Unscambling the Egg
The ’80s were a special time for coach education in Australia.
We saw the formation and growth of the Australian Coaching Council and many national sporting organisations who drove the development of the National Coaching Accreditation Scheme.
Coaches all over Australia rushed to become level-1, level-2 and level-3 coaches, unfortunately, we’re still doing the same things we were doing 30 years ago.
Why would I – as a coach wanting to learn about coaching and get better at coaching – pay for and attend your course when 90% of what you’re going to teach me is available free and conveniently on the net?
Coaching is the art of inspiring change through emotional connection.
Coaching is change.
Yet...for more than 30 years, this “coach-development-through-science” philosophy has dominated the Australian coach development industry.
Coaching is much more than lactates, protein bars, Yerkes-Dodson curves and A.T.P. generation equations.
We have many accredited coaches who can measure heart rate, write a program and use an iPad – but in terms of people who practice the “art” of coaching...there’s very, very few.
Knowledge by itself is now worthless.
Mobile phones etc have made knowledge...worthless because things only have value when they’re difficult to get.
Today, coaches can access anything, anytime, anywhere and usually for free in the palm of their hands.
There is no need for coaches at any age or stage of learning to attend coaching courses – except where compliance to become accredited is demanded by the national or state sporting organisation for risk management and insurance purposes.
Organisations measure success in quantitative measures, yet coaching is largely qualitative in nature, striving for effectiveness more than efficiency.
“More” coaches doesn’t mean better sport. Coaching is not a numbers game.
It’s having more coaches who are better at what they do that makes the difference.
The messages are clear – what we’re doing is not working.
THE BOTTOM LINE?
Australia is failing to develop sports coaches with the skills required for our current and future national sporting needs
We are still delivering coach development programs that are inappropriate for the vast majority of coaches, and we’re delivering these programs through outdated and anachronistic information delivery mechanisms.
We want sport to change – we’re investing heavily in developing, modifying, piloting and marketing “new” sports, but we’re neglecting coaches...who are the driving force of effective change in every sport.
THE MOST WONDERFUL PROFESSIONAL IN THE WORLD
Remember that wonderful coach who coached you? That amazing coach who taught you the skills and techniques. The one who had your child laughing all the way through practice?
You know the coach I mean.
The coach that when you get together with old friends and your sports experience comes up as a topic of conversation. You say things like “Remember our basketball coach at high school? Man, he was so cool. I can still remember what he taught me about the game – and about life”.
That’s what we’re trying to develop!
A workforce of “them”: remarkable, committed, inspiring, passionate, engaging, creative, life-changing coaches.
At a time when the nation’s sporting landscape is changing markedly, isn’t it common sense to invest – seriously invest – in the training, education and development of the one group of people in that landscape with the passion, drive, opportunity and willingness to ensure that change is delivered intelligently, effectively and efficiently?
WHAT DO WE NEED TO CHANGE?
Whilst every sport will need to consider carefully and strategically how to improve its coach development structures, systems and methods, there are several common issues every sporting organisation needs to face:
1. There’s likely to be a shift away from linear coach development—i.e., the days of the “levels and licences” model are coming to an end.
We’re already seeing some sports reduce their reliance on the “levels and licenses” systems and shifting toward providing coaches with practical, accessible opportunities for continuous improvement and ongoing learning.
2. In spite of the significant investment in online learning, it, too, has reached its time limit. Coaches do not learn by sitting in front of a monitor and watching a 30-minute video about mitochondria.
No coach will come home at the end of a busy day coaching, log in to an online coach development program, and take notes about advanced periodisation and programming theory from a pre-recorded university lecturer – regardless of the lecturer’s qualifications or brilliant technology.
3. Conventions, conferences, workshops and seminars – done the traditional way – are also on the wane.
Noone is prepared to pay high attendance fees, travel to another city and sit through hours and hours of presenters – “the sage on the stage model” – throwing up PowerPoint slide after PowerPoint slide, and talking “to the slides” rather than engaging “with the audience.
4. Mentoring has been tried and tried again. Unless the mentors are committed, dedicated and prepared to work with individual coaches in context – and unless the learners are similarly committed, dedicated and prepared to learn – large-scale mentoring programs don’t work either. Just throwing two people together and saying “learn from each other” is not effective or productive mentoring – it’s just ticking the mentoring box.
5. The Australian sporting landscape has shifted dramatically from being focused on competitive sport instead to lifetime fitness, health, recreation, enjoyment and well-being. Yet...we continue to educate coaches to develop the skills of pushing and prodding athletes along the “performance pathway.” Most coach education content is focused on the long-term development of an athlete’s physical, mental, technical, tactical and lifestyle management capacities with an underlying assumption that ALL competitors want to – and will be – elite-level athletes. Those days are over.
6. The largest group of people in Australia who are coaching are “parents.” Parent-coaches are critical in making sport work in this country, yet they are still mostly overlooked and undervalued when it comes to coach development. Parents are critical to ensuring that young Australians become more active and healthier through regular physical activity. However, oftentimes, they are burdened – often unwillingly – with the responsibility of coaching their child’s junior sporting team...and they deserve far more support and much greater resourcing than they currently receive.
THE FUTURE FOR COACH DEVELOPMENT
Three forces will determine the future of coach development in Australia:
1. The changing demands of sport
The data is clear: there’s a significant shift in the Australian sporting landscape from competitive-sport-focused to participation-sport-centred. Coaches are the driving forces of change – they are sport’s coal face. Coaches are the deliverers of the product of sport to the sport’s clients – e.g., mum, dad, children.
Yet, investment in coach development in national sporting organisations is relatively small.
N.S.O.s are willing to invest significant time, money and resources to creating and marketing sporting products – e.g., modified games and junior sport development programs – yet seemingly unwilling to invest in training, gaining and retaining an outstanding coaching workforce to deliver those products.
2. The changing policy frameworks of funding agencies
Governments are increasingly using the logic of big data to make important sports-investment decisions. Many funding agencies are becoming reliant on demographic modelling to determine the needs of communities for sporting facilities and infrastructure.
Coaches will need a different set of skills to survive and thrive as the development of sporting facilities becomes more community-, participation-, leisure- and health-focused – and less centered on infrastructure built exclusively for competitive sport.
These skills will include the capability – by necessity – to build strong networks and partnerships both within and between sports and to work cooperatively and collaboratively with other coaches, other clubs and other sports industry stakeholders.
3. The changing demands of clients
Sport is no longer owned by sport. It is owned by sports’ clients. Mums, Dads and others who make the purchase decisions are looking for sports experiences that are client-focused.
AFL, Cricket, Tennis and Rugby League all have well-documented accounts of how they’ve shifted their sporting products from a “take-it-or-leave-it” philosophy to one that provides clients with an experience that is engaging, interesting, fair, rewarding and stimulating.
For the most part, the deliverers of the sporting product – coaches – have not been provided with the training, education or development to lead this brave new sports world.
Coaches need to deliver quality sports experiences based on the needs of their clients, and this shift in philosophy necessitates coaches learning a new set of skills and a different way of working with athletes and their families.
The sports industry is experiencing a period of remarkable, significant and radical change.
We need coaches with the skills, expertise and qualities required to lead the industry forward.
The current methods and practices have changed very little in the past 30 years.
Technology has made knowledge and information easier to access and online courses provide more convenient opportunities. Does the convenient availability of more information make better, more effective coaches?
Coach development programs are too content-heavy, predominantly based on sports science and lack a genuine commitment to developing coaches who can actually coach. It is time for coach developers to focus on coaching coaches to coach.
People by nature do not change until it’s too late.
Sport in Australia is in desperate need of coaches who have what it takes to build and grow a new type of sport: one that is focused on health, well-being, enjoyment, fitness and holistic personal development. Until sporting organisations and coach developers accept this, little will change. We’ll still have coaches who can define the molecular basis for muscle contraction, but who’ll have no athletes to coach.
Powerful Stories, Tips and Amazing Insight
Ready, Set, Go! Everything you need to know to start coaching from the legends in the field. As well as the Business and Life coaches, our launch edition features David Parkin (AFL), Lisa Alexander (Netball Australia), Adam Commens (Hockey Australia), Simon Cusack (Swimming Australia), Sean Douglas (FFA) and many more!