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Interesting tweet from last week’s UK Coaching Conference:
Frank Dick said exactly this at the ECB CA (England & Wales Cricket Board Coaches’ Association) conference in 2015. Everyone nodded. Nothing much seems to have changed...
The Coaching Plan for England says a lot about bringing in new coaches by reducing barriers to entry, but very little about helping those new coaches (or existing coaches working in the ignition/grassroots/participation arena), who most probably will be working with beginners, to become “world class”.
Mentorships are mentioned, but apparently as a remedial exercise to supplement the training offered in streamlined level 1 & 2 courses.
“we need to develop world class coaches for beginners”
“we need to develop world class coaches for beginners”
Yes, yes, yes to the ambition.
What can be done to make it happen?
I think you need to be careful here. How do you define "world class coaches for beginners"? Most people thing of "world class coach" and they think of somewhat immensely knowledgeable, immensely experienced, technically brilliant, etc. None of these are needed with beginners.I would agree with this statement if it was addressed at educating and training coaches to work with beginners and supporting the heck out of them. What is desired in a beginning coach are patience, compassion, a sense of fun, etc. none of which need to be world class, but they no need to be exercised.In the book Peak, (I think) Erickson mentions that elite pianists almost exclusively rated their first piano teachers highly. What they remembered and appreciated of those teachers was patience, kindness, and understanding not technical brilliance or being a task master.
I do agree, Steve. The conflation of “great coach” with “great knowledge” is very common, but pernicious, nonetheless.All too often, it is “knowledge” (or qualifications, at least) that open the doors to reward, recognition and employment. Only relatively few potentially great coaches can afford to work with beginners as a hobby.“Great” coaches of beginners will probably sit in their own silo, doing great things, and, aside from the gratitude of the players they work with* and, just possibly, a “lifetime achievement” award when they near retirement, receive no reward or recognition, and very few personal development opportunities.[* players’ gratitude is not to be sniffed at...it won’t pay the bills, unfortunately.]Competent coaches are encouraged to move “up” the development pathway; if they want to actually earn a living from coaching (even to be acknowledged as a “proper” coach), stepping up to Development or Performance roles is almost obligatory.Even at Performance level, a “great” coach needs much more than great technical knowledge — for a start, they need to have the ability to impart that knowledge to others (players, assistant coaches, translators etc.).The challenge is to develop and recognise appropriate expertise at each level of the coaching pathway. Taking your example of the inspirational piano teacher — how many non-pianists have stories of dreading dull, cheerless lessons where scales are drilled rigidly and mistakes mercilessly criticised? What would be needed to upskill these keyboard taskmasters to “inspirational”? [instruments have been changed to protect the identity of participants in this anecdote].What does “great” look like for a beginners’ coach?I helped to deliver training for All Stars Cricket Activators — entry-level, with 5-8 year olds — where the focus was on APES — sessions should be Active, Purposeful (focus on age- and ability-appropriate skills, with learning through trying not instruction), Enjoyable & Safe.A great start for an Activator delivering a short, standardised programme.But how do we encourage a great Activator to become a great coach for beginners? And how do we keep them in that essential role?
In my former life, I was a college professor. I had a niece who taught first and second graders. She had me into her classroom for a "guest teacher" spot and for that hour, I never worked so hard in my life. But the "system" insisted that the higher up the ed ladder one went, the more one should get paid. I suggest that the most important and possibly the hardest working folks are at the beginning end of the spectrum. Maybe we should try to make sure they get paid well enough, certainly better for what they do.
It’s not _only_ about reward (although that will be important for some) — it is also about equipping coaches to thrive (“grow or develop well or vigorously”) when working with beginners.
Blake Richardson reviews Frank Dick’s UK Coaching Conference keynote presentation:Developing World Class Coaches With a Head for Heightshttps://www.ukcoaching.org/resources/expert-opinions/subscription/developing-world-class-coaches-with-a-head-for-heiThe article is paywalled, unfortunately.
I think your question about keeping coaches in essential roles with beginners is one that still hasn't been answered (or given enough time to) by the governing bodies, but the statement you made here for me goes a long way to explaining the reasons why:"Competent coaches are encouraged to move “up” the development pathway; if they want to actually earn a living from coaching (even to be acknowledged as a “proper” coach), stepping up to Development or Performance roles is almost obligatory."I couldn't agree with this statement more, Andrew! I was only reading the other day how some football clubs are well known to pay their coaches who coach older kids more than their coaches who for instance coach in the foundation phase. Although this isn't an industry standard, it does exist and therefore a lot of coaches assume that if they want to earn a living from the profession then they have to 'climb the ladder' and therefore can't move away quick enough from what is then classed by the industry as an entry level job. On the other hand, if you decide to stay at beginner level you may not be guaranteed a part-time wage let alone a full-time wage so the retention rate of good beginner coaches at this level is low due to the drop out rate being so high.We need well equipped experts at every level and like you say, these experts look different at every level. It's a tough job indeed to properly equip coaches when there's not enough funding available for bursaries, ongoing mentoring and support or sometimes not enough opportunities/spaces on courses for coaches to go and learn more. The questions here are why is it like this and how and who changes these things?I suppose another question is where is the motivation/pressure for change and improvement when a lot of people still seem to justify that the current system is a success due to it continuing to produce one or two world-class unbroken eggs even if all the others thrown at the wall were smashed?
I had hoped that Frank Dick’s presentation at last year’s conference might have kick-started a conversation; my post generated only one response, and my attempts to goad the Coach Developers in my own sport have failed.In fact, a level 2 course designed specifically for children’s coaches is being discontinued, as has a post-level 2 qualification, to be replaced with volunteer “activators”.I missed the latest annual review of the Coaching Plan for England (and it appears to have disappeared from the Sport England website), but it had nothing explicit on developing expertise in the raft of new coaches unless they progress up the pathway.Not very encouraging, unfortunately.
Yes, that's sad news about the level 2 course specifically for children's coaches being discontinued, Andrew. I wonder if it was because of a lack of interest or because they felt funding was better spent elsewhere? It's certainly a shame and also very frustrating that the vicious cycle seems to be continuing about coaches having to progress up the pathway to develop more expertise. Not very encouraging indeed.
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