In my role as World Sailing Regional Development Coordinator (RDC) manager I am responsible for training and managing all the International Sailing Federations Regional Development Coordinators and coaches. I also run coach development clinics in various countries to help train their coaches and develop their training schemes. I also plan and run a scholarship course every year in the UK where we train coaches to become National Training Managers capable of developing and managing their own national coaching programmes. In addition to this I run ‘Development of a National Sports Structure’ (DNSS) programmes where I assist National Federations to develop their whole structure but with an emphasis on the training and performance pathways.
Within 2 weeks of returning from the first week in Tokyo, I was asked to run a coach developers course for South African Sailing. This is a new course so I had very little time to pull it together and then run it. As the whole coaching framework in South African Sailing is reasonably new I had to spend quite a lot of time on teaching the syllabus. When a scheme is mature and the coaches and coach developers have come through the process from the start I find they understand the flow of what they are doing. Between 2010 and 2014 I developed the training scheme in South Africa, beginning with the practical method of teaching someone to sail all the way through to teaching the coach developers to develop coaches to deliver these programs. Teaching people to sail in South Africa was left totally to each person’s discretion and experience which worked to a point but meant there was no uniformity or quality control, thus the scheme was developed. The dynamic I found was that the first group of coaches we trained were all experienced people who had been teaching sailing in their own way for many years, but were subsequently entrenched in their methods. These same coaches naturally became the coach developers. As a result, when I planned the coach developer course I focused on effective facilitation and communication. However, during the first day of the five day programme, I realised that only one of the eight coaches on the course was actually utilising the syllabus properly. In fact it was worse because they had not returning to their coaching environments and implemented what was taught on the first course and had in fact just gone back to teaching the way they had been.
This highlighted two mistakes I made, one in my previous role as South African Sailing National Training Manager and the second in my preparation for the coach developer course.
Let’s think first about the first mistake. I ran clinics for coaches to get the scheme going but it was just a 5-day course for people who were already coaching. As soon as they completed the course they got their qualification (even though it was a different concept I was teaching them) however a lot of the new skills that were taught in the course were skills that needed to be developed. If I had to go back I would have run the first clinic and then let the participants go back to their training environment and practice. Then I would run a second clinic about 3 months later where we would build on the skills learned in the first course. I think in this case mentoring would be the ideal method to follow but this was not possible as I was the only coach developer at that stage and there were 50 coaches that I had trained. My wife was one of the first coaches to attend the course and I was able to mentor her. She was the only coach on the developer’s course that really understood the process. My mentoring process with her was in our sailing school which she now runs on her own but which I was running at the time of the development of the scheme. In the mentoring process I first had her assisting me and watching what I was doing on all levels and then I slowly gave her more and more to do until she was doing and I was assessing and watching. Now I believe she is a better ‘learn to sail’ coach than I am and her ability to create materials and processes is very well developed. To train her as a coach developer I focused first on communication and how to link that to different learning styles and situations. Through this mentoring process I had a lot of information to give but needed to recognise the difference in personalities and how a person’s personality influences the coaching process. Of course working with my wife I had to be overly sensitive but I also know her well which helped make the process more effective.
Now the mistake I made in the preparation for the coach developers course. I did not send out any information or tasks in preparation for the course. I needed the coaches to be on a similar level for the course to work but I had no idea where they were. This would have been a much better course if I had sent out prep work, including practical ‘learn to sail’ delivery and some theory to prepare them for what they would experience on the course. I could have asked them to go through the ‘learn to sail’ syllabus and prepare some session delivery. There is quite a lot of micro coaching in sailing and this was one of the areas I wanted to cover in depth on the course. Thus I could have asked them to prepare a micro coaching session which would have helped in their learning. If you looked at the main items and structure of my course it would have been good for them to prepare a number of different items, for example, what we term ‘debriefing’, but is commonly known as review and feedback.
So the original plan for the course was a five-day course with the first day as a reassessment day so I could see where the coaches where. This could have been shortened had I sent information and tasks out earlier. This assessment day was designed around running ‘on the water’ sessions and some classroom based sessions. The rest of the course was designed around the structure in the e-modules from the first week of training in Tokyo. So ‘Helping Coaches Learn’, ‘Micro coaching’, ‘Putting LEARNS into Practice’, ‘Reflection and action planning’, ‘Review and Feedback’ and ‘Preparation and Delivery’. The final day was set aside for assessment, thus almost repeating day one but including new learning and participants being assessed on their delivery.
Unfortunately as mentioned before only one of the coaches passed the first day, so day two and three were spent recapping the earlier courses. However, I brought in as much of the LEAR
NS principals (learner-centred, environment, actively involved, reflection, new learning, stretch) as possible and continually added to the learning so by the end of the five days I had within the new plan incorporated a lot of the principals that I wanted to cover. I also managed to place a lot of emphasis on LEARNS and getting the coaches to understand the dynamic of push and pull and when to push and when to pull in their practice.
I am now mentoring these coach developers as much as I can and one of the requirements for their qualification is for me to attend their first course that they run to do a final assessment. I have also identified one coach (not my wife) who I am mentoring and training to be a senior coach developer. I am focusing on facilitation and material development with him and we recently ran a course which had three levels of learning support; (1) a new coach developer running a coach course then my (2) new senior assessing and facilitating the coach developer and (3) myself facilitating and assessing the senior coach developer. All in all this worked well as we had a course of 12 coaches so it was not unbalanced but more of this process in my next blog.
Rob Holden World Sailing Regional Development Coordinator (RDC) manager