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The Need to Educate the Audience and the Spectator

By Jon Woodward, Coach Education Advisor

As coaches, we all have to work with a full range of parents and other interested individuals – those who drop off and leave, those who are supportive and provide much needed support, to those who are the loud, (Un)informed spectators who know better, have seen better and could do better (but never put themselves forward to make it better)

Take any sport from a spectator’s angle and on an average weekend you will be able to hear the comments concluding performances and results were better in certain eras, under certain management in those halcyon days of Yore.

Sport, tactics and playing styles have evolved considerably over the past 30 years, from the advent of professionalism in some sports, the embracing of sport science and technology through to general participation trends. Coaching has moved on to mirror (and inspire) these changes, and sessions, practice and input is (or should be!) very different.

My inspiration for this blog came from another blog ( www.keo.co.za/2012/10/17/rugby-fans-must-move-with-the-times/  ) from South Africa, discussing the call for out and out attacking philosophies from spectators and reporters in their Rugby Union provincial sides, based on principles of former teams and former coaches from previous eras. Rugby Union is very different from the amateur game that was prevalent in the 1970’s and 1980’s, to the professional game that we see today.

So how we can support the process of educating the spectator in our own coaching, and support the development of the understanding from all those involved in our programmes?

Some top tips:

  • Share your philosophy and expectations for the players for the coming season– what will be your selection policy, the aims for the season, the emphasis on winning or development?
  • Set the ground rules for the spectators – do you have designated spectator areas for playing and training? Do you have guidelines on behaviour during sessions
  • Understand that coaching should be learner centred -  this develops the participants by enabling take ownership of their learning and retaining skills and ideas (Kidman et al, Athlete Centred Coaching: Developing Decision Makers, 2010)
  • Sport has changed though the evolution of participants, game development and facilities – a colleague of mine, Colin Bennett, when challenged  with “we used to play in the freezing rain and snow, with no gloves and tracksuits” responds with “But we also used to make buildings out of asbestos – it doesn’t mean we are always right”  – things were different in the past, but cold showers and muddy pitches may have been ‘character building’, but we are in the business of talent building and creating environments for enjoyment, learning and understanding to take place.
  • Encourage those who are more vocal or stay for training and games to get involved more – from collecting subs, organising kit to roles on committees and sub committees – all these jobs make the role of coaching become more focussed for the coach, and more beneficial to the players
  • Encourage learning and development from players, coaches, parents and spectators – take time and explain why you are following certain coaching methods, tactics and sessions. There is a reason  for everything you do – chaos is organised chaos with an end aim

It is important to learn from the past, but appreciate the environments and populations were different, so it may not have been better in the good old days. Change and open mindedness is vital to the development of the coach and their performers - but it is also vital for the change and the aims to be understood and appreciated. Open minded coaches working with open minded performers, and open minded supporters can only be a good thing

Follow me on Twitter: @JonWoodward74