Working as a coaching pair: challenges and opportunities

Coaching is the process in which main goal is to develop an individual. This process takes weeks, months and years because we all learn differently. That is why is vital to understand that before we start working as coaching pair effectively. Traditional formula for coaching pairs is clear: one lead coach and one or sometimes two assistants. In my view this is boring and looks like ready-made prescription to develop players. My question is: since players rarely learn from any ready-made solutions, is this really the only way for a coaching partnership? Here are some useful ideas that helps overcome challenges and create opportunities when a coaching pair step on the grass.

1. Powerless words: Lead and Assistant-Labelling stop coaching pair potential!

When I landed my first job as lead coach, first thing I’ve done was to get rid of silly words: Lead and assistant. By doing so I take an opportunity to make people feel welcome, important and equal at what they do. I’ve shown trust in their abilities and let them do the coaching in relation to their strengths. As a result, we not only work effectively and develop players individually but gain mutual trust, share ideas, solve problems together-all for benefit of kids we were coaching.

2. Ego’s-the cones assistant looks bored!

How often do you use your assistant to set up practice only? Perhaps I should say why? Don’t you think is a waste of someone’s time, personality and skills set he /she got to offer? Having ego is not a problem. It will be, when will be used for wrong reasons. That is big challenge to overcome when working in partnership. How? Simple discussion should be enough. It will let you find out each other strengths and weaknesses; past and present experiences and how to use them for the benefit of players you are working with.

3. Good and bad cop-the game worth to stop playing!

Short conversation with fellow coaches and it is same old story: I am good cap (i.e. softer approach) and I am the bad cap (hard line approach) neither of which have any sense. You may ask why? Well this isn’t a good/bad cop set up but rather two people working together for the greater benefits of children you are coaching. The greater opportunity here is to understand who you are as humans, knowing your personality and use it in effective way during training or games. How? Let’s say one of you are well-organized, skill that can be use prior, during and after the session or games.

Set up a session, organize kids, equipment etc… The other is good communicator, skill that can be utilise when talk to kids, when demonstrate, when use intervention to correct mistake. This is nothing to do been labelled bad or good cap! I would rather say is an example of good coaching as a pair!

4. What part of coaching football I am really good at?

Coaching football to children and young players is already huge challenge itself. I had a feeling that coaches try to deliver the coaching sessions on any theme regardless if they have more or less knowledge about it. This challenge can be easy overturn into fantastic opportunity: to recognize what part of the game each of us are really understand and good at. Then just delegate the football knowledge you good at to each other and delivery that part on the pitch only. Benefits? The players will be better; you will gain more knowledge about area of the game you feel less confident about to deliver and finally both of you will had positive impact on individual players.

5. Feedback-reflective practice is champions breakfast!

How often as coaching pair you seek feedback from each other? Let me guess, the challenge here is you may be not confident enough to preach to your coaching fella. But why not? This is a fantastic opportunity to informal learning from each other and getting better. How this can be done, you may ask? Prepare these 3 simple questions: What went well? How things can be done better? Why they should be done better? It really takes only 5-10 min to written them down. Observed the session, make simple notes and provide feedback in the end. Remember this is all for benefit of your players.

6. Contradicted messages only confused your players!

Say one thing and do another can be really powerful to pull your players off. Contradicted messages happen too often. Sometimes in relation to individual player and another time to the team. In the end of the day is come down to effective communication between coaching pair in first place. Once you have vision, coaching philosophy, the way you like to coach is worth to set up a language vocabulary. This need it to be consistent and related to coaching pair vision. This way you will avoid mixed messages. You will be able to identified core message you like to communicate with your players. You will be able to give them consistent information in relation to their learning. Finally, the beauty of that is simplicity of entire process.

7. Game day-what is the point for kids just seat on the bench?

Here you go again-Game day! Everyone is excited. How do you maximize your time and roles as coaching pair during match? Traditional formula for coaching pairs on game day is: Lead coach coaching the game and assistant focus on warm up before the game. That is, it? Let’s stop here for a moment: Is this really effective way of working as a pair on match day? What about the kids who have to spent some time on the bench? Do they have anything to do or just being bored? They don’t really want to watch; they want to playing. Speaking from experience the game day is an opportunity for both of you to really make a mark on players you coaching. Here are few ideas:

a) Game is another opportunity to learn for kids. One coach can simply focus on individuals. Prepare individual challenges in relation to personalities and skills set children have. Then observe them during the game and how they applied these challenges. The other can focus on team challenges only. Then collectively you have much more feedback how kids perform in relation to your challenges.
b) Instead let the kids seating on the bench one coach can set up a game so they can play before go on the pitch. The game can be related to last session and have challenges that match up these on the main pitch. The other coach focus on main game.
c) Let the kids who watching the game (starting the game on the bench) opportunity to give feedback to those who are playing in relation to their individual tasks you prepared for them a coaching pair.

With two coaches you can be sure that both of you can be much more effective in coaching, supporting and observing the players. Pair -coaching is fantastic tool to gain feedback from each other. There are far greater benefits and opportunities than challenges where coaching together. Is really worth to maximize these opportunities and get best out not just you but more importantly players you are coaching on daily basis.