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Supporting Junior Coaches

The role of a junior coach is often taken up by the parent of a player in the team and while some have a background in the game and a solid understanding of the role, many say ‘yes’ to the role because there is no-one else.  Either way, the role is always much greater than they anticipate and at some stage through their journey, they will be looking for direction, guidance and support across a myriad of situations.

The question is…..What support does the club provide once the coach is appointed to the role?

In a junior football club, there are so many roles to fill and so few doing them that the focus quickly turns the tasks associated with running the club and the coaches are often left to their own devices; only to receive support when there is a problem/concern raised.  The reality is that the majority of ‘problems/concerns’ could have been avoided if there was a Club “Coach Development Program” in place.

In recent years, clubs have appointed a ‘Coaching Coordinator’ who has usually had previous experience in the role and/or the game and can offer the appropriate direction, guidance and support to the coaches as required however, I recently presented at an AFL Victoria Club Coaching Coordinator Forum and the majority in attendance said the role was too big and they actually spent limited time with their coaches at training or on game day – which is where they can provide the most value.  Again, if the club has a “Coach Development Program” in place, coaches would have a strong foundation and sound resources to go back to and they would often find the answers too many of the little questions they have.

What is a Coach Development Program?

A “Coach Development Program” generally outlines the clubs coaching philosophy, guiding principles and coaching requirements such as what the role is, communication expectations, a high level understanding on how to plan for your season, what they can do to become a better coach, along with some general information on ‘teaching’. Often coaching competencies or a skills matrix is also provided for each age group.

Why have a Coach Development Program

The “Coach Development Program” is implemented to provide all potential coaches with an understanding of the requirements of the role and what the club expects, should they be appointed to the role of any particular age group.  It can also provide each applicant with an understanding of the clubs expectations around topics such as Code of Conduct, Coaching Curriculum, Behavior, Accreditation requirements, beliefs on teaching V’s winning, League compliance, administration requirements, evaluation processes, monthly coaches meetings, ongoing professional development, succession planning, family nights and appointments of assistants and helpers, etc.

The advantages of a Coach Development Program

There are so many advantages and some of these include:

  • A solid and detailed “Coaching Development Program” will instill confidence in both club and coach should there be any challenges throughout the season; essentially, if it is followed and regularly reinforced, it becomes part of the clubs culture and values and, individuals will either embrace it or move on.  Either way, the kids will see the benefit which is why we all get involved in the first place.
  • For any potential NEW coaches, they are more likely to apply if they know the support and a strong coaching framework is available (at club level we all know how hard it is to get coaches).
  • A “Coach Development Program” will also encourage succession planning.  Assistant coaches and interested parents will see the benefit of the program and the support they will receive should they apply for the head coaching role.
  • Throughout the interview process, the club can use the basis of the “Coach Development Program” to help identify which coaches would best suit which teams.
  • It provides all coaches with the opportunity to go into the role with their eyes wide open.
  • A Coach Development Program will encourage a culture of ‘Development & Improvement’ – ‘Winning’ becomes a distance second.
  • It can galvanize the club coaches across all age groups; encouraging them to share experience and provide peer support knowing they are all operating under the same structure
  • Once embedded, your club will become a ‘club of choice’ – the coaches will benefit and in turn, so will the kids.  Parents see this and want their kids to be part of it!
  • The list goes on……

Implementing a Coach Development Program

I have worked with clubs that have strong coaching programs in place for their coaches, I have worked with clubs that don’t and I have assisted clubs to implement their Coach Development Program.

Whilst all clubs have their own beliefs as to what they would like to include, in my experience, there are a number of things that are a MUST when you embark on the process:

  1.  The club must be clear on what they want the coaching philosophy to be and they must share the message consistently and regularly
  2. The club must have buy-in and engagement from the coaching group; ensuring them the program is to support them, not control them
  3. All parties must understand that embedding the “Coach Development Program” is a journey and can’t be done in one season – they must live by it and make decisions based on it, year after year
  4. Regular Professional Development opportunities must be offered to the coaching group – this will add value to the “Coach Development Program”
  5. You must continually look at ways to enhance and evolve you “Coach Development Program”

Making the decision to develop a “Coach Development Program” is the easy part – implementing and embedding it into your club culture is where the hard work begins.

One thing is for certain; the clubs that offer a “Coach Development Program” have seen the benefits and would never have it any other way.

Craig Winter
Director – The Modern Game