Technology. It’s all around us.
In our pockets. On our heads.
On our shoes. On our arms and on our legs.
We wear it. We stare at it. We even glare at it!
Coaches have never lived or coached in an era where technology is so omnipresent.
Not so long ago, coaches would have to invite technology specialists or post graduate trained sports science professionals to attend training sessions and competition events to record data for the coach and athletes to analyse at a later time.
Now, in the palm of your hand you’ve got direct and immediate access to a high definition video camera, a high-resolution stills camera offering zoom and wideangle lens options and a digital quality audio recording device. A seemingly limitless range of free or inexpensive APPS are available to allow coaches to edit, review, analyse and study the video, image and audio files stored on their smartphones.
The access to technology has delivered an unparalleled opportunity for coaches to learn, to share ideas and to grow their coaching knowledge.
You can be sitting on a train in Geneva while sending a text or message to a world class coach in your sport seeking their thoughts on training, preparation, skills development, planning, programming and performing.
You are literally one step, i.e. one electronic connection, away from the smartest and most influential coaching minds in your sport.
You can be lying in bed at night in Sydney Australia, watching the latest videos on skills development in your sport, recorded last week in Rio by the coach of the current world champion.
Or you can be in New York sitting on the Subway, login to a livestream and watch a presentation being delivered in London by a leading sports scientist about their latest research on your sport.
The question isn’t how technology has impacted on coaches and coaching. It has. It’s inescapable. It’s unavoidable.
Every coach on this planet is directly influenced by technology every day.
The big issue is how coaches can integrate technology into their coaching to enhance the preparation and performance of their athletes and just as importantly how technology can improve their coaching.
Technology…. It’s Not A New Thing.
Technology and coaching aren’t something that’s new to the profession.
Every generation of coaches has had to learn to deal with the introduction of some form of “new” gadget, gimmick or gizmo: some all new, revolutionary piece of equipment or machine or tool guaranteed to make coaching better and improve athletic performance.
There was a time – not that long ago – when people thought an “electronic stop-watch” was an advanced coaching tool promising an unparalleled standard of accuracy and precision.
It was only 20 years or so back that coaches communicated the latest sporting results and shared information by a thing called a FAX- MACHINE!
Coaches have always been exposed to technology and told that THIS new piece of equipment or software or device was the breakthrough they’ve been searching for.
However, whether it’s learning how to use this new-fangled machine called a Video recorder back in the 1970s or investing in the latest piece of wearable player monitoring technology now, the core issue is still the same:
Coaching is an art. It is the art of inspiring change through emotional connection. It is the ultimate “people” business. It is listening to, understanding and connecting with other human beings and in doing so creating the opportunity and building the environment for every individual to realize their potential.
It is a profession built unashamedly on relationships between people: between a coach and an athlete where the coach gives selflessly and tirelessly to help an athlete be all they can be. The right technology can be a useful tool which coaches and athletes can integrate into their planning, preparation and performance activities – but like any tool its effectiveness is determined by – and limited by – the decidedly human factors inherent in the coach – athlete relationship.
In other words, focus on coaching first and foremost.
Learn how to build and grow positive and respectful relationships with your athletes.
Take time to understand why you coach and what’s driving you – what’s motivating you to coach. Master the art of coaching and THEN….start investigating the potential impact and influence the latest technology may have on your coaching.
Owning the most expensive paint, brushes and easel do not make you a great painter. But put expensive paint in the hands of someone who’s spent time learning how to paint, how to understand colours, how to capture beautiful scenery…and you’ve got a masterpiece.
Spending thousands of dollars on the world’s best guitar does not make you a brilliant musician. But give that guitar to a player who’s practiced for hours each day for ten years, who “feels” music in their very soul and who’s studied music most of their lives…and you’ve got an incomparable listening experience.
Technology does not make you a great coach but being a great coach…armed with the right technology…used when, where and how it can make a difference and you’ve got a great blend of art and science – one which will be inevitably successful.
The Techno-Coach Process
How To Integrate And Interface With Coaching Technology (And Not Get Ripped Off!)
If you’re like most coaches, you’ve somehow found yourself on the email list or social media contact list of an endless line of companies and sales professionals offering you the latest and greatest technology designed to help you achieve coaching success.
It’s important to develop some sort of filter or process to help you carefully consider the potential benefits of these new technologies whilst giving you a clear framework to determine whether or not they can and will deliver on their promises.
When you come across new technology that looks and feels like it’s promising remarkable, breakthrough coaching results, ask yourself a few questions and challenge the technology’s viability and appropriateness. For example:
What exactly does the new technology do?
How difficult is it to learn how to use? For me? For my athletes?
How much time does it take to learn how to use and to use in my training and competition programs?
Does the technology require upgrades and updates? How much do these cost? Are they readily available and simple to apply?
Do the people who’ve designed and developed this technology understand:
• My sport?
Has this technology been tested, evaluated and been shown to help coaches and athletes at the level / the age / the stage we’re working at?
How much does it cost – and does the cost justify the benefit to my athletes and my coaching?
Will it make me a better coach?Will it help my athletes improve?
Is there independently funded and conducted research to support the promises being made by the sales professionals?
Have other coaches in my sport – or in other sports used this technology and what are some examples of the results they’ve achieved using this technology?
Is this technology significantly better than the technology I currently use? How? Why?
In practical terms, when a sports technology sales professional is outlining the benefits of their new product, give them the ONE MINUTE challenge, i.e. “Can you tell me – in one minute or less – what your product is, what it does and how it will help me and my athletes achieve our goals”.
It’s a case of COACHES BEWARE!
Coaches are motivated with a deep commitment to help their athletes realize their potential and achieve their goals. This commitment can lead to some coaches being vulnerable customers and open to sales professionals offering technology which may ultimately over-promise and under-deliver.
Approach all new technologies with hopeful optimism supported by a careful and cautious assessment and evaluation process to help you identify the right technology for you and your athletes.
Keep It Simple: Now Is More Important Than Perfect!
One of the dangers for coaches investing in new technology is chasing the promise of “perfection”. More than one coach has been caught out by a new piece of technology offering unprecedented standards of precision and accuracy only to find that there’s a cost to using that technology which is more than the actual purchase price: TIME!
Ultimately the coaching and technology question is simple: Will this technology make me a better coach – and in turn help my athletes to get better too?
Some technology may offer this potential for performance enhancement but also demand a high level of user skill and the investment of considerable time to use the technology to its fullest capability.
A wearable technology athlete monitoring and tracking device may potentially offer the coach and athlete a seemingly limitless amount of data on physiological loading, but it may also require several hours staring at a laptop screen to fully utilize the technology’s full capability.
Don’t be hypnotized by the hype!
Often giving direct, immediate, relevant, meaningful feedback to athletes live and in real time which is 90% accurate using simple and proven older technology is far more effective than emailing them a detailed 100% accurate data analysis report three days later.
Coach The Athletes To Use The Technology…They’re Probably Better At It Than You Are!
If you want to learn how to use technology…ask a ten-year-old. They’ve grown up with it. They live with it. Their world is constructed around it.
This gives every coach coaching now a potential advantage that coaches in the past could not have imagined possible.
If a ten-year-old can play Fortnight or spend weekends gaming on their X-Box, chances are they can operate a drone, connected by Bluetooth technology to and operated by a Smartphone. This same ten-yearold could be enlisted to video football players from overhead during training and games….TO HELP THE COACH, COACH!
Most fifteen-year-olds learn basic “coding” at high school. It’s highly likely they can design and develop a simple athlete self-reporting / selfmonitoring program or APP of some kind….TO HELP THE COACH, COACH!
When you’re considering investing in new technology which you believe will help you improve your coaching and enhance the performance of your athletes, why not run it past a few of the teenagers in your team first?
In most cases not only will they understand the technology better than you ever could but there’s a good chance they’ll come up with new, innovative and creative ways of using that technology that even the people who designed it didn’t think of.
We’re living in a wonderful period of human history where access to knowledge, to ideas, to learning has never been so easy, so affordable and so simple. You are one or two clicks away from everything you’ve ever wanted to know about your sport: anyone can get anything, anywhere, anytime and usually for free.
You’ve also got direct and immediate access to affordable technology that can measure, monitor and manage the training, development and performances of your athletes. Technology that only a decade ago was outside the budget and above the level of expertise of most coaches is now in your pocket.
However, as your coaching “tools” have advanced and as access to knowledge and information has flourished, never lose sight of the “art” of coaching. In the end, we are as much about experiences as we are electronics and as focused on relationships as we are on robotics.
Involve your athletes in your technology investment decisions. Most teenagers have an understanding of technology which is way beyond that of their coach and it’s that understanding which can be used to help both the coach and the athletes get the most out of every new piece of technology.
The key to coaching effectiveness in the future will be – as it has been in the past and as it is now – the integration of science and art – the moulding together of technology and emotional connection – the balance between the measurable and immeasurable elements of human sporting endeavour.
Wayne Goldsmith has been an influential figure in coach education for the past 25 years.
He’s worked with professional, college and Olympic level athletes, coaches and teams in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Europe, Asia and throughout the Pacific.
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