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What Coaches Want to Learn, and When

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There is a parable (urban legend?) about rocks, pebbles and sand. I'm sure the one I heard also included water at the end, but I can't find a reference to that at the moment.
The story is that, you fill the bottle with rocks, and it seems full. But then you can add a heap of pebbles, full again. But you can still add sand to fill the jar. And then you can add water to fill it up.
The essential points are what might seem full is not necessarilythe order you do things is importantI do a lot of work in coach development at the moment, which I love. The thing I love most about coaching is the idea of how to coach better. How to be better at changing the behaviour of the children (or adults) in front of you.
When working with beginner and intermediate coaches I often get disappointed that they don't seem as interested as I am with how to coach. What they want is technical knowledge. Which got me thinking..... RocksRocks are technical knowledge. What are the skills of the sport? In s…

Keith Lyons - Thank You

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I met Keith at a coaching conference in Melbourne in the mid 90s. I don’t remember the content of the presentation but I remember I loved it. Afterwards, I thought, ‘I have to meet this guy.’ So, I went to the front and waited ‘in line’ to introduce myself. I NEVER do this. I’d never done it before and I’ve never done it since. There was just something about him that I felt like I understood.
This was the start of a connection. More than half my life ago.
The next time we met was when he invited me to visit UWIC in about 1998. I had built a performance analysis system and he seemed interested, which was incredibly flattering to me. He had a way of having you feel important. While in Cardiff I showed him and his staff the system I was building and they were all very supportive. It made me think that I wasn’t alone in thinking about things the way I did.
Fast forward to AIS. I asked him to be a referee for me when they started the Performance Analysis Unit. He told me he was applying so co…

There Has to be a Line

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It is easy to come up with a situation in sport where the rules, maybe, shouldn't apply. Where maybe the lines are wrong. I find this puzzling sometimes because the actual definition of sport is to have boundaries (rules) that everyone understands and agrees to, but ok, I'll move on.
A common one nowadays (especially in sports which are as much a business as a sport), is to make the case that players who are injured should be allowed to use performance enhancing drugs to speed up their recovery. That way the fans will pay to watch them play again, the business will make more money, and everyone will be happy. No down side. Right?
Another example is something that came up in a Facebook Group I belong to recently. It was related to whether or not to allow boys to play with girls in junior sport. Some were for 'inclusion', some where against it. Some came up with examples of where it was allowed and had a negative impact, others contrary examples. Why not just let them p…

What All Great Coaches Understand

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As the great Lenny Kravitz once said, The Difference is WHY.


As coaches learn and develop their knowledge increased. They learn about the mechanics of certain skills, of the mechanics of certain tactics.

This provides a list of things to do.

Then, coaches learn better and more effective ways to teach these things. Adding more and more things to their toolbox. This eventually becomes overwhelming as there are more things that can be taught than there are hours in the day.

The difference from this point is WHY.

When coaches understand why, their world opens up. When the answer stops being something learned in a seminar or from a blog post (!), and becomes an understanding of the outcome and the constraints, the course forward is clearer. From this point the coach understands not just how to do things, but why to do things and, just as importantly, why not to do things.

Learning v Competition ?

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One of the best coach development activities I've ever attended was a seminar/talk with Bill Sweetenham. The session was very straight forward. He wasn't selling anything and he wasn't trying to convince anyone he was right. I'm pretty sure he was so confident he was right he simply didn't care if anyone believed him! But at the same time, he is a coach who was largely self educated, and coached multiple Olympic Champions and World Record holders. So he had every right to think that.

One of the many many notes I took was his philosophy on competitions:
Experience is nothing if it is not Winning Experience. BUT the winning HAS to come from 'equal' opponents. Therefore there should be a range of competitions:3 'Equal' competitions, where you make corrections2 'Below' competitions, where you make mistakes and take risks (and still win)1 'Above' competitions', where you praise them regardless of the outcome While this philosophy is p…

Coaches and Athletes Have a Lot in Common

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As a coach, do you find it easy to be at your best every moment of training?

Do you find it easy to be focussed on doing everything perfectly at every training?

Is it easy for you to completely change something that you feel comfortable doing, from one moment to another?

When you do change things, do you sometimes revert back to how you used to do it?

Do you ever lose concentration for a while during training?

Do you ever make bad decisions during competition?

Remember, coaches are people and athletes are people too. If you find it hard, the athletes probably do as well.

(Photo Credit)

High Performance Survey

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I’m curious to know how people define high performance (HP), and would appreciate it if you shared your definition in the survey below.

My primary plan for this is to create a word cloud from the responses, so please limit your responses to single word (or common 2 or 3 word expressions if you must).

Please try to limit the number of answers you have. I would rather have someone’s three most important words, than just generate a list of everything they can think of related to the topic. This isn't just about descriptors, it is about the essence of HP.

I would like to note that I am making a clear distinction between high performing, and 'High Performance'. For the purposes of this survey High Performance has a very specific outcome goals: to win a medal at World Championships or Olympic Games. That is not to say the behaviours for High Performance cannot be used in any other areas, but this is the focus for this survey.

If you are interested, please click on the link belo…