Coaching Roles and Skills
The United Kingdom Coaching Strategy describes the role of the sports coach as one that "enables the athlete to achieve levels of performance to a degree that may not have been possible if left to his/her own endeavours".
Dyson speaking to the 19th session of the International Olympic Academy, Greece 1979, widened the horizon when he said that "the wise coach develops not only the fullest physical potential in his charges, but also those capacities and habits of mind and body which will enrich and ennoble their later years".
I also believe the role of the sports coach is to create the right conditions for learning to happen and to find ways of motivating the athletes. Most athletes are highly motivated and therefore the task is to maintain that motivation and to generate excitement and enthusiasm.
The role of the coach could be quite daunting since the above implies what could be construed as quite awesome responsibility, especially for the part-time non-professional.
The roles that you will find you undertake as a coach will be many and varied and you will find at some stage in your coaching career that you will be, but not limited to:
Coach/Athlete Training Roles
The roles of the coach and athlete in determining training requirements will change over the time an athlete is with a coach.
As a coach you will initially need to develop the skills of: organising, safety, building rapport, providing instruction and explanation, demonstrating, observing, analysing, questioning and providing feedback.
In organising the training session you need to plan in advance how you will manage the athletes, equipment and area - group athletes accordingly to numbers, ability and the activity - continually check the plan is safe during the session.
In providing a safe environment for the athletes you must assess the risk of: the area, equipment and athletes - continue to assess risk throughout the session - keep athletes on the set task and follow correct practice and progressions.
In building rapport with the athletes learn and use their names, smile and make eye contact, coach the athlete rather than the sport, show interest in and respect for the athletes.
Instruction and explanation
In providing Instruction and Explanation you should think about and plan what you are going to say, gain the athlete's attention, ensure they can all hear you, keep it simple and to the point and check they understand by asking open questions.
In providing demonstration make sure you are in a position where the athletes can clearly see and hear you, identify 1 or 2 key points for the athletes to focus on, repeat the demonstration in silence 2 or 3 times (side, back and front view), ask if they have any questions and check they understand by asking open questions. There are times when it might be more appropriate to use someone else to provide the demonstration.
Observation and Analysis
In observing and analysing break the action down into phases, focus on one phase at a time, observe the action several times from various angles & distances, compare the action with your technical model and if appropriate determine what corrective action is required. Remember your ears can also be used to observe - e.g. listen to the rhythm of the feet of the hurdler.
In providing feedback encourage the athlete to self analyse by asking appropriate open questions, provide specific and simple advice, limit the advice to 1 or 2 points, check they understand what they will do next and make the whole process a positive experience for the athlete.
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