“”there are only two types of coaches – those that have been sacked and those who are about to be”
I can certainly agree with the statement as I have been both.
At the same time, coaches need to know when to exit.
In my two most successful stints as Head Coach, for the Queensland Bulls from 1994-99, and for Australia 1999-2007, I retired from each – Queensland to take on the Australian role, and Australia to move into a new career.
Every coach needs to make their calls as it relates to their ambitions, their stage in life, and often family & financial circumstances.
I have always believed there to be ‘shelf life’ as a coach. Other very successful coaches I know believe they are sport coaches for life, constantly wanting to improve the lives of the young men and women with whom they coach daily.
For me, there are always three very important questions to ask oneself, and answer them with total honesty when coaching:
- Can I still make a real difference to the people and team I coach?
- If I can make a real difference, do I have the energy, enthusiasm, desire to do so, day-in, day-out?
- Irrespective of whether I can make a real difference to the athletes and the team, and I have an incredible thirst to do so, do I have the respect of the majority of my athletes?
In my opinion if the answer to any of these questions is “no”, then you have reached your shelf life as coach with that group of individuals or team.
Coaching is both art and science – learn more about my coaching methodology which gave me the success I had as Head Coach for Queensland and Australia.
I outline a 10 Step process which provides a very good framework to coaching individuals and teams. The first of these I discuss below, the Coaching Philosophy.
Step 1 – the Coaching Philosophy
If you walk into an interview for a Head Coach role, and the first question put to you is, “…..explain your coaching philosophy in 30 seconds or less….” – can you do it?
It is a question I always pose to coaches or business leaders (as they are coaches as well). Very few are capable, and even fewer will venture their thoughts.
The fact is that each coach or leader has one, but has not really put the time in to completely understand why they do what they do.
When I applied for the Head Coach of the Queensland Bulls team, a team coached by a former international cricketer and legend of the game, Jeff Thomson, I needed to be clear in my mind what would differentiate me from him and indeed other applicants.
Certainly my playing career record would differentiate me from all other applicants – as I had been totally less successful than any of them.
My current professional coaching record would also differentiate me form most of the applicants – I had none!
But I knew these experiences to be advantageous, if I could only draw from them lessons I had learnt, and how such lessons were part of shaping how I would approach the role as coach.
So I reviewed my life experiences from childhood, school, university, being a professional cricketer, being a part-time cricket coach, working and teaching for 14 years in the sport and recreation industry.
My reflections brought me to the values I believed in, my foundation principles which were then delivered through actions and behaviours. The image I include is the diagrammatic distillation of the process.
So when asked what my philosophy to coaching was and how this would win Queensland its first Sheffield Shield, I answered along these lines –
- My job is not to win the Sheffield Shield but to improve internal systems and processes (strategy) for Queensland to dominate domestic cricket for the next decade (vision)
- Some of the key systems and processes I would look to change were based around our PLANNING and I would use computer technology to assist
- I would change our training system so that we developed a squad culture with the younger players learning from the older players and vice versa – a new LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
- I saw the role of support staff was to encourage LEADERSHIP in everyone in the group and we would do this by making every athlete their own best coach – giving rise to the phrase, MAKE THE COACH REDUNDANT
- I wanted the athletes and all staff to focus on the process of getting results, not the results alone – this would make us NEVER SATISFIED with what we achieved, win or lose
- Good coaching is about relationships, and so it was my task to get to know players and staff as a WHOLE PERSON, not just a cricketer, or a trainer or a physio, or assistant coach
It has been this philosophy, these set of principles and values such as honesty, hard work, teamwork, accountability that has guided me through good times and bad.