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Deflections: Picking coaches: Part 3

In the last two installments, I touched on the ends of the spectrum: those who have barely, or never, played the game versus the applicants with extensive playing backgrounds.

You don’t get many of either but you still need to be aware of what they bring with them. Their toolkits are chock full of an array of quite different skills, which can be both positive and negative.

Here’s an interesting “for instance.” In his book The Gold Mine Effect, Rasmus Ankersen describes various elite sports centres around the globe and posits theories about how they came to produce world and Olympic champions. Stephen Francis is the coach of a sprint club in Jamaica where some of the world’s greatest sprinters have developed including Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt. But Francis himself was not a sprinter at all. British geography teacher Colm O’Connell had never set foot at an athletics event, let alone run himself, before moving to Kenya and becoming the coach of world class middle and long distance runners.

This is not to say we need to scan applicants for the intangibles they might share with Ankersen’s examples. However, it is worth noting how many world class athletes developed from coaches who themselves weren’t anywhere near that level. What they had though were skills and attitudes towards dealing with people that set them apart.

Another for instance. People tend to place a lot of stock in minor coaches who are teachers. With good reason, I suppose. Teachers are trained to deal with exactly the types of issues minor hockey coaches see all the time, and not many include specific skills or tactics instruction. Their strengths are in communicating with kids, understanding how they function, dealing with conflict, assessing skill levels, to name a few. In my experience, it’s been rare to see a minor hockey coach, whose daytime life was that of a teacher, not be the kind of person you want around a group of kids.

There’s one essential group we need to mine to obtain the kinds of coaching our kids need: older adolescents and young adults.

Sometimes I forget that I was just 19 when I began coaching—and the players were 12. I find myself looking at the few young people who take teams and wonder what they can possibly offer. Well, aside from vigour and interest, what did I offer at 19 or into my 20s? I coached my first junior team at 25. At the time, I was pretty sure I had what it took. But I had no one to guide, mentor or assist me, so that first experience was a rocky one.

Good question though, isn’t it? What qualities do we want in our minor coaches?

 

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