EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Somebody’s watching you

Have another coach watch you coach to power up your coaching. Give them a clear agenda to help make the process focused, less invasive and ultimately positive. 

SAY THANK YOU FIRST

To ensure that you and your co-coaches are working as equals, the observation and feedback process must be seen as a positive experience. You aren’t passing an exam or ticking boxes for competency. You, and the observer, are learning and developing together.

The observer will also gain insight into their coaching because, inevitably, they will be thinking about how they would deal with each situation. That’s an important reflection in itself.

However, it’s not a straightforward task to be open and honest while being positive and non-judgmental when you are feeding back.

That’s why before the session starts and then again before the feedback begins, the observed coach must say thank you. Put the observer at ease as much as the recipient.

NO EXCUSES

During the feedback process, you cannot offer any excuses about your performance. You can only suggest why you made a decision. That comes in the “answer some questions”. 

Excuses are a means of passing the blame onto an external condition. For example, a drill that didn’t work could be because the players were being lazy. The mature response should be: “I need to ensure the players were more focused”. Or “Next time, I will think more about how the players were acting before introducing that drill”.

In other words, which of your actions could you change?

SET SOME QUESTIONS

Before the observed session, set out some questions you feel you need to answer. It should be the focus of what you are working on. For example, you might think you need to improve the speed of transition between activities or how much technical advice you get.

The observer will ask this question. They should then ask other questions, such as “what went well” and “what will you do differently next time”.

Note that you are answering the questions, not the observer. The observer might help by pointing out times when they saw you doing something.

ANSWER OTHER QUESTIONS

The observer needs to generate some questions of their own. These will be away from the direct focus. They will not start with the word “why”, which often leads to judgmental statements. However, if they use the word “feel”, it puts the emphasis back on the coach to put across their viewpoint. 

Here are some good questions: “How do you feel you dealt with…?”, “What would you do the same or differently next time?”, “What do you feel about the impact of that decision/drill/activity?”

ASK YOUR OWN QUESTIONS

So far, the observer hasn’t passed any judgement. All they have done is let you tell them what they feel.

You should now ask a couple of questions. It’s essential they are not judgmental. So, questions like “Was that a good session?” “Or did the players enjoy it?” won’t be helpful.

Most questions are asking for low-grade outcomes. For example: “Did I repeat the phrase ‘You know what I mean”? “Did I manage to unfold my arms when I gave feedback?”

NEVER DISAGREE

Should the observer say something that you don’t agree with, never say so. The whole process should be between you and the observer. Nothing will be passed on to anyone else. If you disagree with a point, you should do one of two things. Ignore it because you don’t think it makes a difference. Or, you should store it, because it might be something you need to consider in the future.

If you say you disagree, then that only makes the process that little bit more uncomfortable.

THE WAY FORWARD

Embrace being observed. It will make an enormous difference to the way you coach if you can verbalise your thoughts to another coach.

The more observation becomes a natural part of any session, the more comfortable everyone becomes. However, you should make an effort to allow others to comment on your sessions. That can only happen effectively if they are briefed in advance.

The process is:

  1. Ask before the session to be observed,
  2. Set out the questions you want to be asked.
  3. Make sure that the observer knows that you will not be making excuses, nor will you disagree with what you will say.
  4. Answer your questions and their questions, and then ask your questions.
  5. Reflect on the answers, draw strength from the positives and enjoy the challenge of improving for the future.

Examples of questions you can give your observer to ask:

  • Did I avoid jargon?
  • Did the players practise more than they were talked to?
  • Did I check for understanding before the activity started?
  • Did I correct the specific technique I was looking to work on?
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