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Guest Blog: Early Coaching Basics and Coping Strategies

Being a great coach is an art form; not everyone can do it. To many it seems like an effortless skill, but in reality it's a talent  very few people excel in. When I first started out coaching I realised very quickly that it’s definitely not as easy as assumed. Lessons actually take a lot of careful planning and research before any of the actual coaching began. Whilst winning is brilliant and what we should all be aiming for, so is the ability to learn a lesson from a defeat. Ultimately coaching is about enriching a child’s sporting experience.

Here are some of my top tips on how to be a great coach and how to cope with the ever-mounting pile of stress that comes with it:

A sound understanding
Now I’m not saying you need to memorise the entirety of a coaching book, but it does help if you know and understand a couple of techniques that you feel work well with your style of teaching and ethos. My personal favourites are:

  • GROW is a personal favourite, it stands for:

Goal: Establish a goal or skill
Current Reality: Examine the current status that you and your students are in
Options: Explore all of the options available to you, including different teaching techniques
Will: Commit to trying a solution, but if it doesn’t work, use the initiative to try a different technique

  • SMART(er) goal setting is another commonly used technique, they stand for:

Specific: Choosing a particular goal
Measurable: Make sure you can measure the skill
Attainable: Is the goal achievable, because if it isn’t you will most probably fail and become disheartened
Realistic: For the lever you are playing at, be realistic with the goal you want to set yourself
Timely: By keeping a time limit on the goal you will be more likely stay motivated and achieve it

By understanding a variety of teaching techniques you will be able to adapt your training plans and programmes to optimise their impact on each individual athlete at every training session.

Communication Coach
Although a coach is there to teach and help, they are also there to listen. A great coach is non-directive, non-judgemental and observant of body language and the response from their students.

Positive and pro-active
Inspiring your students is an important aspect of coaching. Great coaches are leaders, who dare to be different and inspire those who are aiming high. Developing the child’s character, confidence and creativity is equally as important as evolving their particular skill.

Keep composed:

I know how frustrating it can be to teach children who are disinterested in what you are trying to show them. Instead of getting frustratedtake a step back, breathe, and try a different angle. Perhaps the child isn’t understanding your information and they are just confused. Games are always a great way to get children engaged and learning, so next time you are struggling to teach a particular technique or method, think; is there any way I could make this more fun and easier to understand? The answer is most probably yes.


Plan, plan and plan some more
Unfortunately, however much you think you know a topic, extra research and planning will never be a disadvantage. This can be particularly useful if you have student/s who may be struggling to understand your information. Everyone learns in different ways and it may take several different explanations and techniques for one person to understand, and planning will give you the opportunity to offer different methods to try.

Talking is not always the answer
Do you understand what you are saying? Sometimes an element of miscommunication can be the cause of all coaching problems. In particular, children tend to misbehave or switch off if they don’t understand something. Take a step back and think about a different angle. Are you overloading them with information when they really only need one piece for this lesson? Is there a skill that you could show them instead of talking them through the action? Could you turn the learning into a competition? Keeping students on their toes is a great way to

Seek help
If you haven’t already then it may be a great idea to get in touch with some coach forums and support groups, particularly in your niche area who may be able to offer advice for you situation and even teaching materials!

And finally, enjoy it! I for one know how rewarding coaching is, so relax and enjoy the ride because you never know where it will take you.

coaching blackboard image

By Mark Lawrence founder, director and sports coach for 5 Star Tennis Holidays


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