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25 Nov 2019 136

Premiership Rugby coaches learn ‘magic’ thrive formula

A case study exploring how our Coaching the Person in Front of You workshop benefited the organisation's community coaches, who explain how they will use the innovative ideas they learned in the delivery of their national and local programmes.

In this scientific age, it is doubtful anyone believes in magic any more. But without doubt, the simplest strategies can often achieve the most extraordinary results.

Take the three core elements of understand, connect and thrive that underpin our Coaching the Person in Front of You workshop. It is not hocus-pocus to claim that coaches who learn to effectively and consistently apply these principles in their sessions will feel they have been blessed with the magic touch.

Premiership Rugby – the organising body of the Gallagher Premiership – booked the workshop as part of its two-day annual community conference at Leicester University. 

Play Development Manager Chris Sawyer wanted to further develop the soft skills of the coaches who deliver Premiership Rugby’s range of national programmes to their local communities.

These coaches, who represent the 13 professional league clubs, work towards a variety of outcomes. Comprising a mix of club and foundation community coaches – the official charity arm of the clubs – the multiple delivery programmes achieve a significant community footprint by impacting on the areas of sport, health, education, inclusion, social cohesion and employability.

The diverse spectrum of community initiatives form part of a wider national strategy, as set out in Premiership Rugby’s Plan to Improve a Million Lives.

We want to recruit new audiences into the game, working with them in a rugby development context, but also a sport for development context, delivering some of those wider social outcomes,” says Chris, who adds that the common denominator in Premiership Rugby’s large network of community coaches is the need to truly understand the needs and motivations of the audiences they work with.

Putting the person at the heart of your coaching

Pete Thorpe is a lecturer working on the award-winning HITZ programme for Leicester Tigers, which uses rugby as a vehicle for personal development in young people to help them get back into education or employment.

He was one 25 coaches who attended the Coaching the Person in Front of You workshop, and says the innovative techniques shared by UK Coaching tutor Gary Richardson to help identify people’s physical, intellectual, emotional and social needs stimulated his creative juices.

“The strategies we learned will prove valuable in helping me engage and connect with those young people I try to help.

“We work with people from 16 to 24 not currently in education, employment or training (NEET). We seek to improve their employability skills and feed them back into the mainstream educational system and to get them into employment through apprenticeships, and ultimately find work in the community.

The young people we work with can have complex backgrounds and very different experiences of education, personal life, their sporting experience and their place in the community. The workshop will help me make those important connections, understand where they’ve come from, what their goals are going forward and then help them to thrive.”

Not as simple as A, B, C

Meeting the individual needs of every person in a group is the cornerstone of great coaching. 

That means first getting to know their reasons for turning up to sessions.

You’d like to think coaching from the head down rather than the feet up was instinctive to all good coaches. In reality, being person-centred can require forethought, rehearsal, self-prompting and considerable practice before social interactions that lead to deeper connections become the norm rather than the exception.

Some coaches are too heavily focused on the tactical and technical elements to pay more than lip service to the commitment to understand and connect with their group. 

Inexperienced coaches, meanwhile, can be thrown off kilter by a boisterous group they find difficult to control, redirecting their efforts towards managing disruptive behaviour. 

Others may think they are modelling a person-centred philosophy but simply aren’t dedicating sufficient time to getting to know their participants, or maybe aren’t employing effective strategies that build meaningful levels of engagement and understanding.

Ultimately, you cannot derive useful information without effective communication, and information is gold dust to coaches as they seek to understand people’s likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams.

For example, a coach can prepare and plan what they consider to be an unmissable and inclusive session, and then execute it to perfection. But delivering A, B and C in textbook fashion, and with personality, enthusiasm and sense of humour to boot, will mean little or nothing to those who are motivated by X, Y and Z.

Why it’s good to talk

Gary gave a real-life example of how discussions and conversations can facilitate connections, and the positive impact this can have.

A basketball coach had two brothers in his team. One brother came to training one week, the other brother the next week. Workshop attendees speculated as to why the brothers didn’t attend the same sessions. Suggestions included: 

  • their parents are separated and each boy lives with a different parent
  • their parents feel they are disruptive when they are together
  • they don’t get along with each other, so have requested they attend different sessions 
  • they have other hobbies that prevent them attending every week

I’ll tell you the reason,” says Gary. “They had one pair of training shoes between them. So, one wore them one week, the other the following week.”

The anecdote illustrates the importance of being observant and stepping back to see the bigger picture.

By noticing there was a problem, the coach could think of a simple and practical solution.

They phoned a friend and asked if they knew anyone who had a pair of size 9s. The following week, both brothers were at the session and were being given the same opportunity to thrive.”

Gary encouraged coaches to be acutely observant at their next session and to pay attention to every detail, ranging from who lacks confidence (and who is overconfident), to who are the extroverts (and who are the introverts), who is engaged (disengaged), through to individual ability levels and skill-sets.

The smarter surveillance should stretch to looking out for red flags that could be a sign of wider safeguarding issues. For instance, who maybe hasn’t brought a packed lunch; who is wearing inappropriate clothing; who appears unusually withdrawn or irritable, and so on.

A little knowledge can go a long way in terms of understanding and supporting team members with individual needs and preferences, or picking up on wider welfare concerns that may require action.

Truly transformative coaching

Gary showcased the far-reaching value of the understand, connect, thrive concept, and how to effectively embed the theory into practice, through a series of interactive games-based activities that coaches were encouraged to replicate in their sessions.

Attendees were left in no doubt at the end of the session that taking a genuine interest in the person behind the performer is crucial in developing a lifelong love of sport and physical activity in your participants.

If, like Premiership Rugby, you want to invest in your workforce to deliver great coaching, then get in touch and we will deliver the workshop to your coaches.

We will help them become experts in people and equip them with a range of tactics that will ensure they have the greatest possible impact with their participants – whoever they are and wherever they live, learn or play.

As Premiership Rugby’s Chris Sawyer reflected: “Following a number of conversations with UK Coaching, they were able to provide us with relevant course content that has enabled our workforce to reflect on their current practices, identify areas for development and gather new, innovative ideas to take back to their delivery in both national and local programmes and projects.”

“We're looking forward to working with UK Coaching to identify more opportunities to support and strengthen our workforce across England.

Interested in running the 'Coaching the Person in Front of You' workshop for your coaches?

  • Speak to a UK Coaching Relationship Manager
  • Click on the link to the workshop below, or
  • E-mail: [email protected]

Book the Workshop

UK Coaching's 'Coaching the Person in Front of You' workshop will give your coaches a deeper awareness of why great people skills are an intrinsic part of being an effective coach

Book the workshop today!