Coaching Better Every Season: A Year-Round System for Athlete Development and Program Success
I had been meaning to get a copy of this book for a while now, after the positive reviews which Vern Gambetta kept pushing out about the content. I trust Vern’s views on coaching and athletic development; he’s a no nonsense ‘generalist’ who speaks the truth. Like Vern and myself, I was pleasantly surprised to read the author’s background is in physical education and therefore pedagogy is at the core of the text. After all, teaching is coaching.
Early on in the book it hits you right in the face, why do you coach? What’s the motivation? What are your core values and what is your coaching purpose? As coach, leading young men or women, these are important areas to consider. Do you make time to reflect on your role in the coach-athlete relationship and the culture which you aim to develop? I know I have glossed over this a few season’s back and I was unhappy with the outcome and now make a concerted effort to reassess my answers to these questions.
Stories and passages from the late Coach John Wooden are sprinkled throughout the book, focussing on the athlete-centred approach he took with his athletes. This inextricably links back to your core values as a coach, and leads the reader to Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. At the top of the pyramid ‘you haven’t taught until they have learned’. The author provides many worldwide examples of athlete-centred coaching and how to instill this within your coaching philosophy but fundamentally, it comes back to the relationship(s) between the coaching staff and the athletes. If the athlete won’t do what you are coaching, then you have a problem! The athletes must know you have their best interest at heart and you must teach them about the underlying values which shape you and your coaching staff.
Chapter 7, ‘Design Effective Practice Environments’ was a home-run for me. Working exclusively in track and field for the past five seasons, over time, the closed-skill nature of sport can be somewhat mundane and monotonous. Much of what is written in this chapter stems back to the tenets of designing an effective lesson plan for physical education, but also provides information about keeping athletes engaged and focussed on the task; not becoming complacent (for the Adelaide based coaches, some short references to Alan Launder and Wendy Piltz are included). One suggestion I plan to include more often in my own coaching is to set aside time for the athlete to have greater direction in the weekly structure. This does not mean they have assumed the role of the coach, but with experience, begin to design sessions which elicit the greatest outcomes for them. In a team setting, this would include have key members of the squad direct various schemes throughout the practice session.
One of the key features of the book are the practical tasks embedded in each chapter which coaches can utilize with their playing group. From tools such as questionnaires, continuums, subjective reflections, self-assessments, practice evaluations plus many more, the author has provided the link between thoughts and action and saved you a heap of time!
I implore you to reflect on your current coaching status and think, how can I be a better coach? As I began to read through the final stages of the book, the underlying message is clear; am I doing all I can as a coach to create the best environment for my athletes to be successful? Yes or No?