Impression management within my coaching is something that has really got me thinking recently. As I coach various age groups starting from four up to eighteen years old being able to make the right impression on them and their parents is something that has got me thinking and how can I ensure that I am able to adapt dependent on the age group I am working with.

When starting my coaching journey making the right impression was extremely important and something I got nervous about regularly. In fact, I can openly admit that making the right impression on the parents was more important that the kids at first. This led to the session that I delivered being boring, full of blocked practice, a lot of the time unopposed (limiting the kids opportunities to make decisions) and in fairness my coaching behaviour would be extremely instructive and commentating all the time during the session (delivering praise). Cushion, Ford, & Williams, 2012a state that a deliberate behavioural strategy or ‘what coaches do’ contains a mix of instruction and positive verbalizations which relates to the exact behaviours when I first began coaching.

As I developed as a coach through on field experiences and learning academically, I began to gain an understanding of ways to approach sessions in order to improve the learning experience of players. This lead to me focusing on delivering regular opposed sessions (attempt to improve decision making), kids providing me with new ideas such as progressions to activities, providing them with ‘playing’ opportunities or free play within the session. The way I began to approach and deliver sessions all came through reflection of previous experiences, It enabled me to begin to form an understanding of the Why?. I began to create a reasoning behind why I was doing what I was doing, rather than delivering sessions to make a good impression on the parents.

During a recent session I overhead two parents in conversation where the topic of conversation was my coaching and questioning what I was doing. During this period the kids were sat around a tactics board discussing solving problems I had posed to them based around creating space within a game situation, to which I had given the kids 5 minutes to come up with ideas to improve how they can create space as an individual and how that will help the team. I must admit the conversation made me extremely conscious and nervous, at the end of the session I was proposed a question by the parent in discussion ‘Why were the kids sat around wasting playing time answering questions when you could have told them the answer?’. Although I was nervous about being questioned on my delivery by a parent, the reasoning behind the why? provided the parent with a clear understanding about how this activity will help the performance of their child when being put back into a playing environment.

Providing a parent with a clear explanation of the Why? and providing them with an understanding of how this benefits the children in the long run went a long way to gaining the respect of the parent. This therefore, provided me with two important areas to develop  my coaching to ensure the right impression is made;

– Ensure you know WHY you are doing, what you’re doing.
If you understand why and how this will benefit you’re players then chances are you are doing things right. Never be afraid of what others think, if questioned you have the answer.

– A thing I am going to begin to employ into my own coaching is at the start of a new season sit down with parents and players individually to discuss my philosophy and ways of coaching to help improve each individual. This will help to ensure that coaches, players and parents are all working off the same page.

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