Launch Edition, Sports Coaching Transcends Beyond the Field of Play
By: Lisa Alexander
Regardless of whether you’re a High Performance, amateur or grassroots coach, we all share the same responsibilities. As Head Coach of the recently crowned world champion Australian Diamonds, my job as a leader requires many of the same skills and attributes as a grassroots coach or business leader in order to be successful.
oaches learn a lot about themselves as they develop their coaching skills and the great thing about this is that it can be related to any area in your life.
To become a good coach, you’re going to become a better person and that contributes to your family life and your professional life in many different ways. Providing leadership and direction in any walk of life is not easy and requires a selfless attitude. Our coaches display this in netball and their commitment to teach the skills and tactics of our game to those in their teams and squads, to the best of their ability, is a credit to their love of the game and dedication to their sport.
Whenever I am speaking and educating netball coaches around the country, I am always struck by their passion and belief in our great game. Coaches are leaders and are looked up to by their players. They are encouraged to embrace this leadership position and inspire their players to do great things.
I’ve broken down leadership into five categories I believe are important in being a successful coach – Athlete Wellbeing, Social Responsibility, Continuous Leading, Support and Outcomes.
The mental and physical health of athletes is paramount. I firmly believe in taking a holistic approach to wellbeing and argue that the mental condition of athletes is just as important as having strong, fit and capable bodies.
Physically preparing our athletes for competition with training is the norm, but supporting mental health is more important than ever, as the prevalence of anxiety and depression has sharply increased in today’s society. Many people are increasingly carrying the burden of family, financial hardship, employment and educational pressures, all of which can significantly impact performance.
As a head coach and leader, the most important skill is to get to know your athletes on and off the court and treat everyone as individuals. This will help you to get the most out of them. I know that whenever I present coach education to grassroots coaches, they want drills and skills and ideas of what they can put into their sessions. I believe the most important step is to get to know the players they’re coaching as people. Understanding what makes them tick means they’ll be able to provide them with the best and most suitable coaching sessions. A foundation to success, whether it’s on court or in the office, is to create a culture where individuals feel supported and knowing your players is vital to this.
Three keys to creating a high quality environment are; communication between coach and athlete, setting goals and healthy relationships.
The impact of a coach on individuals is often underestimated. While a good coach can effectively communicate strategies and tactics to achieve goals, they will also play a significant role in the overall development of individuals.
As the largest female team participation sport in Australia, netball coaches have the opportunity to develop important life skills with their players, especially our youngest players. Coaches have a responsibility to demonstrate respect, tolerance, leadership, empathy, encouragement, sportspersonship and other important values that develop good people as well as good players.
Additional responsibilities come with being the head coach of the Australian Diamonds. Duties that I don’t take lightly or for granted. Having begun my coaching pathway in country Victoria, I understand the important role netball plays within the community so I take great pride in maintaining my connection and engagement with country communities.
I have a chance to influence, whether it’s to help clubs create more inclusive environments through the Australia Post One Netball program, supporting Netball Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan or raising awareness about the prevention of violence against women and children via our partnership with Our Watch.
As coaches we have a wonderful opportunity to be a positive impact on society in general.
One of my favourite sayings is “The only coach you need to be better than, is the one you were yesterday.”
Regardless of whether you’re a junior coach or an international head coach, it’s important to continuously develop your skills. This can be through reading books, speaking with other coaches or leaders, and observing coaches in action. Netball Australia strongly encourages coaches to be resourceful and engaged in their own learning and seek opportunities to build on their coaching knowledge and skills.
Legendary netball coach Joyce Brown has been hugely influential on my coaching career. I started as her apprentice coach over 20 years ago and she remains a close mentor. Another coaching resource of mine is former Australian swim coach Bill Sweetenham.
Coaches play an important role in supporting and enhancing the participation experience as well as developing players to progress along the athlete pathway.
Netball Australia has done a great job in producing resources to support and assist coaches as they progress through the ranks from the ANZ NetSetGO junior introductory program to elite high performance programs. As soon as an individual decides they want to coach, we’ve got online resources, including a recently launched Coaching Blueprint, which talks about the Australian netball coaching philosophy.
The Coaching Blueprint is an important resource that will continue to support netball participation at all levels of the sport, ensuring that the coaching community is empowered and well supported. The Blueprint has been developed as a tool for coaches to help understand the national approach to coaching and the strategy and vision to support the development of coaches across the country. The document and e-learning resource encourages coaches to understand themselves, their athletes and how to get the best out of both. It articulates a clear direction and philosophy and is intended to be a resource that coaches can utilise at any stage to support their development and improve their coaching. The Coaching Blueprint will allow coaches to employ strategies that will enhance their application existing netball specific knowledge and continue to improve on this.
Each of our state and territory Member Organisations have Coaching Coordinators that help run the coach accreditation system. All you need to do is contact your local organisation and they can put you on the right path on how to become a better coach in netball.
The result of quality coaching is not all about gold medals and wins. As previously discussed, a coach can have a significantly positive influence on individuals and athletes both on and off the court. I think it’s important to keep perspective when coaching.
If you know the children are Under-10s and they primarily want to have fun, then it’s really important to make sure the training sessions are fun and engaging. The children are getting a lot out of learning new skills and enjoying themselves while they get their first experience at netball.
We need our current players, past players or people involved in netball to take up coaching and pass on their knowledge and experience to the next generation, otherwise our sport will not be able to function effectively.
The greatest gift in coaching is actually going and running something at training and seeing that happen, whether it’s Under-10s or the Netball World Cup final. You get a real thrill out of that and so do the players.
A good Head Coach teaches the players more than just tactics!