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Jim McGuinness moved from Donegal to Celtic and on to China as his meteoric rise through football’s coaching ranks continues. Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Jim McGuinness moved from Donegal to Celtic and on to China as his meteoric rise through football’s coaching ranks continues. Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
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The Paudie Kissane column: There's a difference between training and coaching a team

I HAVE previously discussed on my blog or through this column about what makes a good coach or what differentiates a trainer from a coach? 

Both were by-products of my journey so far as a player and coach.

Now considering this season has finished for many coaches so rather than taking a complete hibernation it can be a suitable time to do your own personal review.

No matter how well you think you are doing there is always things you can get better at. Winning the cup doesn’t automatically mean you are a great coach while finishing trophy-less doesn’t always equal poor performance.

This reflection is a continuous journey. We demand from our player’s continual improvement, committing to the process and working hard. Do we demand this from ourselves though?

First step might be to ask why do you coach? Some like to give something back to the club while many are teachers who get involved as coaching is teaching in essence. 

Others meanwhile coach for their own ego, for that feeling of control and power. Understanding the why behind your commitment can only increase motivation and create a pathway towards positive development and performance.

Attending workshops, coaching courses or reading online sites, or newspaper articles, should be seen as a start rather than a finish to the learning process. Rather than providing all the answers, these educational sources are there for people to question their own coaching process and develop further where appropriate.

Remember there is more than ‘one way to skin a cat’ so what approach a coach selects can depend on the level of a team, and individual ability, plus how long they have worked together.

It can be easy to acknowledge our strengths but can we openly admit to our weaknesses. In that strive for excellence this can be a challenge but is a necessary step to evolve and improve.

We encourage our players to be open to feedback, train hard and apply themselves on and off the field. This can lead to improvement and subsequently increase in confidence for the player. This process can be applied similarly to the coach. Acknowledge where you can improve, commit to learning and see your confidence rise as a coach. Players can pick up on this too.

One step, which I learned was happening in rugby many years ago, is choosing a mentor or getting another coach to review your performance. Technology is advancing all the time so we can analyse individual or collective team performance down to the minute detail.

Complete the same process as a coach and there is no reason why you can’t improve. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a coach from the same sport. It might not look pretty viewing our own performance on screen or listening to feedback from another coach but I’m sure both parties would learn from each other.

A coach must be knowledgeable in many areas. Depending on role and level this involves technical, tactical, physiological and psychological. These roles can be covered by a team of specialists at inter-county or elite level but at club level, a person may need a varied skill set.

A coach must delegate if it is the best choice or up-skill their knowledge where they feel they are lacking. No point trying to bluff the players that you know it all. In a matter of weeks, the players will see through this approach and conflict may arise.

Being genuine and honest is the best approach with players. All players including elite level respond better to positive feedback rather than negative. There will always be a time and necessity for constructive criticism as improvement is never a linear process. The problem can occur if the coach is determined to be liked by the players.

Honesty is avoided, players can be selected irrespective of performance and equal standards are not applied to all players. Some individual players may like this approach but the team players will see through it and the team will naturally underperform. You might get the odd day where things come together but the team will not have that consistency which every successful team has.

My experience as a player helped me no doubt in my progression from player to management. I must acknowledge though, a person doesn’t have to have played at the highest level to enable them to coach at the highest level. Eddie Jones and Jose Mourinho are an example of this from the professional arena.

Pep Guardiola played at the top level and Jose Mourinho didn't, yet both are top-class managers. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Pep Guardiola played at the top level and Jose Mourinho didn't, yet both are top-class managers. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Sometimes it can be about giving the person the opportunity to learn through hands-on experience and then judging whether they are capable are not. Closer to home Jimmy McGuiness is a prime example how coaching skills can be transferred from one sport to another.

Being involved in high performance or development or game specific coaching or strength and conditioning it still all under the umbrella of coaching but more importantly it is about dealing with people. This point can get lost in the midst of complex training sessions, sports science and the winning of games.

As we start this journey the drills, conditioning, games, gym sessions or the competitive games consume our thoughts and still do. Yes, they are all important elements, but coaching is more than that.

Players come from many different backgrounds with different experiences and learning styles. I’m by no means an expert in this area but improvement can be gained by increasing your knowledge of yourself, your sport and your players. 

CONTACT: @paudiekissane www.pkperformance.ie