The Regional Sports Trusts throughout New Zealand play an important role in supporting coach development. While each sporting code has responsibility for establishing its own coach development framework, by bringing coaches together in the right way a Regional Sport Trust can add real value. Read here about how Sport Wellington is working to assist the performance and high performance coaches in the region.
Wellington’s leading performance coaches have discovered recently that despite their different codes and seasons, they all have a lot in common. They’ve been meeting regularly in a serious of forums to trade experiences and wisdom to try to accelerate their learning, knowledge and performance, and provide support to each other as they strive to develop better performing Wellington teams and athletes.
The meetings are structured in as much as they have a title: ‘Coaching for Performance’; and they were organised with the goal of increasing Wellington’s coaching effectiveness and to provide a support network through the collaboration of expertise across all sports. Other than that, the coaches are setting much of their own agenda as they try to improve their effectiveness as coaches.
High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) and Sport Wellington wanted to create an opportunity for coaches in the performance community to increase their ability to develop athletes into the high performance environment. Sport Wellington’s Community Coach Advisor, Mark Watson, in collaboration with HPSNZ’s Deslea Wrathall, coordinates the forum and he says it’s proving to be of great value.
“It can be quite lonely for a performance coach,” he says, “And the word ‘support’ is important.” The coaches support each other as they share solutions to problems they’ve faced and talk over their individual situations, to find that they share many experiences. They’re well known locally too and include Mark Hammett, Robyn Broughton, Wai Taumaunu, Sandra Edge, Andy Hedge, Stephen Zhu and Chris Boyd. It’s their athletes and teams that inspire the region’s sports fans and budding athletes.
Mark Watson says the coaches all realise that they are forever learning. “Different sports have different levels of capability and resources and it’s the same for coaches and this is the real value of such a programme where knowledge can be shared,” he says.
Mark says the shared experiences are priceless for building knowledge and just learning how to handle the mind games that are a part of performing at the top level. For example, he cites Hurricanes’ coach, Mark Hammett’s challenge to rebuild the team this year after the departure of some big-name players. The other coaches at the forum can talk through this situation and relate their own experiences and gauge how they might have tackled it.
Because they come from disparate sports their value to each other is in how they relate to their teams and athletes and get the best from them, rather than how they interpret rules and techniques.
The internet intrudes too today in a coach’s life as social media accepts and publishes the casual and throwaway lines of a young, but well known athlete. Mark says coaches can’t turn a blind eye to the likes of Twitter and Facebook even though they may be past the age when it might fascinate them. One false word on Twitter can divert attention from a team to a controversy and it’s the coaches and team managers who need to impose some sort of order.
As the coaches continue the forums, there have been three this year so far, Sport Wellington is also looking beyond their own immediate needs.
“Our aim is to use the knowledge gained from these performance coaching forums to develop similar forums for coaches operating in the development and foundation coaching communities, that is the secondary and primary school environments,” Mark says. He wants to ensure that coaches understand the principles of guiding the development of a young athlete to realise their potential. Too often we’re seeing fundamental skill development having to be revisited by coaches in the performance environment. Ideally we would use our performance coaches to relay observations that they are seeing at their level to reinforce the importance of development of core skills to our development coaches. There’s another need too, to keep gifted competitors within sport and not to lose them. Mark says there is a recognised problem that early bloomers, the big strong boys and girls who stand out and who dominate their school teams, are picked for their robustness and not necessarily trained to improve. They get instant results for the team and many are offered no further development.
“It can be all about winning,” he says, but as the smaller kids, who have to train harder and develop better techniques to stay competitive, mature into equal size, they tend to have a better grounding in the sport and they’re the ones who stick with it to elite level. “We want to get better coaching for those early developers, the big kids, and get them skilled and loving their sport way beyond school level.”
Mark’s recipe for producing an elite competitor is three-fold: A supportive group comprising family, friends and coaches, an athlete’s abiding love for the sport, as well as dedication and persistence. Get them all in place, and that can be a matter of chance, and any talented athlete is headed for big things.
Persistence and love for the sport comes from the athlete. But Mark is determined that the first link, the coaches, will be given every chance to learn from each other and then impart that across the Wellington region.
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