Where to Start

I’ve been constantly trying to find “ways I can improve as a coach”. Recently I have spent time trying to understand what has helped me to improve along my journey. I’m going to use this blog to share some of my thoughts of what has been the most important parts to help me improve as a coach along the way. Having delivered and been a candidate on a number of coaching courses since I’ve started coaching, one thing that has always stood out for me is how everyone’s coaching journey is different. Every coach learns and applies their learning is different too. Most recently, The FA have adapted their delivery of coaching courses to make sure they’re delivering and differentiating between each learning on the course to best support the learner.
Whether you’re a coach that has just started coaching having been thrown into running your child’s team, or you are a young coach that is looking to form a career in coaching, the newly designed FA coaching courses will certainly provide a great starting point for you. For more information visit: https://facc.thefa.com/Users/Account/LogOn?ReturnUrl=%2fnews

Get New Ideas

Since I began my journey, one thing that has always driven me is a thirst for knowledge, learning and improvement. The FA License Coaches Club, like Football DNA provides coaches with fantastic resources to watch and observe coaches delivering sessions which they can adapt and practice. These resources have been great at helping to find ways I can improve as a coach. At the beginning of my coaching journey, I was obsessed with practice designs, looking for the best type of practices to get the best returns for my players. Even now, I am continually watching and looking to gain resources that I can use to support my coaching.The obsession has now helped me form a bank of session plans, practices and different games that I can now use depending on what I want the outcomes to be and the level the players are at.
Whether you’re a coach that stores sessions in your head, or one that likes to write them down/design them and save them in a folder, however you do, make a note of every and any sessions that you deliver but also observe. Whilst this may take a few minutes of your time, and some extra storage space, the creation of a bank of sessions is so important for you to become an adaptable coach. So, my first piece of advice from what I’ve learnt is regardless of the level you’re coaching at, build a bank. Check out https://footballdna.co.uk/drillsandsessions/ for some great videos to help you build up your library!

Watch Other Coaches

Having built the bank of sessions that I have over the past few years, doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a brilliant coach. I like to think of session plans as my tools for my players, but the best coaches I’ve seen know how to use their tools and which ones to use at the right time. So, in order to understand practice design and how it is used, my suggestion would be to watch as many sessions as you can. Look at the process the coaches go through, look at how they plan, deliver and review their sessions. It’s very easy to watch coaches that are coaching within an elite environment and think, ‘I might try that with my players this week’,. Whilst that’s great to do, understand that it might not provide the same returns it did for the coach that you got to see delivering it.
Therefore my advice is watch as many different types of coaches as you can working in different environments as you can. Study them looking at how they teach, how they adapt their session and how they work with the players. Assess how they challenge and differentiate. For me the biggest thing I’ve taken from my journey in coaching is seeing coaches work in a wide range of different environments from first team level down to work with 2-3 year olds in a nursery. The difference in practice design and how to coach is so very different. Once you get an understanding of how different coaches work and adapt to different environments the better you’ll become when working with your own players.

Coach as much as possible!

Practice, practice, practice. Outliers: The Story of Success, written by Malcolm Gladwell, refers to the 10,000 hour rule, in which his belief is that this amount of extensive time enables one to become an expert/world class within their field. Now, it’s been widely debated whether this is the case. Personally I’m not sure 10,000 hours of coaching delivery will really make you a world class coach, but I like the concept and it’s one that I think coaches should follow.
In order to improve and refine your coaching, you will have to practice and deliver as much as possible. For me personally trying new sessions and new ways of delivering are a way of me searching for improvement. Also working towards having absolute clarity on what I stand for and what my philosophy is as a coach. Along the way of building your bank of tools and watching coaches and how they use them, make sure you also have a go yourself too.

Evaluate your Coaching

Lastly, in order to understand how and whether you’re making improvement, you must be a reflective practitioner. Now everyone reflects differently and will have their own way of reflecting on their coaching sessions. For me personally, my reflections are done when driving home. Something that as a coach you may need to get used to! I use this time to think about my session, the players and these points: 1)what went well, 2)what could I improve and 3)what would I do differently next time. 
Now whilst this is my preferred method, I also really benefit from having my sessions watched and filmed. This allows me to receive feedback from my peers and players but also simply writing down my thoughts on my session plan too. This reflection is such a vital part of the coaching process for coaches to consolidate their learning. The image below highlights the process I like to go through as a coach which has helped me to develop and improve over the years.
ways i can improve as a coach

To conclude,

Coaching isn’t simple. It’s not easy and there is no magic formula! If you want to improve and develop as a coach you need to be willing to study, observe, practice and reflect.
1) build a bank of sessions
2) observe and watch coaches in different environments
3) practice, practice, practice
4) be reflective