Coaching and Coaches

The professional and semi-professional ranks of coaching are littered with failures. Failures of those with considerable player status, ex-Internationalswho use their ability to be highly skilled in a position specific sense, they are well versed in the content of the position, but they are vulnerable when they know little else.

This vulnerability makes them resistant to improving their coaching ability. When they are asked to serve an apprenticeship in coaching and, most of all, to become qualified as a coach, their player status makes both the coach and those who make the appointment, believe they know it all.

Often those who appoint them are equally ignorant of the process of coaching and how knowledge of this is achieved. Often they are flattered by the reflected glory they get from associating with these great players and, from a position of ignorance make the appointment.

This is driven by the ex-international player assuming rank from their playing status and also from a desperate need to have a paying job with the only other alternative seeming to be the media.

These media opportunities are limited but they keep the job because they are one of the boys. But even then their survival can be limited by the limited number of positions and the ruthlessness that is essential in keeping a position as a player being equally important as a sports jock.

The irony is that the ruthlessness that is so important in keeping the job as a player is the exact opposite when it comes to coaching, the essence of which is to weld the squad and the support staff into a co-operative and democratic unit. This is increasingly so in the modern game as exhibited by success.

I believe the union has a responsibility to save this particular group of coaches from their own vulnerability which often leads to a nomadic existence until they no longer have a coaching position to go to.

The first step is to serve an apprenticeship and to become qualified.

This is available and equips the coach with both rugby specific knowledge and knowledge of the coaching process.

The mentality of coaching has to be different from the ego associated with administration and playing.

As stated above a dominant ego is essential for playing as “no one is going to beat me” is the basis of success.

But getting your own way and being “strong in the fight”does not help when actions have to be taken for the greater good, as is the situation with coaches.

Coaches do need to be hungry but hungry, not for self- promotion, but for continual improvement “Kaisen”, out of which appointments can take care of themselves. This requires continuity and a focus on the process and not self interest.

I don’t want to be too dogmatic as we do have players who use their spare time as a professional player to lay the foundation for a career after rugby away from the game.

But increasingly it is difficult to get players to take these opportunities. They think it is never going to end and the spare time is spent surfing and playing video games.

There is a wider market in the coaching sphere be it coaching practice in a general sense, coaching other sports or in programme development and delivery.

But it is here that things can go wrong. They go wrong by emphasising content, “do as I did” and not applying the coaching process from which the best way to do things will result. Some content offers options but it is the relevance of the options to the talent that is critical.

To derive the best options involves analysing the character of the team and their opponebts so the option fits.

Perhaps an advanced process is for the team’s play to be reactive to the play of the opponents especially in defence.

To achieve a high degree of competence it must be realised that the opposition will tend to have no more than 3 options in defence that the attack reacts to.

Recently I was involved in a national team in which I attempted to coach the attack line in how to recognise and exploit the overlap i.e. when the attack has more players than the defence.

The aim is to use the numerical advantageb in 2 ways to penetrate.

The first is to hold each defender so they can’t drift and putr the players in the overlap in space at the end of the line.

The second is, in recognising the defence will attempt to drift across compensating for the lack of numbers.

In doing so the defender will create space inside and the ball carriershould take the space. Moving inside they will create space on their outside that a support player player from the inside can run into to receive the pass.

More on this next month.