After been an international hockey player and after retiring from playing I have taken up coaching and I enjoy the challenge. I have spent a lot of time asking the question ?what are the skills of a coach??
My thoughts below are summarised but they do give you a feel for where I believe coaches should be focussing their personal development.
I believe that coach skills can be split into 2 distinct groups they are
· Sport specific technical information such as details of technical skills or strategy or structure details of the sport etc, and;
· Generic coach skills such as communication, leadership, teaching skill etc
By splitting the set of coach skills this way you can see that it is possible for a top coach to coach any sport as long as their generic coach skills are very good. The technical side of the sport does need to be part of the ?coaching management team? but those skills do not need to be part of the head coaches knowledge.
The important issues for coaches is ?how do I/we get the best out of my/our players?? The generic coach skills are very important to achieve the desired objective and a high level of performance.
These skills should include, but are not limited to, the following:
· Creating competition
· Teaching skills
· Awareness of Athlete?s
· Relationship management
· Listening skills
Let me go through these points in more detail
Communication: a very important component to any coach. Presentation skills along with one on one communication. These are a different set of skills but both are required in a coach?s repertoire. What about facilitation of meetings and explanation of ideas? What techniques do you use in these situations? Serious thought should go into the communication side of your coaching. This is a massive area that is too big to summarise here but all coaches have to have the ability to communicate, in various situations, with all individuals within their team and outside of the team eg administrators, sponsors, media etc.
Innovation: coaches are required to keep the players interested and excited to be involved. Being innovative is important to facilitate that. Innovation is also important when looking at actual play. Most coaches are caught up in the paradigm of the sport they are involved with. Should those boundaries be challenged and stretched? Why not look to other sports and coaches for some new ideas?
Leadership: This is a massive area that needs to be addressed. It is essential for any group of people that leadership is in place to ensure the individuals are all working in the same direction and the direction is heading towards the appropriate objective. Issues of accountability, responsibilities, motivation and influencing others to achieve agreed targets, are important parts of the coaches skills set. I believe each coach should have a clear, well-defined coaching philosophy. This will assist with the development of their own leadership style.
Creating competition: This is competition within a squad for places in the team. True competitors love to be involved in competition and bring their best out when necessary. Coaches are responsible for creating an environment that is competitive and fun at the same time. Truly great athlete?s are great competitors and perform well when it counts.
Teaching skills: All coaches are teachers. But what is it about teaching skills that are important? Coaches should understand how each individual in their team learns. Then they are required to ensure that each individuals needs are met when athletes are learning new information. If the individuals learning needs are not met then how can a coach expect the players to do as they require?
Accountability: this is significant for coaches. Coaches must accept the responsibility for performance and everything that goes into that. With Coaches responsibility comes the responsibility for ensuring that athletes understand and accept personal responsibility for their part of the overall performance puzzle. Without this responsibility in place it is easy to find an excuse for a poor performance.
Player awareness: An holistic approach to the players and the team is important. It is impossible for a player to perform to their peak if issues outside of the sport specific detail are not ?neat and tidy?. Coaches should make sure players have nothing to worry about except putting in an exceptional performance. An example of this may be a player who?s grandmother died. Should we expect that player to be a peak performer or should we encourage the player deal with the grief process associated with the death? I would always choose the latter.
Relationship management: To facilitate the proper functioning of a team the ability of the coach to develop relationships with all of the players and management team is essential. It is also important for a coach to realise that not all individuals in the team will relate well to his/her personality. Other members of the management team will need to be involved in developing the relationships to ensure there is a level of ?friendship? that is suitable. The coach needs to ensure they are confident within themselves to allow other management team members establish those relationships.
Listening skills: This is a part of communication but it is so important that I view it separately. It is easy for a coach to be autocratic and dictatorial in their approach. This is not an ideal approach to managing individuals and teams within a sports environment. We as coaches can learn a lot from listening to people. This could include players, observers, other coaches anyone at all. We don?t have to agree with everything we hear but we need to listen, understand and be prepared to change our thinking if that is appropriate. We can learn from every situation if we are open in our thinking, open our eyes and listen.
This is no where near a full and final list of coach skills, but I hope I have introduced to some of the key skills that a coach is required to have. I am certainly approaching my coaching and coach development with this concept in place. I am exploring all options for personal development in both my technical skills and the generic skill areas.
If anyone wants to discuss or debate these issues feel free to email me at email@example.com
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