*Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
Coaches do not always have to be correct or have the right answers says Clare GDM Micheál Duffy in this week’s coaching column.
When I started an MSc in Applied Sports Coaching in UL in September 2019 I thought (foolishly) I’d come out knowing more than I did going in. One of the strange things I’ve realized from my experiences with learning and education is the more you learn about something the more you actually realize how little about the topic you do know and how much more there is to figure out.
In first year before Covid kicked in, we had class every Monday and like most conversations between coaches we spoke about our past experiences and seeing how other people might have dealt with them. Whenever there was a difference of opinions Phil Kearney our course director would be asked his opinion to which he nearly always responded “It depends”. At the start I always thought why he doesn’t tell us the answer but as the weeks and months went on, I started to realize there is nearly always multiple possible answers and it is always dependent on the situation or group you are dealing with.
With coaching there is this perception that the coach needs to be right all the time and needs to know all the answers. The truth is that nobody has all the answers and the sooner you realize that as a coach the better. The best way you get better at coaching is by doing, you can go to all the courses, watch all the videos and read all the books but nothing substitutes you actually taking a session.
Paudie Butler the former National Director of Hurling preaches the “Plan-Do-Review-Do Again”. When taking a session, it’s critical you are organized and have it planned out beforehand, it makes life so much easier. You then do the session, and as I said already the best way coaches get better at coaching is by coaching. The next step is the most important one, reviewing what went well and what could have been better. The final step is then once you review and think what could have done better the next time your coaching try and work on that and over time those small improvements will result in a big improvement in your coaching.
Another thing with regards learning and coaching that I believe is, if you aren’t learning more than the players are, you’re doing it wrong. One of the reasons kids come to the field is to learn new skills. We expect kids to be learning something new at every session but what about us? After a session not only should we be reviewing our own performance but also the performance of the players. What skills do we need to do more work on? Who needs extra help with which skill?
Both of those questions will help you plan your session for the next day and then you just repeat the process each week. In a world where everyone would like to be right most of the time just remember there is nearly always multiple solutions to different problems and the best way to find out what works is trial and error.