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Echo columnist Paudie Kissane is this season involved with the Éire Óg footballers. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Echo columnist Paudie Kissane is this season involved with the Éire Óg footballers. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
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The Paudie Kissane column: Communication is more important for good coaching than fancy drills

AS THE club championships are reaching the latter stages, the competition is getting stiffer while the margin for error is getting smaller.

Coaches need to get the balance right between hard word and recovery to ensure freshness come game day plus reduce the risk of injury.

Training sessions must be planned factoring in opposition analysis, particular positional and phase of play and the current strengths and weaknesses of your team. Identifying the ‘what’ or content in your sessions is the first step but then how is the session going to be delivered is the next crucial part.

This is relevant to all members of a backroom team who may have an input on the training field at club level. This could consist of a head coach, strength and conditioning coach, goalkeeping coach, manager, analyst and selectors.

This number would obviously increase once you think of senior inter-county level where there could be multiple S&C staff and field coaches. In contrast at club level a person’s role and responsibilities naturally may overlap.

Experience has taught me, there is no magic number when it comes to backroom teams. You see at inter-county level with many teams where the number of personnel involved seems to increase every year. More though, is not necessarily better. It comes down to the particular experience and skill-set of the people plus the duties decided on and agreed by the manager.

Budget can have an impact here also but the most important point is irrespective of the size of the backroom team, is the preparation time being maximised. Are people making a difference, which subsequently leads to increased chance of success?

Dublin manager Jim Gavin watches his team warm up. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin watches his team warm up. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Previously I have discussed the difference between training and coaching. An important distinction to know if players are to be improved technically and tactically. Laying out a few cones, blowing a whistle and repeatedly saying well done won’t cut it an any level.

So what is good coaching?

Effective communication is still undervalued, as there is still a greater desire to find a new drill or conditioned game. This deficit is not just seen with novice coaches but rather widespread at all levels.

Communication is not necessarily about saying more but rather when you do open your mouth are you making an impact. Sometimes simple praise is required but to build on that a player needs to know why you are praising them.

People can be guilty at times of thinking the more noise and instructions you give the better your coaching is. I am certainly not the first person to make this point and have made many errors like this myself.

This certainly hit home when completing a practical speed and agility assessment a few years back as part of my masters in strength and conditioning. I left the building thinking I had nailed the assessment. Positive body language, loads of coaching points and great energy.

I am sure the participants enjoyed it but unfortunately marks were lost as there were too much instructions and too many drills. Rather than constantly making noise the good coach knows when to give feedback and how they are going to deliver it.

Effective communication comes firstly from clearly knowing what element you are trying to develop and then understanding how a certain scenario or game will develop or challenge this element further. This requires coaches to possess a depth of knowledge of the area they are trying to develop. Good planning rather than just delivering a series of random drills.

Following the right preparation comes the skill of observation. This requires great patience not to fall into the trap of constantly telling players what to do. Sometimes this behaviour can be driven by insecurity. Are you running the session or actually observing what is going on?

Is the player doing what you would need them to do? This may involve a particular skill execution or how they are interacting with their teammates during a phase of play. Good coaches have a clear vision on what ‘good’ looks like.

On identifying the error rather than just pointing it out, can questioning or guided discovery be used to help the player identify the correction themselves? Or more crucially demonstrate a better understanding of the skill and their role on the pitch. Sometimes all that is needed is to select the right coaching cue.

Cork's Luke Connolly doing drills. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Cork's Luke Connolly doing drills. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

In training, a player is constantly told what to do, whereas as in the game the player most of the time must decide what to do: decision-making in essence. The manager or coach then wonders why there is less transfer or improvement from training to the game.

A coach must be comfortable to let a player make a few mistakes first, and then guide the players towards improvement if necessary. Provided the attitude and work-rate is there then mistakes in training can be a good thing. This can be difficult for some coaches to still get their head around so players are given space to learn and decide for themselves.

Yes depending on the level of team, age, experience, scenario there are still appropriate times to provide direct instructions to your players. Get the balance wrong though and you will stifle your players’ development.

The weather may be deteriorating but it’s the time of year where teams want to be still competing for honors. Let’s not undervalue the coaching process during this period.

Contact: @paudiekissane on Twitter or email: [email protected]