A quick update from me as I think about the coach. Yesterday I watched a movie on Netflix called, Red Army (2014). This documentary was all about the Russian hockey team that dominated the game in the 70s and 80s. I highly recommended this movie to all coaches and hockey fans. As I am both it was a good Saturday morning. However, back to the point for a good chunk of the movie they talked about the coaching change from the creative, open, transformational style of Anatoli Tarasov and then into the more closed and transactional style of Vicktor Tikhonov. Now while I don’t propose to be an expert and am limited to what I saw from the movie (possible bias) what I can say is that these two coaches appeared to be polar opposites and the relationships that developed with their athletes/players developed from their styles. The legacy of positive knowledge, wisdom, and development that Tarasov created with a team that was regarded as the best in the world continued objectively with performance on the ice but failed to have the same lasting legacy as the team was lead by Tikhonov but appeared to fail in many regards.
I link this to a more scholastic approach to the coach. Recently Coach NB and the Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic in Fredericton had a one day conference titled “Coaching to Podium”. The key note for the day was Chantal Vallee. Chantal is the head coach of the University of Windsor women’s basketball team and in the past 5 years the team has won 5 consecutive CIS titles. She built the team up from a bottom dweller. Her two presentations on the day were very impressive and my few pages of notes are filled with coaching gems. Recently I have been reading more into Chantal’s work and was able to track down her masters thesis from the University of McGill (2002) titled, Building a Successful Program: Perspectives of Expert Canadian Female Coaches of Team Sports (just copy into google and I am sure you’ll find it). This was a great read and am very glad to have taken the time to read it and not just because I am back school and pursuing my own graduate degree.
The thing that became clear in Chantal’s paper and speeches were that the role of the coach is a big one. During her speech she talked about how coaching is one of the only professions where anyone and everyone will comment and tell you how to do your job. It’s true too. Think of another profession and ask yourself if you have ever told someone who does X how to do their job. Now ask yourself to think of another sport, a famous game, etc. If you are a NFL fan think no further than the last play of this past years Super Bowl. I am fairly certain you made a comment or know many who commented to say “that was a stupid call. If I was the coach I would have done….”. I know I have never ever thought about telling a surgeon how to do their job….”idiot you should have cut the left ventricle first and not the right”…sounds pretty dumb doesn’t it because aside from my anatomy courses in university my experiences with an open chest is non-existent.
From her paper one of the subjects of her research commented on how coaches and professional coaches (full time employment) are expected to be experts in countless domains that go far beyond coaching (X’s and O’s) but into fundraising, media relations, grand applications, financial planning and budgeting, and the list goes on and on. While the NCCP coaches education is right in focusing on the most important elements that a coach needs to know it is right stress that a number of tasks are left to coaches who usually must jump in and figure it out as they go. I can only speak for myself but this has been a very big portion of my on the job education and while I have definitely failed more than a few times at tasks that I was thrown into I would like to say that I have done a good job of learning on the fly. I joke that a great presentation or topic for a conference would be “10 things that the NCCP never taught me” and through either a coach or a panel the coaches talk about some of their experiences highlighting the importance that these topics have but aren’t discussed.
Now coaches are tasked with a dozens and hundreds of subjects that they have to be informed of and have some skill in. Some are able to develop relationships with individuals and teams who help and assist. Others in smaller communities are tasked with doing more and some just don’t want the help. Sometimes no matter how many times you ask for help and want to delegate people won’t step up. So what does a coach do? Do they let the team and athletes miss out or do they roll up their sleeves and get the job done. Sure maybe a year or years later someone will step up and the support will increase but ask most coaches and most will tell you that they just do what they need to do. Personally I try to keep and open mind and take help when I can get it but I also know that if something needs doing I can always count on myself to give it an honest effort.
But I will leave it there. I was also lucky to be recognized during Coaches Week here in New Brunswick as the Coach NB Sport Coach Champion award winner. I was nominated by my athletes and was humbled to be selected as the winner. While it is never the goal to win awards as a coach I can say that it is nice, fuels the motivation, and lets me know that I am doing good work. There are days when I hate coaching and the profession that I am in (seriously who doesn’t have days when they hate their job) but thankfully those are few and far between and for 98% of the year I absolutely love what I do. We joke around at track about what would happen if I won the lottery. The short answer is pretty much the same in regards to my personal athlete coaching. That is fun and what I like. Maybe I would go for a round of golf or two a year but I suck at golf and would much rather be around the track 🙂