3.3.1 Coaching development plan
Development of skills does not happen by accident, and the coach should have a “Professional Development Plan”. A coach should do this whether or not they are pursuing a “career” as a coach – “professional” relates equally to how they approach their coaching as it does to whether or not they are paid to coach.
Developing a Plan
- evaluate their strengths as well identifying areas to improve – across all aspects of the coach’s role. Seeking feedback from assistant coaches, players and coaching colleagues can inform this evaluation;
- identify experiences that may help them develop their coaching skills. This may include something from another aspect of their life (e.g. being involved with preparing plans at work can also help the coach to prepare plans for their teams);
- read the stories of other coaches and leaders and consider the experiences that shaped those people’s life and success. This is not done so that they can “copy” something another successful coach did or the journey another coach had. Instead it is to help them think laterally about their experiences, which no doubt are already shaping them, and to reflect upon what experiences could assist them in the future.
Like the annual plan for their team, the coach should start with an assessment of themselves – what competences do they have and what do they need to improve? The following areas should be included in this assessment:
- Technical knowledge – how up to date is the coach’s knowledge (relative to the level they are coaching)
- Financial – basic budget skills
- Planning – setting goals, achieving goals and reviewing goals
- Relationship building – how well does the coach get people “on board”
- Managing conflict
- Making hard decisions
- Managing stress and relaxing – does the coach “pass on” their stress to players
The coach should then prioritise any areas that they have identified as needing improvement and most coaches will quickly identify a range of areas for improvement and also experiences that may be beneficial.
However, few coaches have the resources to be able to do everything that they identify and the coach’s most limited resource is often time. To help a coach to prioritize actions they should utilize a method such as the “ABC” model of allocating priorities:
Addresses a weakness that is affecting my current coaching
Before I can get my next position I need to improve in this area
Continuous improvement makes me a better coach
The final column indicates how much of a coach’s resources (which includes time) should immediately be devoted to that priority. Importantly, the coach should not devote all their resources only to Priority A. Doing this would invariably mean that priorities B and C never get any attention.
The national federation or regional body may have resources that the coach can use to help in their development. The World Association of Basketball Coaches regularly runs coaching clinics throughout the world and federations often have coaching courses or clinics. Further information is available through the WABC Coaches Education Platform.
However, the coach should not limit themselves to looking within basketball; other sports or community groups may have courses that may be of benefit to an aspiring basketball coach. There may be formal courses of study that the coach can take that will assist their coaching (not limited to specific Sports Coaching courses) but there will equally be a wide range of activities that may be of benefit.
It can also be useful for the coach to develop an understanding of basketball from the perspective of officials or administrators. Undertaking a referee’s course and officiating some games may help a coach understand how hard an official’s job is and appreciate the different responsibilities the referee and the umpire have in a game of basketball, or the mechanics of officiating, which dictates position on court and areas of responsibility for each official. 11
Similarly, helping administrators to conduct a tournament or helping to manage a team may give the coach an understanding of the difficulties
that administrators (whether volunteers or paid) face.
This may further help the coach to understand how they can make the role of an administrator easier to perform, which in turn will help them to build a rapport with those administrators.
At all levels of coaching, having a good relationship with administrators (and team managers) will help the coach greatly!
Being an Assistant Coach
One of the most overlooked strategies for developing coaching skills is to be an assistant to an experienced coach, particular if the coach seems to have a different coaching style. Working with another coach can help to improve technical knowledge of the game, however it can also be instructive to see how different coaches deal with (and avoid) conflict, build relationships with players and administrators and carry out the wide range of tasks required of a coach.
The role of an assistant coach is ultimately to help to improve the team’s performance beyond what it would be if the assistant wasn’t there. This might be players receiving more feedback during practice because there are more coaches “on the floor” or it may be that an upcoming opponent is able to be “scouted” because the assistant can do that while the head coach does another task.
An assistant coach should provide comments, suggestions and ideas to the head coach and must not be discouraged if the head coach decides not to follow a particular one (or even any) of the assistant’s suggestions.
This does not mean it wasn’t a good suggestion or that it wasn’t appreciated by the head coach, it simply means that the head coach has made a different decision.
Assistant coaches must be loyal to the head coach and ensure that they are providing feedback and messages that are consistent with those of the head coach. Even if the assistant coach has a different view to the head coach, once the decision is made the assistant coach must become an advocate for the head coach’s decision.
If the assistant coach is unsure of what the head coach wants, it is appropriate to answer a question from a player by saying “I don’t know, but I’ll speak to the head coach and come back to you”.
To be an effective assistant, a coach must learn when and how the head coach wants to receive feedback from them. The easiest way to learn this
is to ask – some head coaches may want the assistant to pass on ideas or suggestions whenever they think of something, whilst other head coaches may prefer the assistant coach to wait until they are asked for an opinion.
Neither approach is wrong, but it is obviously important for the assistant coach to understand what preference the head coach has!
It may also help a coach to identify areas for their own improvement by getting involved in presenting coaching clinics or courses. After all, “in order to be a teacher, you’ve got to be a student first”.16
Conducting a coaching clinic is different to instructing players because the focus of the coaching clinic is how to teach a concept, not how to perform the concept. This is a subtle difference, but conducting a coaching clinic really requires a coach to:
- Present information in a logical order, which may be different than what would be done in a training session. For example, with players a coach may teach a concept over a number of weeks – each week building progressively on the previous week. In the clinic, the coach must present the entirety of the information in a very short space of time.
- Teach without the benefit of being able to give the student an end objective (e.g. shoot the ball with a high arc) and let them explore how to best do it.
- Give fuller explanations than they may give to athletes. With athletes the coach may simply direct what, but in a coaching clinic they must also be able to explain why.