts, watching back the session I had delivered. This was followed up not only by a written question and answer exercise with my phase leader, but a further sit down interview with the club’s head of coaching, who helped me look at different aspects of my session content and structure to develop as a coach. After doing this a couple of times (it happened about 4 times that season) I began to really start thinking about my own coaching practice, and would often walk away from a coaching session with more ideas than when I arrived.
Once a session has been videoed, the skill is then to take out pieces that are going to help you develop as a coach. When a player scores a wonderful goal or shows a poor piece of behaviour, we often quickly gravitate towards this as a defining moment in the session. However, with the ability to re watch the session, you can rise above that ‘pressure point’ moment to assess what was really happening. Was there something you said or did that gave the player the confidence to score that goal? Is there a way that you could have changed your own body language or tone of voice to prevent the player behaving badly? By watching the session back and focussing on the ‘before ‘and ‘after’ of key events, you will begin to learn more about yourself as a coach.
A programme like Focus is a fantastic tool to have in your coach’s bag, and makes self-reflection so much more effective. By setting up key performance indicators in your own coaching performance and then tagging them using Focus, you will quickly and easily begin to notice trends in your own coaching behaviour. For example, if every time you stop the coaching session to deliver a technical point, there is one player who is not listening, by tagging your ‘stops’ you may be able to define why this is. Does the player respond differently based on where you are standing in relation to him? Does the player act differently depending on how you speak to the group? Does the play lose focus after a certain number of seconds? Straight away, you may be able to adapt your own coaching performance to gain more concentration from this player.
Speaking from personal experience, self-reflection as a coach is not an easy process. It requires commitment and time to develop and enhance, and even then it is still a skill that will continue to evolve. But once you buy into it as a coach, you will not only see improvements in your players and session quality, you will also see improvements in yourself too.
If you’re a Focus user, and want some help on creating tags for your own coaching performance - please feel free to drop me a line on twitter @danbolas

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