Coach Development is one of the buzz terms often thrown around by governing bodies when discussing sport. Governing bodies often refer to coach development as a necessity because of their desire to define all aspects of the coaching pathway. By doing this governing bodies hope to promote their own system and end result. This goal will of course vary depending on the program in focus, organisational goals and more importantly in a lot of countries how funding is determined by governments for sports.
This perspective from which to view coach development is limiting at best because it often focuses on the masses rather than individualised or a person by person approach. The problem with this type of thinking is it weeds out many potentially good coaches early on so that only the resilient survive. There is logical and a relational idea behind this strategy at the entry level of any sport as there is a need to deliver an efficient and cost effective base level of information and knowledge. This type of delivery however needs to be matched with competency based instruction and assessment. This will then be more aligned to what is meant by coach development.
So what could these competencies for defining coach development look like? There are surprisingly a number of similarities that most coaches move through in their coaching history. The higher we go through the stages of coach development the more and more specific the need is for a coach to be treated as an individual rather than a number. Some of these similar stages of coach development and activities include:
Wrong Instruction; initially most coaches who have very little knowledge of the sport will be focuses on harm minimisation. Inexperienced coaches often feel that through one poor coaching direction and world of harm can come to a player under guidance. This is rarely the case however as players and athletes will have many voices who give them adequate and sometimes not so great information over the course of their careers.
Development of a Drill Bank; coaches very early on want to have a massive amount of knowledge at their fingertips and this is often expressed as the collecting of drills for all things sport.
Defining an Offensive and Defensive Philosophy; this is an interesting stage as coaches undertaking this activity will tend to focus on bring all their knowledge together. In this stage coaches’ have some experience, knowledge, and understanding of their sport, but they have not had enough significant experiences that have forged their thinking one particular philosophy over another. Coaches now try to develop their own philosophy and often look to adopt or rationalise their thinking in line with another perceived successful program.
The desire for Independence; in this stage of coach development a coach will start to tinker with their earlier coaching philosophies. This may result in them relying less on a set bank of drills and more on modifying styles of play into breakdowns to meet their team’s specific technical or tactical needs. It can also be characterised by the development of different plays and patterns in the tactical strategies undertaken within their coaching system.
Program Investment; coaches now more into a sphere where they align themselves with a semi-professional, professional or veteran coach to try to gain competition specific knowledge and understanding. This is usually focused around a competition level above any that the coach has had contact with before. It is a means of seeing what really happens at the next level of the sport, and comparing what their beliefs are and assessing if their philosophy would work in this context. This might be a professional league, senior or elite competitions, or international service (junior or senior).
Belief; coaches now develop a confidence in their own abilities, knowledge of the sport and philosophy. A coach might become very specific in how they want a team to operate, progress and look. A coach at this stage has the complete vision. On the court, off the court, technical, tactical, physiological, and psychological everything has a place and time. At this stage of development, a coach becomes consumed by their ideas and understands the limitations and how to work with them to achieve the best results. This adaptability comes from a coach’s awareness and understanding in their ability as well as those around them that their thinking/system is right and can work provide the right conditions are achieved.
Student of the Game; coaches in this stage have moved past their philosophy being the best option and now move towards understanding the sport as best they can from a variety of perspectives. Coaches within this stage of coach development seek to integrate the best parts of other philosophies into their own. This a constant cycle of trial and error. This creates flexibility and makes their own idea of the sport more dynamic. What is different about this stage to earlier points in the coach development cycle is the discerning eye these coaches possess and the standard at which their choices are made.
Upon becoming competent within each stage described in the coach development pathway a coach will seek out new challenges and activities they perceive to make them better and their coaching stronger. It is important to note that mentors can be found at all levels because mentors can offer not only sport specific knowledge, but also a wider degree of information and knowledge.