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Creativity and coaching

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The concept of creativity is increasingly one which has drawn the attention of sport coaches and how this can be applied to their coaching practice. Why should coaches adopt a more creative approach? Initial thoughts are to seek improved performance, generate greater engagement with participants; prevent complacency in session design and to learn and to evolve. In addition to these one must also recognise that sport faces not only the challenges of retention and recruitment but also competition. As Lord Coe stated after the London 2012 Olympics, there is a need to “win the battle over the cluttered landscape of distraction that sport competes against”.

Too often the words ‘be more creative’ are heard post-match from coaches and commentators but this will only come from ensuring their practice environment encourages it. If we wish to challenge players to be greater ‘risk-takers’; better decision makers and to think differently should we therefore not set an example in how we develop our coaching practice? It is easy (and safe!) to get drawn into traditional approaches and ignore an alternate path and the challenges that comes with it. Your coaching recipe may stay the same but remember appetites vary and change. I don’t want my participants to go to another restaurant when I am perfectly capable of cooking up new and enticing sport menus! What does the future of learning (and therefore coaching) look like? It could be a question of modifying behaviours, establishing a culture that challenges the coach and in turn the athlete.

Just imagine the Rolling Stones fans appearing year on year to the live concerts and seeing the same show ‘rolled out’, how long before they looked to compare the concerts of other bands. Ones who while not betraying their philosophy and skills turned to embrace new technologies and kept the audience on their toes, hungry for more. The presentation of practice sessions continually needs an element of ‘spark’ and creativity because the playing and training arena is the coach’s stage. Rock bands and coaches as with their crowds need sustained enthusiasm which is where fresh innovative ideas can help to make a difference. Teams, individuals and sport organisations seek the free thinking, unharnessed and original practice sessions.

Developing a dynamic and motivational climate with new innovative ideas and new practices has become integral to my coaching philosophy and has guided decisions and actions. Creativity can keep things fresh especially during a long season, there is satisfaction and enjoyment that comes with the excitement of seeing ideas come to fruition and a gain confidence in becoming prepared to provide ‘colouring outside the lines’ sessions.

So how do we start to be creative? Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregiore in the book ‘Wired to Create’ refer to a ‘seed moment’ when the first seeds of an idea are sown. The inspirations for new ideas can come literally from anywhere so don’t be surprised when it happens. . It is just having the time to be more aware of our environment. The following approach to introducing new ideas has one that has guided me through the creative process.

 

Creative Stage What happens Example
Ignition The initial 'spark' – a thought that arises from very often linking something I have seen to a skill I am trying to coach. Watching the Bangkok traffic jam on a television programme highlighted how so many cars in such a small space can operate without accidents.
Context

This is matching stage - link the 'spark' to the skills. How can the idea have purpose and relevance? This has been described as 'finding a door to connect two rooms'

So the Bangkok traffic jam became the concept for a rugby agility exercise. Limited space, all players involved and moving with and without ball in hand.
Incubation The growth phase for the idea. Don’t act straight away. ‘Sleep on it’. Find some ‘unpolluted space’ where you can be free from distraction, away from Wi-Fi and give the idea your full attention. A day later and one before the delivery this added road works which became obstacles (shields) and workman were busy giving directions and forever limiting space.
Share

Sharing means not neglecting experience that surrounds you. A chance to 'feed the idea' - avoid dilution so share the idea with someone who will enhance it and encourage its' growth. Avoid the 'devil's advocates!

Discussion with coaching mentor to ensure there was a balance between purpose and the creativity. Always considered context so the traffic jam skills were always referred to in a small sided game – ‘finding space’
Adopt

The idea is now ready to turn into action and has come through persistent thought and scrutiny. Treat it as a 'leap of faith' or a 'launch where it goes from the 'what if' stage to delivery.

The Bangkok traffic jam warm-up theme with clear ‘attachment’ to the rest of the session where agility, body position, ball carrying and balance were essential elements.
Reflect Feedback from players and coaches but keep the faith - trial and error. Failure and success go hand in hand. Players added their own ideas with types of vehicles. There were sports cars, family cars and a few trucks!

I have learned not to be fearful of making mistakes, to be aware of persistence and faith in ideas even if their early stages. With all the great films there are plenty of pieces left on the cutting room floor which didn’t work out as expected. As a coach educator I encourage people to try new things and not ‘ask permission’ to do something just try things new as long as they are safe and purposeful. Coaching is very often about improvisation – creating sessions with odd numbers, limited equipment and restricted space. Being creative can prepare coaches for that reality. The benefits of applying creativity can be more rewarding as you see the consequences and impact of your work where ideas give ownership of the content, shaped by the coach and not one ‘borrowed or stolen’ from others or prescribed by text. But be prepared – being creative is a messy business!

What did you think of this blog? How do you try and be creative in your coaching? I would love to know your thoughts and for you to share your experiences so please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Comments (8)

   
robertkmaaye
Super blog Richard. Love the table guiding people through the approach to introducing new ideas!
21/03/16
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cheetham
Thanks Rob, much appreciated I have really enjoyed being able to contribute my ideas. By the way don't drive in Bangkok!
14/04/16
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Diddyditri
Thanks Richard
I love the comparison of coaches to rock stars when satisfying their audience! And allowing coaches to have a go without being told off or ridiculed is important. Of course reflection features highly in recognising what you have and have not achieved in the experiment. And talking the idea or the spark through is really helpful to build confidence to try and do something different but with a purpose.
Di
27/04/16
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cheetham
Thanks Di, supporting coaches new ideas, you never know what those sparks can lead to! I refer to 'permissions', when a coach says "is it ok if I......" and my response is as long it is safe and purposeful / relevant then try it, talk it through and develop what could be a fantastic opportunity. Sharing with like-minded people helps so avoid dinosaurs!
02/05/16
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marion
Keep 'em coming! I really enjoyed reading this and the video using a med. ball to teach a forehand stroke-great ideas!!! curiosity sparks creativity and it all brings more to the game!
01/05/16
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cheetham
Thanks Marion, much appreciated. I am always keen to share new ideas and approaches to coaching practices.
02/05/16
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anfy

Thanks for this Richard. I have modified it to make it more relevant to my sport (with acknowledgement and thanks to you) and will be showing it to some new coaches I am tutoring. So useful to have someone set it all out so neatly!

28/10/16
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cheetham

Thanks Anthea and a huge thanks to Rob Maaye for getting the infographic done! Really pleased it has been so useful

28/10/16
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robertkmaaye

Here's a link to the infographic Richard is referring to. Please do screeshot and share https://www.connectedcoaches.org/spaces/10/welcome-and-general/photo/robertkmaaye/connectedcoaches-infographics/2938

29/10/16
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Marianne

A great read. This is very much part of the subject of my next article and much of my work in coach development/ education. Thank you. I'm sharing it :)

16/08/19
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