Personal Development

In todays post we will have a look at personal development, what it is in the context of football coaches and also give some practical tips you can use to improve and become a better coach. Personal development for football coaches usually means going to coaching courses, reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, practicing your coaching on the pitch and maybe using a mentor to receive quality feedback. However, what could be a problem for many coaches is if they go to these courses and read books without a clear frame of reference for the what that is their why, namely coaching football. Personal development as a coach means that you want to execute better coaching actions and improve your way of coaching football.

Imagine that you’re moving into a big house that has a beautiful bathroom with a huge jacuzzi. When moving in you go over the house to fix some small stuff and you realize you have to clean your jacuzzi before using it. But how does one clean a jacuzzi and how does it actually work? Since you want to avoid a flooded bathroom and expensive water damage, you start by finding the manual or instruction booklet for the jacuzzi before unplugging drains and hoses and risking chaos. You first learn about the mechanics of the jacuzzi and thereafter you learn about how it works in general and the specifics of cleaning in the context of the jacuzzi. This way you make sure you don’t flood the bathroom in your new house or break your jacuzzi. For other things around the house the procedure is the same; first you learn about what it is, then how it works and only thereafter you start tampering with it. You are creating a frame of reference before you start to learn about how it works and only after this you start focusing on how you are going to change it.

Using our metaphor with the jacuzzi, what you see coaches who are looking for personal development doing, is running into the bathroom without knowing what to do and unplugging the hose from the jacuzzi and flooding the bathroom. Instead of learning about the jacuzzi and how it works first, they start by unplugging the hoses and the result is chaos in the bathroom. Your personal development is about you executing better coaching actions and improving how you are coaching. Therefore it could be a good idea to first establish a frame of reference for the what, in this case the sport, namely football. That means learning about the game from objective facts and philosophical principles instead of subjective opinions and someone else’s application of coaching.

The style of your coaching is determined by the leadership style that you use when interacting with your players. Maybe you are telling your players what to do in which case you are coaching like a commander. Or, you are focusing at maintaining the current level of the players so you take a step back and coach like a manager. However, if you take the game as the starting point the chance is that you are guiding the players and helping them develop their decision making when you coach like a teacher. In your personal development you want to keep improving these different leadership styles while also learning to master them all and not only the one. Depending on your external factors you might need to use all three leadership styles in your coaching which is why you should also practice switching between them.

Regardless of what in your personal development process you are focusing on, the reference with it’s philosophical principles or the application of these principles, you probably want to maximize your learning effect. Think back to when you attended a coaching course the last time and check with yourself if you remember the different topics that were discussed. And what was that thing you said you learned from that amazing book you read last year? Do you remember that situation after training last month when you said to yourself that you had to learn and not make the same mistake again? If you don’t remember, how do you know that you’ve learned and improved as a coach?

Personal development means finding your own way of improving as a coach and there are different ways to learn. However, your chance of retaining information and learning increases substantially if you write it down. Therefore a smart move could be to keep a journal and it’s something that can be done in many different ways, so you have to find a method that suits your personal development process. If you journal regularly that will give you the opportunity to revisit your learning situations which will increase the learning effect for you. Imagine that before you go to bed, right before you turn the lights out, you reflect upon the situations of the day and summarize objective and subjective learning points in your journal. What did you learn today that will improve the quality of your verbal and non-verbal communication? What have you learned today that will improve your decision making tomorrow? How did your staff and players respond to the execution of your coaching actions today?

When you reflect on these questions and write them down in a general summary or more specific learning points, you increase the chance for personal development. The added benefit of journalling is that you can revisit earlier situations and learning points to make sure that you’ve actually learned from them. Why not spend an hour or two every other month to go back and read through your journal, visualize the situations and what you learned instead of going to the pub. After the season it could be a good idea to go through your journal to reflect on the situations that has happened during the year and what you’ve actually learned from them. This way you can summarize the whole year and make sure that you will take the next step in your personal development.

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