….not every day! It comes with its stressful moments.
When people find out my career, “that must be really rewarding” is by far the most common response. The above quote (or something along these lines) is my usual response to it.
I wonder if I sound ungrateful, to be involved in a job that I genuinely love, one I have no intention of ever leaving. But it’s the honest answer. Like any job, there are bits of it I could easily do without. Sitting at Clapham Junction – platform 15 in mid-December, surely the COLDEST spot on the face of the earth – at 10:45pm….contemplating a 9am start on Saturday, is one example.
If you are looking to get into coaching, it is worth knowing. This is what you sign up for. Not every day will offer you that “rewarding feeling”.
Rewarding….in the long term!
If I could change one thing about sports coaching in general, it would be this:
WORLDWIDE BAN ON MOTIVATIONAL MEMES
“When people ask you what you do, answer with: “Whatever it takes”.”
No, please don’t do that. It makes you sound daft. The same goes for unfounded “statistics” on social media….
“Studies have proven that being coached has a positive impact on mental health”
Does it? Says who? Surely only if the coaching is appropriate?
“Sport builds character”
Not automatically. Again, context is key. Only if a young player’s positive and negative experiences are channeled in the right way.
“Being part of a team helps a child’s social skills, and personal development”
Only if the player is nurtured properly, made to feel they belong
It isn’t so much the sentiment (which is laudable) that frustrates me, but the false impression of what our jobs amounts to. Social media is so saturated with this “positive thinking” rhetoric, and of pseudo-scientific statement, on the subject of sport. The big problem with this is:
- Coaching is a highly skilled profession – it isn’t simply cheerleading
- Coaching can be difficult – and a “positive mindset” is important but FAR FROM all you need to overcome troubling sessions. Fixating on a better mindset can prevent you from addressing some practical solutions. They won’t just happen.
- What happens if it goes wrong? – sometimes coaches will talk a good game….while floundering below the surface. Often they brush these bad experiences off, blame conditions/players/situation/etc, or even worse, internalize their problems (and not seek assistance when it may well be needed)
- COACHING ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE REWARDING ALL THE TIME – sometimes the rewards are hard earned. You will have to make sacrifices, and drag yourself out of bed sometimes. Sometimes the instant rewarding feeling is elusive, you’ll have to rely on faith that it is all worth the effort. It will be tempting to feel sorry for yourself during these barren periods.
If you are walking on sunshine all day, every day you are either i) surrounded by already-talented players, ii) not holding yourself to a high standard, or ii) lying to yourself.
New coaches: how do we avoid “sink or swim” effect
Retention of community cricket coaching is becoming more and more difficult. Young and new coaches often grow disillusioned, when their imagination – of what coaching will be like – clashes with their real life experience.
Despite the high class training, the mentors at your Level 2 course can only cover so much. A coach fresh out of their assessment simply won’t have the tools – or sometimes even be mentally prepared – to cope with the difficulties presented with them:
- challenging behaviour
- adapting to sudden changes to the schedule
- handling incidents (such as injuries), while keeping the rest of the group calm
- limited space; balancing group goals with sensitivity to individual personalities
- overbearing and/or critical parents
It can be a real shock, and a sucker punch to your confidence.
To an extent, only time, and sessions under the belt, will allow a new coach to adapt to these challenges. But too often, they are thrown in at the deep end – large, unruly groups on a weekday evening – left to sink or swim. And without proper guidance, the result is usually, “sink”.
Is the “coaching is so rewarding” rhetoric insulating new coaches from harsher aspects of the job….until it is too late. By stating all the benefits of a life in coaching, are we failing to prepare candidates for some difficult truths: that these benefits come after a long struggle, that you won’t necessarily get an emotional high every week.
What goes through every coach’s mind
When i started out as a coach, I remember my being being consumed with various thoughts….not all of them useful!….as I was delivering every session.
Silly stuff like: “that parent looks a bit stern, what is he/she thinking?” That sickening feeling of being under gaze. 90% of the time, this “stern look” is nothing to do with disapproval, or you. Easy to forget when you are inexperienced, and eager to please people.
When my sessions didn’t go quite to plan, or ended with an argument, I’d feel acutely embarrassed. There was also a strong feeling of loneliness….stemming from a belief that it is just you having trouble. It is only with almost 10 years of experience that i realize this was far from true – that in fact I was in a bracket of 100% of colleagues!
This is where experienced colleagues can be of huge benefit to juniors. We have been through this journey before, and experienced the lows.
If we want to genuinely help new recruits get through this difficult stage in their development. In my opinion, more of this needs to happen:
- DISCUSSION – be open about the problems you face. Even if you can’t change your situation, somebody will definitely have been in a similar position to you – and this feeling can help you relax and feel less self-conscious. You may also discover new technique, approach or activity to help you fare better next time.
- HONESTY – only by reflecting on your worst personal experiences, can you learn from them. Despite the difficulties, if you had another chance, would you have gone about this differently? There is nothing worse than the coach who always pushed blame back onto others. Don’t close ranks, and create an “us V them” attitude to parents/groups.
- HUMILITY – virtue signalling is everywhere in coaching….the way we talk, the industry branding, the posts and memes we share on social media. But you’d be amazed how often coaches conveniently ignoring times they haven’t succeeded. We have all run sessions that have not gone to plan.
- TEAMWORK – many coaches are unprepared to confess their problems to others. Maybe we see it as a sign of weakness. Perhaps competitiveness among colleagues makes us reluctant to seek help from others. But sometimes we have to remember, we are all in this together. Be prepared to admit that you aren’t perfect.
Some extra materials
One of the most difficult part of coaching is that every situation is different. Despite the best laid plans, you could be forced into a short-notice change.
There is no direct solution to a problem, that will work 100% of the time. With issues such as behavior/discipline, best approach can vary wildly, depending on group dynamic, school norms, even time of year/term/week, etc.
The best way to cope, is equip yourself with as many useful techniques as possible, and apply them when appropriate. These techniques have worked for me in the past.