Mark Lebedew once asked how much a coach is worth. In this post much of the focus is on how much player talent drives team success vs. other things, part of which is coaching. One commentator suggests that talent is 80% and coaching is only 5%, with the rest being organizational considerations. While I think the general point about the importance of talent in terms of winning and losing is valid, I would suggest that the influence of the coach is highly dependent on the level of play in question. The professional ranks and U14s are worlds apart from that perspective, to my mind.
This is all part of a larger discussion Mark and I have been involved in for a while now. It came up in the Volleyball Coaching Wizards interview of Redbad Strikwerda and again the interview with Giovanni Guidetti, and it’s a feature subject of a Volleyball Coaching Wizards Podcast episode. In that case the focus is more on which aspect of a coach’s role is more important, training (teaching) or match coaching. It’s an interesting debate.
At a certain point I began to think of myself as less a teacher and more a facilitator.
I consider myself an educator and very developmentally focused by nature, so this isn’t a question of teaching and not teaching. Rather it’s about the structure of the educational process and its effectiveness.
Retention is higher when a player figures something out for themselves rather than being told what to do. We’ve all seen it. You tell a player to do something 50 times and they don’t do it. Then something happens where they work it out in their own way and everything changes.
From that perspective, coaching becomes mainly about putting players in position to learn for themselves.
Does this mean that you never actually teach players anything? Of course not!
At the lower levels there is considerable need to instruct players on elements of the game and skill execution. As players progress, though, a lot of what they are doing is learning to adapt to varying situations and circumstances. And those adaptations necessarily change as their physical abilities and/or skills improve. We cannot possibly tell them what to do in every different scenario. The variations are effectively infinite.
Instead, what we need to give them is the tools to be able to handle what comes their way. This is basically the core of the random and game-like training ideas.
But it’s more than just an individual development thing. The same applies to teams as well.
You can tell a team to play a certain way. They will never play exactly that way, though. At least they shouldn’t! There’s too much variation in the game for one single set of rules to cover every situation. Players need to be able to adjust. We’re not training robots.
Players also need to learn to play with each other, which is an on-going process. Granted, a lot of this happens when they first come together, but it’s not a one-time thing. As a season progresses the players will constantly be fine-tuning things along the way with respect to communication, positioning, play-calling, etc.
Our job, as I see it, is to facilitate all that.
It may seem like this is a semantic difference, but to my mind it alters the way one approaches things like how one develops a training plan.