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Are you a “Baked Beans on Toast” Coach?

By Colin Bennett, sports coach UK Coaching Network Manager

I passed my driving test 30 years ago this week. Now some of you will be asking “Did you still have to have a man walking in front of the vehicle waving a red flag to warn pedestrians that a new fangled automobile was passing?”; whilst others will be saying “30 years! I wasn’t even born!”; whilst the majority of you should be saying “What’s that got to do with coaching?”

Well at the time I wish I had received a pound for every person who said “Now you’ve passed your test you’ll really learn how to drive”. And do you know what? They were right. Suddenly you’re driving more – who hasn’t suddenly become very popular amongst your peers as the only one with a driving licence; driving in different conditions – rain, snow, fog, night-time; in different environments – motorways, B Roads, rush hour, in Europe and for different people – your parents, your mates, work colleagues and in my case even the local vicar. And who amongst us still hates giving their dad a lift as you get “the look” across at the speedo and the passenger footwell carpet getting a good braking!

Remember leaving home and having to cook for yourself. You could do baked beans on toast – your mum showed you how and many a time you’d toast your bread and warm up the beans and hey presto meal for one. But that soon become pretty boring, doing the same over and over again and it wasn’t exactly impressing your partner. So you started to ask your mum questions about boiling eggs and cooking bacon and before you knew it you were up to a very low level understanding of cooking. Then you saw an evening class building up to cooking a roast dinner over 10 weeks. You paid for this because you wanted to get better and sure enough you built confidence over that training to the point where you could do a roast dinner.

And over a period of time you started to get better and better at making those dinners and took bits of advice from other people, from books or watching TV cook shows and you became a competent cook. However competent isn’t enough to open a fine dining restaurant and to win Michelin Stars. That’s more training and more money.

Now put your coaching life into the context of driving and cooking.

You take a Level 1 NGB course. It’s great fun, everyone on it is there for the same reason and all your little drills run exactly to plan and you’re probably taking the course on a nice new 4G pitch or in an indoor hall, you have all the equipment you could wish for and it’s the summer and you can top up your tan between being a “participant” and then having to actually “coach” your session.

So you pass. Hurrah! And with certificate in one hand and a bag of balls in the other off you go to your first session. It’s pouring with rain, the floodlights don’t really light up your area, it’s a patch of mud with a big puddle at one end and a drain cover just off to one side and the level 2 coach tells you there’ll be 30 children for the first session and then 15 adults for the second session. She will take half of the children and half of the space (away from the puddle and drain cover) and if you need help she’ll just be over there......good luck!

And you know what? Half the kids want to play with the mud, 5 don’t turn up, 3 arrive after the session has started and 2 have to go early as there’s a party at 19.00. Does your session even start to tick any boxes for the adult group who are up next?

So what to do? Keep going at that level and never improving and losing participants because it’s the same thing over and over again? Or acknowledging that passing the Level 1 is the start of a coaching education rather than the destination? Now you’ve passed the test you will really start to learn how to coach. It’s not just the skills learnt - it’s different environments, different conditions, different participants and learning how to deal with so many different scenarios you can’t possibly begin to imagine.

A great place to start is on the sports coach UK website and their I Want to Coach pages – click here to go straight there.

And ask yourself - are you a “baked beans on toast” coach or do you aspire to that Michelin Star?


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