Who coaches the coach?

Coaching is all about guiding and teaching others to improve on their abilities and performance in their chosen sport or event. But what about the coach themselves? How do they get guidance and teaching?

All coaches initially go on a coaching course or courses to gain their qualifications and whilst that in itself is a good starting point, it doesn’t provide the coach all the answers and the continual improvement they need. Coaching is a pathway in itself; it is an ongoing path which a coach begins on and should always be striving to continue to walk along. At times the coach will reach a crossroad and how do they know for sure which path then to take? This is where every coach should have their own mentors or peers they can turn to and use their guidance to help the decision making process. This doesn’t mean what they say is always right; all good mentors and peers help the coach to make their own mind up. I myself spent many years being mentored by the late John MacDonald at Pitreavie AAC and I will always be grateful for his guidance, but there came the point when it was time for me to put my own thoughts and ideas into action and lead my own squad of athletes. Now several years down the line I have my own training techniques that sometimes relate to John’s philosophy, but also some that don’t. Since those days of being mentored I have worked on my ideas and gained relationships with other coaches who I can also seek advice from. An example of this coming into play was when one my athletes Craig decided to take a multi-event path. I knew each individual event but didn’t have any experience of coaching decathlon, so I turned to another respected coach Eamon Fitzgerald to ask advice on how to get the balance right. After guidance was able to plan how I could foresee the training plan working. Again like all good mentors, Eamon never laid down an exact plan, but he gave me guidance and food for thought so I could work it out for myself. This worked well and I now have a greater understanding of the balancing act required in training for this event. Now we have Ben in the squad who is one of Scotland best up and coming multi-eventers. The guidance I received will now benefit Ben and I know Eamon will be there should I need any further advice.

Another great source of knowledge that I always tap into is workshops and the annual Coaching Conference. You won’t always agree with all the ideas and techniques being presented, but they are there to both enrich and challenge your own ideas and methods. There are always however a little nugget or two that every coach can get that sparks your mind and leads to something new or different that can be used. This prevents coaching techniques from stagnating and keeps things fresh for the athletes too. These days are also always great for networking and getting the opportunity to chat to other coaches from across the country and beyond.

On top of that social media and the web are great sources of information. I follow several highly respected coaches on social media and read many of their posts and blogs as they offer great advice. So maybe you are reading this blog and it is helping you to gain some guidance which is great!
One of the coaches I rate very highly is Vern Gambetta. I follow Vern online however I’ve also had the pleasure of attending quite a few of his workshops. The last time I listened to Vern he said now that he has turned 70 he feels he is starting to understand his sport. He’s been doing it at a high level for over 40 years but here is a guy who always strives to learn more and never stop learning. So ask yourself are you continuing your own development? Are you willing to challenge what you know? Are you willing to adapt?

Everything is about challenging your own knowledge, if you don’t challenge what you know how do you know it is right? Times change, athletes change and coaching is not a “one size fits all” policy. You can’t do what you’ve always done as it doesn’t always keep on working; you have to adapt, keep learning and moving forward to benefit your athletes. If I ever get to the day where I think I have cracked it and I have the solution; that is the day I will retire from coaching. There is no single solution there are ways to get the results. The solution is different for every athlete you will coach.

If a coach ever wants to ask for guidance or advice I am always willing and available and have done so for several years now. I know how it helped me and continues to help me, so will always be willing to help others along their own coaching journey.

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