I attended the annual OFA Coaches Conference yesterday for the first time and thought it was worth highlighting a few notes from it in case others were interested.
The event took place at the very impressive Cokethorpe School in Witney (it’s a private school, the lunch menu looks Michelin star – no chips or other crap on it and in fact it had “a selection of cheese” – at a school!).
I think the OFA had altered things slightly based on what I’ve seen of other conference programs as they split the day in two. The morning was football focused but there were also coaches from netball, hockey & other sports there so the afternoon was two sessions of four topics irrespective of sport.
The day started with an interesting talk from Andy Lindley (Rugby Coach at Leeds) who spoke of his own experiences in coaching within both rugby and the military, where he served for 20+ years. Andy spoke of the need to allow people to develop through their own experiences & freedom to explore rather than being directed (think coaching styles) in how & what they learn.
He also raised points regarding his development as a coach and how, whilst respected as a top coach he found that there wasn’t anyone from his coaching governing body who were coming forward to ask how he wanted to continue to develop and what direction he might want to take as he continued to progress. He shared an example of his masters degree in sports coaching (or similar) and the fact he earned it without anyone watching him coach at any point. He asked why there weren’t coaching pathways and essentially alluded to the fact that we as coaches are not receiving appropriate support & feedback which in turn would enable us to develop.
Finally, whilst talking about coaching & development of British athletes across all sports he asked this question, “Are we (as a nation) ready for excellence?”.
After this we went off in our groups with the football group being guided by Richard Cooper (Regional Coach Development Manager for 5-11 years) & supported by the OFA. Richard introduced the group to the whole-part-whole approach to coaching and used local Ducklington U12s to demonstrate this approach.
For those unfamiliar with the whole-part-whole approach it essentially works like this. The whole is a game, or game situation, the part is a breakdown of the game in to a session which focuses on one particular topic – in this example it was the midfield being narrow to force play wide (but it could be anything, defensive, attacking etc). The final whole is putting what they’ve learned back in to the game.
There are lots of coaches (myself included) who are now starting sessions with a game and this approach is actually a good way of organising a session. You allow the kids to play a game as soon as they arrive (hence feeding their desire simply to play), you then move to the part aspect and work on a part of their game before returning to the whole (or match) where you would then expect to see improvement based upon the part.
Once we’d seen this the coaches then took part in a session (the kids left at this point) where Richard looked at the various coaching styles (i.e. Youth Mod 1 content).
Following this we had lunch where we had a discussion which had been raised by a couple of coaches at the end. The conversation was on skill development and whether the FA should be creating a booklet which breaks down different turns & tricks in to it’s component parts so that kids can be taught a full array of moves. Or, should kids be shown basics and allowed to develop their own turns, tricks & skills through free practice? (The point raised was thought-provoking, the way the guys took it to the FA regional coach was pretty poor, almost aggressive).
The afternoon then saw us move on to the two classroom-based sessions but due to the weather I only attended the first session which was Using Personal Profiling Analysis & Emotional Inteligence to Improve the Coaching Environment, by Dave Doran.
Dave looked at how coaches self-reflect to develop & work with other coaches but also to evaluate their mood & attitude before a coaching session (i.e. putting yourself in a positive mood so this reflects on your players). We looked at different models of self-evaluation (think Belbin or DISC assessment, Google them) and carried out a number of activities which looked at scenarios where a head coach & assistant are having a few issues so we were required to analyse them based on the information and review why they may not be getting on.
The real point was to consider that there are differences in types of people (DISC assessment) and that as coaches we need to consider that, especially in terms of knowing who we are, how we react to situations and how we might need to develop in order to progress as coaches.
Overall an enjoyable day despite the low number of coaches (approx 16-20 – how many coaches in Oxon??) and I took a number of lessons/ideas away which is all you ask for from a day such as this.