Tamaki Sports Academy
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From the time boys begin playing rugby league, until they are 15 or 16, perhaps older, they often have the same coach. He's often the father of one of the boys. Many of the boys will have been in the team from the beginning. He's done a good job. Many of the boys have the basic skills of the game, the worst tackler is out on the wing, and the boys enjoy each other's company. However, more is needed from the coach at colt or senior level.
Our advice is that at age 16-17 athletes who wish to make a professional career must be prepared to leave the teams they have played in for years. They have to be prepared to stop playing with their friends. They need to look around for the best coach. That's the way forward. Here are some ideas about what to look for in a coach.
The team coach has three key roles
To do this, a coach needs ten attributes
A coach is not a role model, but if he sets standards for the team then he should model those himself. For example if he requires the team to wear 'number ones' he shouldn't appear at the same venue in gumboots and a singlet.
Coaches are ambitous, and sometimes forget that although this may be their team, it is not about them.
If the coach has a clear vision of the way he wants his team to play, for example to score the most tries, and he has the luxury of players to choose from, then he should choose a squad that can play that type of game.
Most often though, the coach has players chosen for him and he has the more difficult problem of answering the question 'How can I win the competition with these players?'
Knowledge of the Game
At the elite athlete development level (ages 16-20) this is exactly what the coach has to transmit to the players. What do we do when this happens? How do we answer this question posed by the attacking side? In this situation how do we encourage the defence to make a bad choice? How do we isolate that defender (the one who hates to tackle)?
Skills to analyse and exploit the strengths and weaknesses of opposing teams
Some teams have a clear playing style that can be exploited or broken down. Others have one or two star players who must be shut down. It is the coach's job to work out how these things are to happen.
A good team captain
It is very important that the coach appoint a good team captain as once the team runs out onto the field it is the captain's team. The coach is stuck on the sideline and has very little input once the whistle blows.
What is heard is often quite different to what is said. A good coach understands what his team needs to hear and delivers this.
Mike Tyson said "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." When things do not go according to plan, a coach needs to adjust. This is made much easier if the coach has considered some of the 'what ifs..' before they occur.
Consistent Provision of Constructive Feedback
Feedback is of two types - criticism (this needs to improve and this is how we are going to make the improvement) and praise (this is good, to make it even better..) Constructive feedback identifies something and then proposes a solution. Coaches need to strike the right balance between criticism and praise. In general, coaches can criticise more in the off-season and pre-season, and on Tuesdays (if the game is on the weekend) during the season.
Conflict Resolution Skills
There will be conflicts between players, between members of the team staff, and between players and staff. The coach needs to decide 'Do I want him/her on my team?' If the answer is 'no', move the person on. If the answer is 'yes', resolve the conflict. This means listening and then talking.
Thinking, planning, thinking. The best coaches are always thinking about the game. They have plans, and plans about plans. So do the best players.
Team Building Skills
It's old, but true - a champion team will beat a team of champions. A good coach can weld a squad of 30 or 40 players into one team. There are four stages in the journey from group to team - forming, storming, norming, and performing.
Forming is the time when a squad trains together. Not everyone will make the team, and athletes are comparing themselves to others.
Storming is a stage when individual athletes ask themselves questions about the coach and the staff. Are they good enough? Why are we doing this? If a coach does not, or can not, explain the how and why of the training programme, he is no good.
Norming is the time when a team begins to form. Players understand their roles. They know what is expected of them and accept this. Players start to work together and to support each other.
Performing is just that. On game day, in training, and in preparation is the coach seeing one team or a number of individuals?