Entries in Philosophy (8)


Developing a Coaching Philosophy (Part 2)

By: John Leonard
From: South Easter Aquatics
Article site link: Developing a Coaching Philosophy
PDF Link: Developing a Coaching Philosophy

As a new and inexperienced coach, there is much preparation for your first season. Of course, you are excited and eager about your first head coaching position. You most likely have planned what you are going to do and believe that you are ready. But are you truly ready? Have you thought about the how’s and why’s of everything you will do as a coach? It is important as you get started in coaching to develop a philosophy. For that matter, even the experienced coaches may want to reevaluate their philosophy.

Many coaches do not believe in the value of developing a coaching philosophy.They do not realize how a philosophy can have an impact on their daily coaching procedures and strategy.However, a coach’s philosophy is actually a very practical matter. In fact, every coach, aware of it or not, follows certain principles based on their own playing experience. Most of our basic philosophy emanates from former high school and college coaches.This is a natural start, because it is the approach with which we are most familiar and comfortable.

It is also reasonable to assume that the philosophy of a person’s everyday life thinking and actions would be applied by most when it comes to coaching.For example, a salesman discovers that one of his clients is dishonest. He decides to sell to a competitor despite the fact that he will make less of a profit selling the same product. This may not sound like good business practice, yet many people are willing to adhere to their principles even if it meant making less money. How many coaches would stick to principles of sportsmanship or fair play rather than win the game?We can see a gap between what a coach may think is the right thing to do in every day life, and the actions they may end up taking on the field or court.

In your effort to form or analyze you own philosophy of coaching we must first know what a coach is. A coach can be many things to many different people. A coach is a mentor, a teacher, a role model and sometimes a friend.Most of all a coach must be positive. A positive coach has the following traits:

Puts players first:

A positive coach wants to win but understands that he is an educator first and the development of his players is his top priority. He avoids thinking the game is about him rather than the players. Has an unwavering commitment to what is best for the athletes.

Develops character and skills:

A coach seizes upon victories and defeats as teachable moments to build on self-confidence and positive character traits such as discipline, self-motivation, self-worth and an excitement for life. The desire to see the athlete learn and the ability to effectively improve their skill is the key to an effective coaching program.

Sets realistic goals:

Focuses on effort rather than outcome. Sets standards of continuous learning and improvement for the athletes. Encourages and inspires the athletes, regardless of their skill level to strive to get better without threatening them through fear, intimidation or shame.

Creates a partnership with the players:

A positive coach involves team members in determining team rules. Recognizes that communication is crucial to effective relationships with players. Develops appropriate relationships based on respect, care and character.

Treasures the game:

A positive coach feels an obligation to the sport they coach. Loves the sport and shares that love and enjoyment with the athletes. Respects the opponents, recognizing that a worth opponent will push the team to do their best.

There is no level, where as a coach, you cease teaching the game.As long as you teach, teach in a positive manner.You will produce the best players, and ultimately, the best results.

It is extremely important to develop a philosophy with the following statements in mind:

Your approach should be educationally sound.

Your drills should serve a purpose and not merely used for “killing” time. They should be structured to provide the necessary repetition for each athlete and should be relative to the athlete’s ability level.

Your approach should be appropriate for your players.

You may learn a lot of new offenses and defenses and they may be excellent systems, but are they suited for your players? Use an approach that is developmentally appropriate to your players.

Your philosophy must be ethical.

In basketball, for example many coaches instruct players to fake an injury in order to stop the clock. This is unethical. Consider what you do in all aspects of coaching. Coaching from an ethical standpoint is extremely important. Remember, you are a role model for your players

Stick to your philosophy.

Most coaches, especially on the high school level, have to develop the talent on hand. There may be some years in which the athletes may not possess the ability or skill to fit into your philosophy.You cannot change the players, but you can alter your approach.

Is there a better way of doing what you are doing?

Apply this question regarding all aspects of your coaching philosophy-the offense, defense, motivation or your athletes, etc. Keep an open mind. Learning should be a life-long pursuit and this should definitely apply to your coaching philosophy.

Explain why you do the things you do.

To instruct and to motivate your athletes, you have to justify what you do. Can you? You better be able to.The days of just simply saying, “Well, this is the way we are going to do it,” are long gone. There is no way that you can justify anything associated with your program or team to athletes and parents without an explanation.

Your coaching philosophy should be compatible with your personality.

Are you a risk taker? Patient or impatient? Deliberate or aggressive? You will be more successful if your philosophy and personality are both in sync.

Sportsmanlike conduct should be a top priority involved with your philosophy.

There are certain situations in some games, which could be considered unsportsmanlike by opponents, officials and fans. Running up the score, playing starters long after the outcome has been determined and taunting are just a few examples to be considered. If any of these exist within your approach to coaching, you may have to make some changes.

After analyzing all the factors that I have mentioned, develop your own philosophy by putting it into written form. It is extremely important to be able to express and to explain your approach to athletes, parents and supervisors. A written document can also give you something concrete to reexamine and to evaluate annually.


Developing Your Coaching Philosophy (part 1)

By: British Cycling.
Article Link: Developing Your Coaching Philosophy

In this months' CPD article we are introducing the concept of developing a personal coaching philosophy. A much underutilised concept, coaches rarely take the time to stop and fully consider what their own guiding principles to coaching are and how these will provide the underpinning foundations for their coaching practices.

The development of a coaching philosophy will be shaped by a multitude of factors and experiences will be personal to each coach, with coaches required to reflect on current practices and personal values. Ultimately whether a coaching philosophy is pinned to the fridge door or is stored as a mental note, it can be the single most important influence on how you work and crucially develop as a coach. 


Why Coach?

All sorts of people from a variety of backgrounds take up coaching for many different reasons. Knowing why you want to coach will help you to appreciate the different roles and responsibilities of a coach. It will also encourage you to reflect on your own attitudes, beliefs and motives within your coaching practice. This will help you to establish your own coaching philosophy on what you feel is important in coaching.

It is useful to reflect on this at times, as it can help you to make the right decisions. You may however find, that as you gather more experience of coaching your beliefs change. If this is the case, you will need to modify your philosophy accordingly.

When establishing your coaching philosophy you should also consider your motives for becoming a coach. For example, why do you want to get into coaching? For yourself or for others, or a combination of the two? Are you more interested in the long-term development of riders or short-term success? Is your burning ambition to coach a team to win medals at the Olympic Games or simply to help riders improve their skill levels?

Remember that your riders may not necessarily share the same motives as you. For instance, just because you consider some riders to be good enough to join the club team does not necessarily mean that they will want to. Their motives for taking part may simply be to get fit or have fun.

Whatever your reason for taking up coaching, you should always adopt a rider-centred approach. This means acting in the interests of your riders, not your own. If your only reason for becoming a coach is personal satisfaction and gain, you are unlikely to be effective and will soon become disappointed and frustrated.


How Should I Coach?

There are many expectations of you as a coach. One of these is that you will behave safely, responsibly, ethically and equitably. The way in which you behave will reflect your general attitude to coaching and, in the modern coaching environment, there is a need to ensure that you conduct yourself in line with acceptable good practice. This should be consistent with the principles of the British Cycling Code of Conduct.

There is not necessarily one correct way to coach. There are many different ways in which safe, responsible and ethical coaching can be achieved. To be an effective coach you need to be able to draw on an appropriate set of behaviours and act according to the context in which you are operating. Your coaching should always put the riders first, ie it should be rider-centred. This means empowering riders by involving them in making decisions regarding their development and actively encouraging them to take part in their own learning. It requires you to provide leadership, offer guidance, share decision-making and generally guide riders towards selecting and achieving their personal goals.

The way you coach will be influenced by a number of factors, including the following:
• Your coaching motives - The reasons why you take up coaching will undoubtedly affect how you coach. For example, if you wish to see young people develop socially and learn new skills, you will adopt a supportive, educational approach to coaching and place an emphasis on personal development rather than competitive success.
• The riders - If you adopt a rider-centred approach, as is recommended, you should adapt your coaching style to meet the specific needs of your riders.
• The situation - There are some situations in which a particular style of coaching is more appropriate than another. In certain contexts for example, where safety is an important issue, it might be more appropriate to adopt an autocratic and instructional approach to coaching, in order to maintain control and ensure that accidents do not happen and riders behave in an appropriate manner.
• Your personality - Coaches are human beings and, therefore, have individual personalities. Some coaches maybe extroverted, outgoing and lively in their approach to coaching, while others may be more introverted and go about their coaching in a quiet, calm manner. In truth, personality does not matter, provided that appropriate actions and behaviours are maintained, which relate to the situation.
• Your knowledge - The more knowledgeable you are as a coach, the more options you will have available to you to plan and deliver effective sessions. Knowledge will also help you to feel confident and create a positive environment for your riders. A coach lacking in knowledge may come across as low in confidence and may be perceived as lacking skills or the ability of knowing how to deal with certain situations.

As the above illustrates, the context in which a coach operates exists as a result of a number of issues and principles. As a coach, you must seek to identify your own answers to the questions associated with coaching, and create your own set of well thought-out values and strategies to apply during your coaching sessions. These are the backbone of your coaching philosophy. 


Coaching Philosophy

It is important for every coach to develop a personal coaching philosophy. Your coaching is strongly influenced by your coaching philosophy, which is what you feel is important in coaching. It is a set of guiding principles that reflects your personal beliefs, values, motives for coaching and your choice of how you will conduct yourself as a coach. It may provide answers for difficult situations in the future, will reflect your interpretation of what constitutes good coaching practice, and is based on your thoughts and actions regarding issues such as:

• your role in relation to riders and others associated with your sessions, such as parents, other coaches, officials and administrators
• the extent to which your riders are responsible for their own behaviour and development, setting goals and contributing to the design of the programme
• the relative importance of the outcome of competition in relation to the long-term development and well-being of riders
• the importance of adhering to the rules, the meaning of fair play and the use of banned substances to enhance performance
• the intensity of training and competition for children and young people
• the need for a single-minded commitment or the importance of balance in the riders' lives.
Reflecting on what coaching means to you, and why you do it, is important because this information will give valuable insights into your coaching - how you coach now and how you would like to coach in the future. You need to focus on your coaching goals and philosophy, and examine your behaviour to determine what sort of coach you want to become. You may also want to check whether your coaching reflects your philosophy. Are your aims and values apparent in the way you coach?

You may not yet have thought about your philosophy and beliefs (or values) - usually you develop them as you extend your knowledge, interact with people and gain wide-ranging experiences through life. Your philosophy and beliefs will affect your decisions and subsequent effectiveness. Therefore, examining them is important.

Your philosophy may be verbal or, preferably, written and should reflect your own coaching goals, morals and beliefs. Examples of common elements of a coaching philosophy include to:

• have mutual respect between rider and coach
• be open and honest
• be approachable
• be accountable
• educate the rider to become independent
• have mutual commitment for the rider to achieve individual potential
• coach in a simple, structured way that is underpinned by current exercise science
• be clear and critical in assessment
• seek feedback from riders
• be reflective about, and committed to, ongoing learning and development
• be equitable
• work within the rules of the sport.

Underpinning all of your roles as a coach are the British Cycling Code of Conduct, the British Cycling Health and Safety Guidelines for Coaching Cycling and any contract into which you and your riders have entered.

The above article is based on information developed for the new Level 3 coaching qualifications, but is equally as applicable to all coaches, no matter what level they may be coaching at.


Doing the Business with Jurgen Grobler

By: David Bolchover.
Site link: TLS.

David Bolchover is the co-author of The 90-Minute Manager, which outlines the lessons that business managers can learn from football managers. His next book, The Living Dead: The Shocking Truth about Office Life, will be published by Wiley-Capstone in October.

In the fourth of our articles on lessons that business can learn from sport David Bolchover talks to Britain’s Olympic rowing coach Jurgen Grobler as he looks forward to success at Beijing in 2008 and, he hopes, London in 2012 


STOP a man in the street, ask if he has heard of Sir Steve Redgrave or Sir Matthew Pinsent, and he would probably be surprised that anyone would waste their breath asking. Of course he has heard of them. But mention the name of Jurgen Grobler and you would probably be met by a shrug of the shoulders.

Yet this quiet, unobtrusive coach has been the indispensable influence behind the scenes during the past 14 halcyon years of British rowing. The limelight doesn’t interest Grobler. Only his athletes getting gold medals does. “I see my job as a service, helping young athletes, motivating them to the podium,” he said. “If you read the newspapers, you will see only the athletes’ names. That’s right. I have no problems there.”

Public recognition does come along sporadically. In 2000, Grobler won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year coaching award and four years later he was given a lifetime achievement award by the UK Coaching Foundation. He was awarded the freedom of his adopted town, Henley, on his return from success at the 1996 Olympics. But after each award, Grobler returned eagerly to the background.

Grobler’s business equivalent is not the charismatic, rent-a-quote chief executive so beloved of the media, but rather the unsung middle manager who devotes his life to extracting the last drop of potential from the human resources at his disposal.

At least, that’s what a corporate middle manager should be doing. The conclusion from recent research based on Gallup interviews with more than 1m employees across a broad range of industries in different countries leaves no doubt as to the value of good managers: “Talented employees need great managers. The talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits and its world-class training programmes . . . but how long that employee stays and how productive he is while he is there is determined by his relationship with his immediate supervisor.”

Grobler certainly knows this. “To be successful again and again, I think every athlete needs a coach,” he said. “You notice when a good athlete wins, the first person he thanks will be his coach. He knows how important the coach has been to him, setting the right programme, preparing everything.” And Redgrave, speaking after yet another Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000, knew it too: “Without his (Grobler’s) support and help we wouldn’t be here.

Too often business ignores the lessons of sport, epitomised by the likes of Grobler. During our conversation at the history-laden Leander Club in Henley he repeatedly referred to an overriding desire to help young people make the most of themselves. The history of sport is shouting at business that teams can only achieve excellence under the guidance of a talented people manager who forfeits the pursuit of his own achievements to dedicate himself to helping others achieve.

Professional sport, the most competitive environment there is, has not only long recognised the sheer power of effective and committed people managers; it also understands that such individuals don’t grow on trees. Whereas companies continue to promote people to management positions just because they happen to be good at what they do, sport has learnt that true managerial skill is much less common than functional expertise, the ability to perform well doing the job or playing the game.

So, in Grobler, who never even attempted to forge a career as a rower for himself, we have the embodiment of some of the key messages sport can convey to business. He is a type of individual you will rarely come across in the business world — a man asked to do nothing but get the best out of others.

From as far back as he can remember, as a youngster growing up in the rubble of post-war Magdeburg in communist East Germany, Grobler was both fascinated by the sport of rowing and resigned to the fact that he would never make it as an athlete. “I just didn’t have the right body shape to be a successful international athlete,” he said. “But I was always interested in the sport — the teamwork, trying to find out how far you can push your body. I knew I couldn’t do it myself but I wanted to help young people achieve their goals.”

So he enrolled on a five-year degree in sports science in Leipzig, then the leading university in that field in the country. On graduating, he returned to his local rowing club in Magdeburg and first attracted attention in his midtwenties when he won the club its first medal, coaching Wolfgang Guldenpfennig to the bronze in the single sculls at the Munich Olympics of 1972. He then went on to coach the coxless pair Bernd and Jörg Landvoigt to successive golds in 1976 and 1980.

His record now is remarkable. He has a haul of 15 Olympic gold medals, eight with crews he has coached personally and seven as head coach or technical director of the rowing team, first with East Germany and then, since 1991, with Great Britain. Redgrave won three of his five Olympic golds under Grobler’s tutelage and Pinsent all four.

Add on countless World Championship golds, and you start to wonder what it is about this seemingly unremarkable man that makes him such a supreme manager. What differentiates the average managers from the Alex Ferguson’s and the Jurgen Grobler's, men who achieve success consistently over decades, with different organisations and despite changing personnel?

According to Grobler, it is “how much you love the job, how motivated you are as a coach”. This might, at first glance, seem trite, but many businesses still ignore the essential truth contained in it. To be really good at anything, you surely have first to love doing it. But any ambitious individual who wants to ascend the corporate heights normally has to push early in his career to become a middle manager of some sort, whether he has any desire to manage people or not.

The result can be uninterested, weak management and a consequently sluggish workforce, as workplace surveys bear out with disturbing regularity.

A paltry 2% of UK Human Resources professionals interviewed by Personnel Today in 2003 stated that the people management skills of line managers in their companies were “excellent”, while 74% blamed ineffective line managers for low morale.

Grobler’s love of coaching has two primary effects. First, it enables him to think nothing of working flat out for all hours to go that extra mile, examining every last detail to prepare his athletes for victory. His own work ethic, enthusiasm and total commitment, he believes, also produce farreaching knock-on effects. They are in themselves a galvanising force, rubbing off on the athletes and making them strive harder to achieve their goals.

“As in any other business where you want to be successful, this is not a 40- hour-a-week job. You have to devote all the time necessary to make the young athlete achieve. You have as a coach always to be in front, in the driving seat. You have to say to the athletes, ‘Look guys, I can’t do the training myself, but I will be there an hour before you so that everything is set up. I will help you.’ I always think that’s a big motivation for the athlete. They know there is someone there who will really help them and believe in them right through the tough times.”

The second consequence of Grobler’s passion is that his thirst for more work destroys any potential for complacency, prevents him from resting on his laurels and pushes him forward to strive for future goals. When I asked him if he had any regrets, there was a telling silence. Eventually he shook his head and said: “I’m always thinking about the next one. Always looking forward.” And right now he needs to do plenty of looking forward, to 2008 certainly and possibly to 2012.

Redgrave retired in 2000. Out of the four who won the coxless four Olympic gold in Athens last year, Pinsent and Ed Coode have also now retired, and James Cracknell is taking a year out. There is clearly much rebuilding to be done before the Beijing Olympics in 2008 if the British rowing team is to continue its remarkable run of success.

Grobler said the monumental task of sustaining the level of achievement in the face of the departure of these rowing legends has provided him with a renewed sense of mission, and, if he needed any, yet more enthusiasm. “This is a big challenge. I am maybe even more motivated than I was at the Athens Games,” he said.

Grobler’s doubters should remember that the German is a proven master at bringing change and improvement. First he revitalised the ramshackle rowing club in Magdeburg, putting it on the Olympic map with a hotel and state-of-the-art fitness centre.

When he arrived in Henley in 1991, invited to replicate his East German success by the British rowing establishment, “it was just like Magdeburg 20 years before. A boathouse and a river, and nothing else”. With the help of lottery funding and driven by Grobler’s vision, the Leander Club now boasts the best training facilities and a refurbished boathouse, decked with trophies and myriad memories of triumph.

Dilapidated facilities were one fundamental difficulty he faced on his arrival in Britain. The other was a dearth of the professionalism to which he was so accustomed in East Germany, where sport was “the Mercedes-Benz”, the prized asset of a dysfunctional system. “In my first Olympics here, it was all about ‘taking part’. I didn’t understand ‘taking part’. This was something totally new to me. I had to go there and win,” said Grobler.

He might have learnt in detail the methodology of sports science and fitness training in East Germany, but coaching for him is much more than reading from a manual. It requires combining technical knowledge with a profound understanding of the mental and physical attributes of the individual he is dealing with.

“A coach might have a training programme to follow, but he will have a feel as to whether the athletes have to back off or push on. You need to find that line, that ceiling. Not to go too far. Push them two steps forward and then back off a little bit. That’s feeling.”

Each athlete is an individual and no coach can afford to ignore that, he said. “Matthew (Pinsent) and James (Cracknell) and Steve (Redgrave) are not copies. They are totally different. In one way, you have to bring them together as a crew. The result has to be the same, going as fast as possible from A to B with each rower. But to motivate them, to bring them to the same level of performance, you will have to go a different route with each athlete.”

Because Grobler treats each individual in a different way, there is always the chance that some may consider that others are receiving preferential treatment. This is where mutual trust comes in. The coach must know, on one side, that the athlete will not shirk any effort to achieve. On the flip side, all athletes must learn that the coach only has the good of the team at heart — there are no favourites. “The coach has to establish a partnership with the athlete. Like all good partnerships, it has to be based on trust. Nothing should be kept under the table.”

Grobler constantly conducts one-to-one discussions with athletes so he can gauge the mental state of his charges. “A successful athlete-coach partnership must be coach-driven but the coach cannot function without good feedback from the athletes. An important part of the coach’s job is to listen.”

Few people like confrontation and the amiable Grobler is no exception. But he forces himself to engage in honest criticism: “It’s never nice. But you must always start from a base of trust, partnership and openness. We shouldn’t be shy of bringing things out on the table. We could just make every day nice, with no problems. But you will never improve that way.”

Grobler normally reserves his sharpest criticism for one individual — himself. If an athlete is underperforming despite his or her best efforts, he takes it personally, and he challenges himself to come up with a more effective strategy for that individual. “I feel responsible and always say that we are in the same boat,” he said. “If the athletes win, it’s their victory. If they lose, then it’s the coach’s fault. I feel a lot more down than the athletes sometimes. I am always first say to myself, ‘Maybe I made a mistake’.”

It is difficult to imagine Grobler losing his temper. But if an athlete threatens the trust that has been painstakingly built up between the two of them, then self-criticism and constructive feedback fly out of the window: “If I see they are cutting corners again and again, then I get very upset . . . I always say the last stroke counts. The last stroke last year made us Olympic champions. They all have to learn that in training.”

That last stroke in Athens won an Olympic gold for the coxless four crew of Pinsent, Cracknell, Coode and Steve Williams by the margin of 45 centimetres — or 0.08 seconds. This victory was particularly sweet for Grobler, because it came in the wake of a highly controversial and widely criticised shift in selection policy in the weeks before the race.

Pinsent and Cracknell were originally down to compete in the coxless pairs. But Grobler decided that the best chance for a British gold would require them to switch to the coxless fours, displacing a devastated Rick Dunn andToby Garnett.

The ruthlessness of the decision inevitably created considerable tension in the squad. Grobler was again prepared to sacrifice a cosy atmosphere in the pursuit of excellence. “I don’t do things just to make trouble or show how powerful I am,” he said. “But nor do I run away from the job.”

The German is happy and settled in Henley, describing himself as “more British than the Brits”. Filled with energy by the prospect of the rebuilding process that lies ahead, he hopes shortly to get the nod to continue in his current role until the London games in 2012. Doesn’t he want to start to wind down, to relax a bit? “I relax in the morning when everyone comes in on time.”

Jurgen Grobler's leadership lessons:

Love your job. Enjoy helping others achieve their goals
To be a good manager, you have to love managing. This passion will ensure your dedication to the job. It will also be infectious, increasing the commitment of others and inspiring them to attain their own goals.

Mutual trust and openness are key — guard them jealously.
No manager can operate effectively without trust. The team must believe that the manager treats them with honesty and integrity and hides nothing. For his part, the manager must know that each team member shares his goals.

Question yourself before you question your team
You are responsible for the underperformance of any member of your team. Always analyse your own performance as a manager before criticising others.

Don’t run away from tough decisions
It is easy to sit in your ivory tower and avoid confronting awkward issues. Some decisions might antagonise certain individuals. That doesn't mean you shouldn’t make them. It’s your job. You’re a manager.

No two people are the same — deal with them differently
If you deal with everybody in an identical way, you will not get the best out of your team. It is your responsibility to find out what makes each individual tick and then manage them accordingly.

No criticism means no progress
For your people to improve, they have to know where they are going wrong. Criticising others might not be pleasant, but having a nice, cosy life should not be your goal.

Managing others is not a one-way process. Always listen
Listen to what your team is telling you. If you don’t, you won’t understand them. And if you don’t understand them, you can’t manage them.

Shun all favouritism. Performance is all.
There is no room for cronyism in any team or organisation that strives for excellence. Who is best able to carry out a specific task or fulfil a particular role? That is the only relevant question in selection and recruitment.


12 Steps to Beating the Kenyans & Ethiopians

By: Frank Horwill
From: Serpentine Running Club
Article site link: 12 Steps to Beating the Kenyans & Ethiopians

Not rowing, the philosophy behind what is said can certainly be linked to all sports.

1. Get rid of the television. The news is invariably depressing. Instead of watching others amuse us, we should entertain ourselves with mental and physical activity. If you must watch it, tune in to ITV, the commercial breaks give you an opportunity to leap up and do some press-ups or bent-knee abdominals. Only 1 in 50 Kenyans have television.
2. Sell your car and become a rich pedestrian. Buy a bicycle. 5 miles of cycling is equal to 1 mile of running. 1 in 3 Kenyans own a bicycle.
3. Cook your own food. Fast-food shops have not caught on in Kenya. They don’t like fried food. They boil and roast. Obesity in Kenya affects only 1 in 200. In Britain, the ratio is 25 overweight people per 100.
4. Abolish or drastically reduce unemployment benefit and welfare hand-outs. In Kenya you work or starve or run to earn a living. If you become a mother, you must provide for the offspring. There is no unemployment or welfare benefit in Kenya. They have learned that man’s destiny on earth is work.
5. Don’t buy children computer games. In 100 years’ time our heads will be twice the size. Our bodies will be the same size as our heads.
6. Schools should alter their modus operandi to 4 hours of study in the morning and 2 hours sport in the afternoon, every day of the week.
7. Don’t watch over-paid sportsmen perform. Instead, perform yourself.
8. Burn down shops that sell tobacco and liquor to under-age juveniles.
9. Get away from too technical jargon in running training. In Kenya, they think microcycles, macrocycles and mesocycles are different types of Japanese motorbike.
10. Train at altitude for a month at a time, 3 times a year.
11. Make 1/3 of your total running much faster than the other 2/3.
12. Be carried off the running track once a week on a stretcher, due to exhaustion


Playing Favorites

By: John Leonard
From: South Easter Aquatics
Article site link: Swimming Coaching
PDF Link: Playing Favorites

One day a few years ago, a club board member accused me of "having favorites" on our club team. Several other parent board members nodded their heads in agreement The implication was that this was a terrible sin. When I was a younger coach, I thought it was terrible also. And he was right. I did have favorites. My favorites were those athletes who most fervently did what I asked of them. Those that did, I gave more attention to. I talked to them more. I spent more time teaching them. I also expected more of them.

The implication that he was making was that my favorites got better than the others because they were my favorites, and that was somehow unfair. He mistook cause for effect.

The fact is, that the athletes who came to me ready to learn, ready to listen, ready to act on what they learned and try it my way, even if it was more challenging, more difficult than they imagined, were ready to get more out of our program. And they were my favorites.

As a coach, I have only one thing to offer to an athlete. That is, my attention. Which means that I attend to their needs. The reward for good behavior should be attention . . . attending to their needs. The consequence of inattention, lack of effort, unwillingness or unreadyness to learn or just plain offensive or disruptive behavior is my inattention to that athlete.

How could it be other than this? If you have three children, and you spend all of your time and energy work working with the one that is badly behaved, what does that tell your other two children? It tells them that to capture your attention, they should behave badly. What we reward, is what we get.

As a coach, I want athletes who are eager to learn eager to experiment to improve, eager to work hard. I want athletes who come to me to help develop their skills both mental and physical, and are willing to accept what I have to offer. Otherwise, why have they come to me. And I am going to reward that athlete with my attention. In so doing, I encourage others to become like the athlete above. If I spent my time with the unwilling, the slothful, the disruptive, I would only be encouraging that behavior.

The link I want to forge is between attention and excellence. Excellence in the sense of achieving all that is possible, and desired. My way of forging that, is to provide my attention to those who "attend" to me. This does of course result in increased performance for those that do so. I am a professional coach, and when I pay attention to a person, that person is going to improve. Over time, this makes it appear that my "favorites" are the better swimmers. Not so at all. The better swimmers are those that pay attention, and thus become my favorites.

What Dad didn’t realize is that you must have favorites if anyone is to develop in a positive fashion. The coach’s job is to reward those who exhibit positive developmental behaviors. Those are my "favorites," and they should be.


Coaching Philosophy – Big Rocks

By: Doug Ingram USOC
From: American Swimming Coaches Association
Article site link: Coaching Philosophy – Big Rocks

A while back I was reading about an expert on the subject of time management. One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone in the class said, "Yes."

Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?"

By this time the class was onto him. "Probably not," one of them answered.

"Good!" he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.

Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?" "No!" the class shouted.

Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.

Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!"

"No," the speaker replied, "that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all."

The title of this letter is ‘The "Big Rocks" of Life’. What are the big rocks in your life? A project that YOU want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or monitoring others? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all.

So, tonight when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the "big rocks" in my life or business? Put those in your jar tomorrow.


Now What?

By Vern Gambetta
Article Link: Functional Path Training: Now What

You have max heart rate, resting heart rate, and heart rate variability. You have total distance moved in a practice. You have blood lactate during and post workout. So you have pages of spreadsheets filled with numbers, now what do you do with this data? How can you translate all these random numbers into useable information? This is the million-dollar question. It is not a matter of what you can monitor, it is what you can use and interpret. There is an explosion of technologies available today that enable us to monitor virtually any parameter we want to, but before we go further down this path we need to take a step back and ask why? On one level it is very straightforward 1) We need to get accurate feedback to guide and shape the training process and 2) We need to understand individual response and adaptation to various types, volumes and intensities of training.

On the next level we need to determine the absolute need to know information that will help us accomplish those two objectives. Monitoring more parameters is not the answer, just because it measureable does not mean it is meaningful. You need to ask yourself is the data helping to make your athletes better? Can you translate the numbers into actions that will significantly impact the athletes training? If you find yourself inundated with random numbers without context then you need to step back and ask yourself why?

I love data, it is interesting and challenging to find meaning in data you gather. But and there is a big but here – have you lost sight of the forest for the trees. You can get caught up in generating random numbers that you take your eye off the ball. You need to watch the athlete as a person, as an individual, how they handle the stress of training and competition. Closely observe body language. Ask them how they feel. Educate them to read their bodies and how they react to training stress. Put the focus squarely back on Hu, the human element, not the technologies and the subsequent numbers.

Don't be a mad scientist, be a coach. Use technology to measure what is meaningful and appropriate. Less is more. Focus on the need to know and stop there. Look closely at the tools available to help you do this. How much time do you have? How much help do you have? Then carefully choose how and what you are going to monitor. Then have a plan to turn that data into information that you can use to modify or change your training. Remember just because it is measurable does not mean it is meaningful.


Ten things every young coach should know

By Wayne Goldsmith (a few adjustments to offer Wayne’s recommendations to coaches in other sports)
Article Link: North West Athletics: Ten things every young (swimming) coach should know

1. Learn from the guys (and gals) who have been there

The best way to learn is by doing. Next best is to learn by working with those who do the doing.

Find yourself a mentor: A senior coach who has experienced the ups and downs of coaching. If you can’t find a suitable senior swimming coach, seek out a senior coach from another sport. If you want to learn how to coach from someone who knows – coaching skills are generic across all sports.

- Find a senior coach who has strengths you lack.

- Find one who will be honest and sincere: one who is open in sharing the benefits of their experiences. One from whom you can listen to and accept honest criticism.

- Look for one who disagrees with your philosophy – who will challenge you – who will argue with you – someone who stimulates you to think, learn and grow.

A few hours a month with a great mentor is worth a hundred seminars, workshops and lectures.

2. It’s not all about the science

Sports science has made significant contributions to swimming in the past fifty years.

However, it is not the defining element of the sport. The day to day of coaching is more about dealing with parents than periodisation, more about politics than physiology and more about pool space than psychology.

Learn the sports science you need to do your job well.

As you develop and improve, continue to learn about and experiment with sports science. If you get to national / international level, develop a network of outstanding sports science professionals to support your coaching program. But ultimately it is your coaching – the intangible factors and inherent qualities that you possess as a coach which will drive the success of the program.

Heart – not heart rate is the key

3. Keep it simple

Don’t get too hung up on VO2 Max, heart rate monitors, lactate testing, blood testing and DNA testing ..keep it simple.

Don’t go looking for short cuts, easy answers, quick fixes, miracle supplements, amazing new swimming aids, the latest strength training toys……keep it simple.

One of the biggest mistakes made by young coaches is to over complicate their coaching.

What do you really need to be successful?

1. A coaching philosophy that makes sense to you and you can live by.
2. Passion, enthusiasm, commitment, dedication, compassion and great communication skills.
3. A pool.
4. Some athletes with the same passion and enthusiasm to be successful as you have and the desire to get the most out of themselves.
5. The leadership skills to inspire those around you to work together towards achieving common goals.
6. A basic knowledge of swimming technique and skills.
7. A supportive partner / family / friends to provide balance and stability in your life.
8. A basic understanding of planning and programming.
9. A strong imagination – with this, you can achieve anything.
10. The ability to think laterally and creatively.
11. The ability to deal with tough times and to overcome hardships with a smile.
12. A love of coaching.

Many young coaches believe that the “fancy stuff” will solve all their problems. The suffer from the “IF ONLYS”.

“If only we had a long course pool”.
“If only we had twenty heart rate monitors”.
“If only we had a brand new gym”.
“If only we had the latest FINA standard starting blocks”.
“If only, if only, if only……”

The limiting factors in coaching are not these material elements.

A coach with passion and determination, working with a committed group of motivated people can achieve anything. A coach without these things but the latest and greatest technology has to offer is only capable of looking good – and even then not for long.

Keep it simple. Stick with the basics and doing them well consistently.

4. Politics and Personalities

If you live on this planet, life is about dealing with personalities and politics. Learn to deal with it. Learn to manage it. Learn to be comfortable dealing with difficult people and political situations but don’t let it define you.

Dealing with difficult people and political situations causes more coaches to drop out of swimming than any other factor. Issues with club and committee. Fights with parents. Battles with pool owners and local councils. Brawls with other clubs over turf issues. These are the things that can make or break young coaches.

When faced with difficult situations young coaches will often say, “I am not interested in politics, only coaching”.

Learn how to deal with conflict. Learn how to control meetings. Learn how to work effectively with clubs and committees. Set up clear lines of communication with parents and supporters.

Master the political domain and learn to deal with difficult people effectively and you can coach with the confidence of knowing your coaching environment has been managed effectively.

5. You will never stop learning

- You will learn everyday as a coach.
- You will learn from athletes.
- You will learn from other coaches.
- You will learn from winning.
- You will learn from losing.
- You will learn ONLY…..if you are ready to learn.

The essence of learning is humility. That is, admitting you don’t know everything and being open and enthusiastic to learn more.

There is no coach – no person – in any field of endeavour who knows it all. In fact, the most outstanding coaches, business people, athletes, academics and other leaders, spend more time and energy on learning and ongoing professional development than anyone.

Once you commit to life long learning, your coaching will be a life long adventure and your improvement is guaranteed.

6. Who you are determines the outcome of your program – NOT just what you do

- Who are you? John Smith? That’s just a name.
- Who are you? A (swimming) coach? That’s just a job.
- Who are you? A dad. That’s just one role in your life.
- Who are you really and what do you stand for?

This simple question rarely has a simple answer.

But developing a coaching philosophy is critical to be successful and to develop a coaching philosophy you need to understand who you are and what you stand for.


Because who you are underpins your philosophy to coaching and this in turn underpins every thing you do as a coach.

In other words, if you don’t have a meaningful coaching philosophy, you will change with the ebb and flow and compromise every time a new idea or new challenge comes along.

If you stand for something – if you embrace values like integrity, honesty, humility, courage, discipline, empathy, compassion, determination and sincerity – these values not only define you but they will be reflected in every element and aspect of your program.

The challenge is for you – right now – to sit down and write what it is you believe and what it is you stand for.

This one simple act will make all the difference in your coaching career…and your life.
If you don’t stand for something ..You’ll probably fall for anything
It’s what you learn after you think you know it all that counts

7. Do not compromise for talent

One of the biggest mistakes young coaches make is to “worship” talent.

They have a vision and a plan. They have a good program. Then some talented kid walks in.

The kid is tall, strong, athletic – seems to win easily.

The young coach thinks, “Here is my chance – my chance to prove to the world what a great coach I am”.

So the young coach compromises. The young coach bends the rules. The young coach adjusts the program and their vision to meet the needs of this one individual talented swimmer.

Do not compromise for talent – particularly young precocious talent.

Young athletes with talent – those who win easily because of genetic gifts rarely make it to the top. They rarely take advantage of that talent and even more rarely make the most of their opportunities.

Yet, young coaches invest time and money and effort on precocious talents believing these kids are the “ticket” to get them the coaching recognition they deserve.

If you get a talented kid who believes in you and your program, who wants to work hard and commit to the vision and philosophy of your program and support the team and team culture – great.

If they want to come in and change the rules, miss workouts and generally have a negative influence on the team because they just won the State under 10 years 50 breaststroke – give them the phone number of another coach. Better still drive them to another coach’s pool - and fast.

8. Communication skills are what it is all about

Some coaches have a strong sports science background.

Some coaches were athletes themselves with a great understanding of the sport and an empathy for their team.

Some coaches come from teaching backgrounds and are highly skilled educators.

Some coaches were parents who decided to get more involved in the sport.

Coaches come from all backgrounds and walks of life.

But if there is one skill common with all great coaches it is the ability to communicate effectively.

You are not in the sport business – you are in the people business and your sport is just the vehicle.

You change lives. You inspire people to do things they can’t see or feel. You influence the hearts and minds of everyone you work with.

And you do it through your communication skills.

Master every element of communication – verbal language, body language, eye contact, written communication – all of it.

9. Develop a culture NOT an athlete or a program

The aim of coaching is not to produce a successful result. Well, ultimately it is, but the result comes as a consequence of developing a winning culture.

The real aim is to create a culture around your program, your club and your team which increases the likelihood of a winning result.

Most young coaches will throw their energies into an individual athlete or a single season and sometimes achieve a single successful performance. The following year, the “star” athlete moves to another town or things change and the success of last season is only a memory.

The most noticeable thing about the leading coaches is their consistency. They develop systems, structures and a culture around their team which ensures high standards every year. Some years they get really lucky and have an outstanding season. Other years they just have good seasons. But they rarely have times where everything goes wrong and if they do, it doesn’t last long.

Leading coaches work on a principle called MAXIMUM AVERAGE. In other words, if you develop a structure, system and culture which ensures that on AVERAGE, the fitness, speed, skill, technique, attitude and strength of your team members is the highest it can be; then, you are significantly increasing the likelihood of achieving success.

10. Accept the concept of coaching “evolution”

You will change as a coach.

Your ideas, your thoughts, your “magic training sets”, your “secret drills” that only you understand will all change….you will change.

Once you accept this, and embrace change as a natural part of your coaching life or even actively seek and invite change, you are on the path to coaching greatness.

One of the worst things that can happen to a young coach is to get success too easily.

This creates the biggest enemy of successful coaching – THE INFLATED EGO SYNDROME or T.I.E.S.

Once a coach has developed this condition, characterised by a belief that they have all the answers and they are the only coach in the world who really understands the sport, they are on a one way ride to failure.

- Accept change.
- Invite criticism.
- Thank people for offering advice.
- Get excited when people attack your program.
- Listen, learn and evolve.
- There are no limits to the coach who accepts and welcomes evolution.