I was chatting to a player recently who told me she wouldn’t make a good coach because she didn’t know more about Ultimate than the rest of the team. On reflection, I wish I had said: ‘That’s interesting. What makes you think a coach should know more than their players?’
There were two reasons I found this interesting:
1. I coach players who know more about Ultimate than me.
2. There have been several times recently when a player has asked me a question that I did not know the answer to.
Something I’ve though a lot about this year is the challenge of coaching an international junior team and an elite women’s team having never played for Great Britain or for a Worlds-level club team. People definitely have different opinions on how important the ‘been there done that’ experiences a coach can bring are, but it’s not always something you can change.
We’ll all have moments as coaches where we think we’re out of our depth, but in my experience the key is to really understand what your own strengths are and stick to them. This is why having a coaching philosophy is so important: it means you know why you coach, what you want to achieve and the skills you have to make it happen. You always have your own unique roadmap to success that you can be confident in.
As a young player I never had anyone who encouraged or supported me to improve. My club team did not have an environment that supported growth and I was scared of making mistakes in games. I coach because I want my players to have a someone who believes in them, helps them get better and makes their team a great place to be. That’s my coaching philosophy!
My way of coaching is therefore quite conversational and reflective: I ask my players a lot of questions to find out what they think they should do and their reasoning behind it. To me it doesn’t matter not knowing everything or being less experienced than those I’m coaching. If I don’t know the answer to something I’ll just say so, but then me and the player can help each other figure it out together. I do my best to stick to my philosophy and the way of coaching I’m good at, rather than worrying about what I can’t do.
I guess my last reflection is twofold: firstly, knowing your own coaching style and philosophy is helpful and it really is worth taking the time to think about it. Secondly, stay true to it because it makes you a more effective coach.