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ConnectedCoaches members share the best bits of advice they’ve ever been given

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What’s the best coaching advice you’ve ever been given? That’s one of the first questions I asked ConnectedCoaches members when I started in my role as Community Manager. The response was terrific, with coaches from many different sports and with a wide range of experiences sharing what they had learnt over the years.

Below, you’ll see some of the wisdom they’ve shared. Whether you’re an experienced coach or just starting out on your coaching journey, each member’s advice is something I’m sure you can benefit from.

Emma Tomlinson – Always be fun and exciting

As an athletics coach, in my final exam, I was so frightened. The examiner said to me: ‘I’ve never seen someone coach with such a fun element. Don’t let anyone take that away! You are the sort of coach we need.’

Michael Antrobus – Keep it as close to the game as possible

This is the advice I pass on when working with coaches – if it is close to the game, players/athletes can transfer the skills.

Phillip Rhodes – Coach the person, not the sport

There are so many great nuggets of advice I’ve received over the years. A recent Coaching Edge magazine had a leading squash coach quote: ‘Have pride in your coaching, not arrogance.’ I suppose a proud coach would reflect and adapt in response to those nuggets of advice. In the same way, we hope players reflect and adapt in response to those nuggets we offer them. 

‘Coach the person, not the sport’ is probably the most important principle I try to embed in my coaching.

Andy Edwards  – Be yourself

I think the best advice I have been given is: ‘Be yourself.’ I am always trying to improve as a coach, and we all need to be like a chameleon at times, but it is important for me to be myself. That might be my passion/sense of humour/willingness to improvise etc.

Jon Woodward – Self-praise is no recommendation

Given to me by the man who gave me my first role in coaching: ‘Self-praise is no recommendation.’

Paul Thompson – Be flexible and think on your feet

Things don’t always go to plan, and you need to be able to be creative and adapt when they don’t.

Noe Orozco-Segoviano It’s just a game, enjoy it

I used to be an American football player so I passed the best bits I learnt from my coaches to the children I coached in that sport. Before a quarter-final, a crucial comment our head coach said in the pep talk that put me in my right level of arousal and mindset (I was over-aroused) was: ‘This is just a game,enjoy it!’ And it worked! We won, I was the MVP and had the best game of my life! From then on, I’ve been adapting the quote according to the sport/activity, and say it to the right athlete/person at the right moment. 

Gary Fowler – Coach the person, then the player

Linking in to what Noe said about mindset, coupled with workshops I’ve attended on sports psychology as well as my own personal non-sport experiences: ‘Coach the person, then the player’ is the best advice I’ve received.

So much literature talks about technical/tactical/physical/psycho-social etc, but surely psychology underpins them all! I had a chance to discuss this with Dan Abrahams and suggested a model that represents the four legs of a table, with the psychology being the ground. If the ground is uneven, it will impact on the whole balance of the table.

You may have a player, for example, with wonderful technique in golf, but if his/her mindset is off or negative, it impacts on the consistency of that technique. Working in girls’ soccer for many years in the USA too only highlighted to me the importance of what I call the ‘levelness’ of the person in order for them to perform as a player.

Claire Morrison – Be true to yourself

I have found this the best piece of advice on my coaching journey. As we develop as coaches, it is easy to try to adopt so many different styles and examples, but it is important to retain what makes you you. It is easy to get distracted by trying to be something you are not. We can all develop and build on the foundations we already have to become more effective coaches.

Andy Grant – Learn everyone’s name as quickly as possible

When I was starting out on my coaching journey, working on the summer camps in the USA, the senior staff used to give lots of invaluable tips and advice. One piece of advice that has really stayed with me over the years and I would consider the best is: ‘Learn everyone’s name as quickly as possible.’ 

This might not seem earth-shattering advice, but they highlighted how much easier it is to control the group, to make a connection, to personalise the feedback and to develop rapport. And most importantly, it makes the kids feel good when they hear their name. Children will recall long after they have forgotten your amazing drill or demonstration how they were made to feel by you. Coaches create emotions, emotions make memories.

So even though I don’t work on soccer camps, delivering to hundreds of new faces every week, I still remember this when I am starting with a new team or when new players arrive at my session.

Daniel Edson – Never stifle creativity and never stop learning

The two best pieces of coaching advice that I have ever been given were to always allow the athletes to be creative during training and never stifle that creativity. Secondly, to never stop learning and to always remember the importance that learning from both coaches from my sport and coaches from other sports can have in my development.

David Turner – If you don’t believe in something, you’ll fall for everything

My mentor often says: ‘If you don’t believe in something, you’ll fall for everything!’ Wise words, I feel, particularly in a technical event where there’s sometimes more than one way to the end goal.

Malcolm Fenton – Coach as much as is necessary, not as much as you can

Mine actually comes from advice to the athlete, but is also well suited to the coach: ‘Train (coach) as much as is necessary, not as much as you can.’

Louis Richards – You don’t know what you don’t know, and to have influence when coaching, you need to add value

For me personally, two bits of advice I found particular pertinent were:

  1. ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’ sounds pretty obvious, but when you step back and think about it, there are a lot of ramifications with regard to the ‘why’ of how we coach. For me personally, it has instilled an element of always striving to learn more.
  2. ‘To have influence when coaching, you need to add value.’ This is of particular pertinence to me as I often find that I am the youngest coach in the environments I coach in, and I don’t have an elite sport background to fall back on so I’m always looking for ways to add value to a session. A lot of it relates back to playing the role of a coach.

Louisa-Jayne Daniell – Be clear

I have been lucky enough to have lots of different and invaluable pieces of advice passed on to me by various coaching and teaching professionals. I think the best coaching advice I have had is to think that if someone asked the players what your session was about, what the coaching points given were and why this is important in a game, would they be able to give clear answers? This has always helped me focus on whether I have actually got the message across to this particular group of individuals, and if I did not, why did it not get across?

Colin Huffen – Coach the people in front of you, not the session

Andrew Beaven – You are the players’ coach, they are not your players

I can’t remember where I first heard this (maybe I didn’t realise how true it was at the time), but one piece of advice I always try to remember: ‘You are the players’ coach, they are not your players!’

Ricardo Vasconcelos – Never promise something you can’t give, and how ‘big’ they want to be in the future is more important than how ‘big’ they are at the moment

I’ve had a lot of good pieces of advice during the years I’ve been coaching. There are two quotes that constantly come to mind when coaching my teams:

  1. ‘Never promise something you can’t give.’

  2. ‘How “big” they want to be in the future is more important than how “big” they are at the moment.’ This was used in a context of individual assessment of players from a handball team, but I think it’s transferable to a group scheme as well.

Ellie-Rae Daly – You will always be learning

The best advice I’ve been given was that, as a coach, you will always be learning. This is not because you are not a good coach, but it is because you could be better. As a coach, you should embrace knowledge from other coaches as everyone has different and new ideas that can only help us develop.

Rachel Whyatt – Always talk at their level, try to structure practice to keep kids moving, and treat players as individuals

I’ve never had a role model as a coach; sadly, the opposite so I know what not to do and how not to make them feel. So good communication with the players, give them opportunities and don’t be negative. I didn’t take well to being shouted at all the time. However, these three pieces of advice struck a chord with me:

  1.  Always talk at their level. If they are on one knee, you go on one knee. Try to coach face-to-face instead of down at them.

  2. Try to structure practice to keep kids moving, no standing around in queues. That’s when kids get bored and: ‘Jonnie hit me’. And suddenly, you aren't watching practice, you are dealing with kids messing around. You always need eyes in the back of your head.

  3. Players need either a kick up the backside or a hug, it is your job to decide who needs which. Apparently, it is surprising who needs the hugs.

What’s the best coaching advice you’ve ever been given? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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Comments (10)

'Ten years of coaching without reflection is simply one year of coaching repeated ten times.'

Critical reflection is an essential part of athlete and coach development. If I don't reflect on my actions and decisions, how do I know i'm making progress?
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In discussing structure and content of half time talks: 'remember they now have to go out and play 45 more minutes...'
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"There are no guarantees in sport" many young players don't realise this and they need the guidance around the high that they can get through sport, but also the lows that come with loss of form injury etc.
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When working with children, the best bit of advice I was given was to ask questions to get your 'coaching points' across. Rather than tell the person/player/group what you want them to do, lead them to the answer you want through questions, because they can't argue with themselves.
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The only one I completely disagree with about is the; Be yourself.
First off the theory of self, is unbelievably complex, our best brains still argue over what the Self actually is.
Secondly, nobody is perfect, I don’t encourage people to be their imperfections, coaching is about aspiring to more or a higher version of your self. Strengthening under your weak spots and building on top of the talent to become the new self, version 2.0.
Ali said, “even if I wasn’t a boxer, id have swept the streets and a world champion.”
D. Thompson said, “I always knew I was going to be great, I just didn’t know what at”.
Some get this and try to be someone else, a mistake also, it’s not about being your self otherwise there’s no where to go or advance, you’re not going to change because youre being your self and it’s not about pretending to be someone else, that’s dishonest to your true self, which only hides your weak spots.
“Be your self because everyone else is taken.” Noel Coward
“Be at anytime able to sacrifice who you are for what you could become.”
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Thanks for your comment Ralph. It's always great to get different opinions. For me one of the great things about the ConnectedCoaches community is the willingness of members to express their views (and the rationale behind them) even if it "challenges" another's opinion. I'll be interested to see if anyone else agrees with you. Can I ask what's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
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There is no best Rob, every excellent piece of advice I’ve ever been given is contextually driven, which means it doesn’t work in all situations and so they are all best if they work in that situation. Problem with everyone’s lists above, is it looks like they use it as a way of life, it’s become a rule and rules prevent growth and creativity. If there is a best; it’s what ever is the newest interesting that I’d not heard of before.

“The most dangerous statement in the world: We’ve always done it that way!” Anon
Whilst Van Gall is worrying about % pass rate completions, Leicester T FC work on what’s going to give them the best chance of playing their football. They also have the WORST pass rate completion, so they are not worried about mistakes, if it leads to a goal.

you are right, it’s all opinion, truth is there are very few, if any, truisms.
“Opinions are like Ar**oles, everyone’s got one and mostly filled with hot air.” My Dad

We learn far more from mistakes than we do from success and so as much as our advice is profound, insightful and hard won, for other coaches and athletes, they should largely ignore it. The intelligent ones will file it for later when it’s relevant or analyse it and pick it to pieces. I hope you’re wrong and someone will say they don’t agree with me, as long as they can tell me why?

Truth is, we are all subject to our own Ego. As coaches we are seen as a bit of a guru by some; a weak coach buys into the adulation.
"Never buy into your own hype. The easiest person to fool, is your self." Benedetti

Most coaches reading this that you and me advise, will only make two mistakes,
1. They won't listen to it; and will have to learn their way.
2. They will listen to it; to the extent where they buy into it and stop thinking.

"As soon as you do something for someone, you've given them permission to be stupid because you've robbed them of the experience of thinking and doing it for them selves."

As coaches we run a risky game, we are messing with people's lives, "with great power comes great responsibility". The advice we give should only be seen as information, up-to the athlete to know what to believe in; they will anyway, i hope.
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The best advice for me comes in the wisdom of legendary John Wooden, as so succinctly explained in the book by Swen Nater & Ronald Gallimore "You haven't TAUGHT until They have LEARNED". Coach Wooden covered so much of what every coach needs to be able to develop their charges (and themselves) to the very best they could ever be.
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The day you stop learning something, give it up.

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Work with as many different coaches as you can, especially those with more experience/knowledge than you

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Always "provide an environment in which others may prosper". Served me well!

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