Encouraging creativity in coaching

by frank-stuart

Coaching is often about finding balance between competing principles. You try to make your team stick to a structure, but you also want to encourage flair. You’re implementing a set game plan that you’ve practiced for weeks, but you also need to think on your feet. You’ve followed all the tried and tested training programs to get your athlete in top condition, but you need to find something extra to defeat the competition. Some coaches believe in adherence to rigid structures, while others believe in the value of creativity. What we are seeing more and more is the need for coaches to take more of a creative approach to their craft in order to give their athletes that winning edge.

In today’s world, it’s far more difficult to keep information classified. A team’s game plan, training methods and fitness regimes can be leaked to millions of people with the click of a button. Thanks to modern technology, it’s very easy to access information about how elite athletes train, and with the amount of money in sport, clubs have the resources to employ scouts to investigate rival clubs’ training techniques.

Swimming – a case study

Another trend in modern sport is the rise of former minnow nations that are now matching it with traditional powerhouses. This was evident in the swimming events at the London Olympics. Australia performed below expectations, and it was clear that it no longer had a duopoly over the sport with the US. The sport was far more open, with medals being spread across more nations than ever before. This is because these other nations had training and development programs to rival Australia’s.

This point is that Swimming Australia needs to be more innovative and creative in its approach to training. At the London Olympics, US swimmer Dana Vollmer broke the world record in the 100m butterfly race, after winning Olympic gold eight years prior, and missing the 2008 games through injury. Vollmer did some training under movement specialist Milton Nelms, who is considered eccentric in his approach to training. But his innovative, unconventional training methods, and commitment to exploring untapped potential, helped Vollmer defy the odds to claim three gold medals at the 2012 Olympics.

Thinking outside the box

In the endless search to find that tiny advantage, creative coaches will look outside the box for inspiration. This has led coaches to look at other sports for ideas. For example, some Aussie Rules coaches have studied the possession-focused game of soccer, and have brought these ideas to their own teams. Other sports can be a great resource for innovative coaches.

Looking beyond sport

What can sports coaches learn from other industries? For those open to new ideas, they can learn a lot. Leadership coach Ray McLean completely reformed St Kilda’s approach to leadership, using business management principles as a guide. He implemented feedback mechanisms that are often seen in the corporate environment, in order to create a more disciplined and professional team, committed to performing to their full potential. The Saints went from a struggling club to a grand finalist in two years. This is a prime example of looking at non-sporting practices for inspiration.

If you’re interested in becoming a coach, the ACPE offers various coaching courses to kick-start your career as a sports coach.

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