with Richard Casutt
Harbour Sport was established by sports organisations in the region to foster the North Harbour identity, provide co-ordination across sports codes, increase participation, improve the quality of sports administration and promote the North Harbour region as a sports destination.
Our day-to-day work is often to address the barriers to participation in sport and recreation. Of major influence is how we impact and create opportunities for youth to engage regularly in sport from a young age.
One of the major barriers to young people participating is in sport is the coaching they receive. At their worst, coaches can push the psychological, emotional, and physical limits of their players to the point of harm, create a hostile and unfair environment, and turn young athletes away from sport forever. Research conducted by Sports Coach UK highlights, at their best, the impact coaching can have on participants is significant. A key finding from this research was “significant proportions (between 66–72 percent) of young people say being coached has increased their enjoyment, passion and commitment to sport, as well as the time they spend playing”. The research also highlighted a link between the quality of coaching and young people’s enjoyment of playing sport.
The role of the coach is a complicated one. A coach (especially at the youth level) can serve as an instructor, teacher, motivator, disciplinarian, substitute parent, social worker, friend, manager, therapist, and fundraiser. Ideally, coaches should understand the developmental stage and limits of their athletes in order to tailor practices and playing time appropriately. In addition to these expectations, coaches are expected to have an in-depth knowledge of the sport they are coaching, including the rules and the skills and techniques needed to play the sport.
Unfortunately the average volunteer coach of a community team has little training in any of these areas. In addition, most community coaches become involved in coaching because their children played the sport. This also means that they are likely to drop out of coaching once their children are no longer involved.
So with the summer season coming to an end in a couple of months, and preparation for the winter season not far away, what are some of the factors that we should consider that will improve the level of coaching our young people receive? What will help us as coaches?
In an effort to keep it simple, the following are four criteria I think will make your and the players’ experience a rewarding one.
As a coach you need to be engaging; involve all the participants, communicate well by the way you speak, or don’t speak (let them play), listen, and observe your players. Make sure that the players are involved, having fun, stimulated and challenged. Minimise the time standing around waiting to play. A fun drill or game can become disengaging so keep evolving it based on the engagement you see and hear.
Planning is critical. If you plan your drills, games and activities, and evaluate your training before and after your session, you will learn to run better sessions that keep the players engaged for longer. Consequently players will improve their performance more quickly. Planning also helps you stay focused on what you are trying to achieve.
Remaining positive is critical. If you think back to the coaches you had, ask yourself, why did you like or not like a particular coach. The positive ones will the ones you remember the most. Therefore focus on the positive actions of your players, encouraging them to take risks and make mistakes. The more times a player makes a mistake and tries to learn from it, the faster they improve. If a negative attitude is taken towards a mistake, the players will start to fear making them, and lose confidence and then not attempt or believe they can perform.
Finally, remember what your job as a coach is. Ultimately you are there to help your players learn and improve.
Creating an environment that encourages learning and improvement through setting goals, trying new things, taking risks, making mistakes will benefit learning long term and will be positive for the player, the team and rewarding for you as a coach.
For further information or support for coaches contact Coaching Manager David Keelty, www.harboursport.co.nz