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  • Writer's pictureHugh Lawrence

Coaching philosophy.....or something

Coaches often talk about their philosophy. But what we often then get is less philosophical and more about 'what' coaches do. So let's look at two things. Philosophy - put most simply, it means that approach or attitude you bring that acts as a guiding principle for behaviour. A more academic definition might come up with a study of proper behaviour and the search for wisdom. Common to all definitions is the idea of wisdom and behaviour. Of course, many philosophers came up with their 'own unique' definitions just to keep us on our philosophical toes. But for now, let's stay with the idea of behaviour.

I coach to develop players as people. Player on-court behaviour reflects their off-court behaviour and attitude. I aim to help players become better learners, better thinkers, better listeners and understand what it takes to be a winner. I apply best-evidence principles to our practice design. That means finding out what leads to learning and understanding, and to design my coaching and practices around it. Just a minute..... What's that bit about "winning". Well my 'go-to coach' on this subject is John Wooden.... " You cannot find a player who ever played for me at UCLA that can tell you that he ever heard me mention “winning” a basketball game. He might say I inferred a little here and there, but I never mentioned winning. Yet the last thing that I told my players just prior to tip-off, before we would go on the floor, was, “When the game is over, I want your head up, and I know of only one way for your head to be up. That's for you to know that you did your best. No one can do more. . . . You made that effort.”

The British writer and thinker, Simon Sinek, suggests we can inspire people to great things by being clear about why we do things. If we are not clear about why we have come to practice, the cause that inspires to train and compete, then we are not clear about where we are going. And if we don't know where we are going, how will we know we've got there?

I'm reminded of the high school basketball coach who drove his team hard all season long, created sophisticated practices, ran daily practices and won every game in the regular season. Upon arriving at the national championships (his clearly expressed goal for the season). He could not understand why his players seemed to lack the drive and purpose of the regular season. "We're here" he said " at the nationals... we have a chance to win". What he had not checked was his players' goals for the season. Put simply, they just wanted to make the trip, To get away from school and have a good time. Lesson? Check your players' "why"... it might be different to yours. And I'm afraid it's their motivation that counts.

Reference: John Wooden, quoted in Wienberg and Gould (2007), Foundations of Sport and Exercise Physiology.

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