Guest Blog: The Journey So Far (Part 2)
About the author: Kelvin currently consults across a range of National Governing Bodies and Federations and is the author of the Physical Competence Assessment resources. A former National and Olympic Track and Field Coach for the UK, Kelvin also spent 30 years in Australia’s high performance sport environment. He was Head Track and Field Coach at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra and Head of the Athletic Development department at the Queensland Academy of Sport in Brisbane. He spent six years at the helm of the Brisbane Broncos Rugby League team as Director of Performance and also led the Australian Rugby Union’s Elite Player Development section. He is coach to 14 Olympic and World Championship athletes over a 40 year career. Kelvin returned to the UK to continue his quest to enhance the physical competency of the world’s talent pool.
This is the approach I undertook with a NGB…
It was soon realised that for this strategy to be successful it would require interventions that would (a) give the coaches the appropriate information, (b) give the coaches the tools (resources) with which to deliver the appropriate exercise prescriptions, (c) give them many opportunities to practice these interventions with their peers and (d) have frequent and consistent mentoring of the coaches in their actual training sessions.
I believe that it is essential as attendees on courses often quickly return to doing what they have always done because they have not practiced the delivery or have the resources to remember all the theory they learned at the workshop. Continuous education is not something that happens every six months. When new ideas and exercise prescriptions are encountered they must be immediately followed up with practice and more practice before attempting to deliver them to the athlete. This is ‘quality-control’. We must recognise that it is not the number of coaches certified but the quality of their delivery and the improvement you see in the players and the sport that determines the quality of your coach education system.
Through the development of a physical competence (movement) journey, which spans across the chronological age-groups, coaches in the field have a progressive journey to link to. Once the journey is identified we can plan each step that supports it.
Next we had to create a progressive journey for the foundation movements: Squat, Lunge, Pull, Push, Brace, Rotate and Hinge. Through the use of the Movement Dynamics Movement Library (including video clips using the ‘5in5’, ‘Progressive Exercise Syllabus’ and ‘Additional Movement Progressions’; components totalling about 1500 clips) as an appropriate resource from which the coaches could create the ‘movement’ journey towards the required movement vocabulary.
All deserving coaches (those who consistently committed to the strategy by attending designated workshops) would receive this video library. Access to the library means that coaches can immediately choose and then regress or progress an exercise. It encourages them to ‘coach what they see’ rather than blindly follow a written session plan.
Next, we offered the coaches some background reading support for them to digest things in support of the strategy. We used all the information to create a small handbook, which would act as a mini-checklist for the coaches so that they had something on hand whenever they needed some guidance during their busy coaching schedules.
It became clear that the key delivery aspect would need to be at ground level. It was time for the NGB to go to the coaches ‘bearing gifts’. This meant that the NGB had to ensure that once per month as a minimum the coaches would be visited by a person with the knowledge and experience in this new strategy who would support, guide and mentor in the actual selection and delivery of the exercise prescription within the session.
This required the identification of a group of selected coaches who would need to be up-skilled in all the rationale, background and practical elements of the new strategy. Their development focused on the role of movement efficiency in the quest for physical literacy through:
- the four pillars of coaching
- the foundation movements – including practical
- the learning continuum
- linking foundation movement to sports-specific actions and postures
- movement and the injury issue
- the effect of the maturation journey on training and learning
Through the use of tools they were able support the measuring of movement competence, assembling the session, populating session modules; jumping, running and throwing puzzles and exercise progressions.
The coaching ‘tutors’ under took the responsibility for the club visits, visiting them monthly. The visits focus on direct support and counsel during the coaching session as well as the delivery.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this is a journey and the governing body are developing and adapting. By the end of 2016 the system will have overcome many of the usual glitches and should be in a position to exact a critical change to the coach education pathway.
Previously coaches entered at the ‘Coach Assistant’ level but from now on the entry will be two-fold (a) attend the existing national two-day ‘Coach Assistant’ course and (b) the two-day ‘Foundation’ course within an agreed period of time. After this ‘double hit’, educationally coaches will be awarded their certificate and be eligible to receive their resource packages. The first section (a) will give them the theoretical background to coaching, the second section (b) will give them the real hands-on tools e.g. how to recognise and assess foundation movements; how and what to choose in terms of exercise prescription; how to populate a multi-dimensional session; and how to regress and progress exercises, etc.
Lessons learned on the journey so far…
- Before creating some new project spend as much time as possible watching what is being delivered in training sessions and how it is being delivered. Don’t assume that your current Coach Education system is equipping the coaches to deliver at a level of repeatable excellence. They need help; they need to have their confidence built and re-built; they need to feel supported and wanted. Remember that 99% of them are volunteers.
- You can’t change anything without a groundswell of support from the grass-roots level. All changes must be coach-driven and not just some short-term administrative project.
- You can’t change anything without support from the decision-makers. They need to understand the arguments and have the vision to assemble the required support.
- Start with what has to happen at the athlete / coach level, inside the actual session. Then work back to the required administrative strategy. Don’t try it the other way round – doing it this way usually results in running out of money and energy before services, on-going support and resources reach the coaches and athletes.
- Centre everything on what the coach needs and what they can deliver. Give them the tools to do the job and not just the theory.
- Follow up very quickly with support that is frequent and on-going. It takes a lot to change a culture so keep on pushing things at the ‘delivery’ point.
- The ‘mentor’ coaches (those who will be responsible for ongoing delivery at club level) must be in this at the start so that they become real experts. It may be appropriate to renew all their current job descriptions before the strategy commences. This new strategy is what they are expected to do for their remuneration.
This just might work if we continue to support coaches in their delivery of appropriate training with quality methodology within a strategy where the ‘human element’ prevails. Have a chat with your NGB – maybe they can bring about some change in supporting coaches beyond what they currently provide.
Kelvin Giles, Chief Executive Officer, Movement Dynamics