Free Play Versus Coach Led Training

free play versus coach led trainingDave Wright, editor of the Player Development Project, posted an interview with Dane Coles from the New Zealand rugby team the All Blacks.

The two discuss his player development journey, focusing on the  benefits of free play versus coach led training and the role of the coach and teammates in development.

How much of your development as a young player was coach led versus free play?

I was quite lucky really, my old man coached a fair bit and we had another good coach called Ray Hayward. There were elements of coaching, but they kept things pretty basic. Looking back, I think playing with so many of my good mates probably had a bigger influence on me than the coaches. It was mainly about going out and enjoying yourselves and playing with your friends, but my Dad and Ray were a pretty good coaching team. In my last year of school we managed to win division three and they guided us along the way; we had a fantastic team culture.

I’ve written about this topic a few times, but I think it bears repeating.  Many successful athletes extol the importance of free play versus coach led training early in their development. Free play encourages love of the game, improves creativity and problem solving, and develops skills that will be valuable off the field as well.

Continue reading “Free Play Versus Coach Led Training”

Vacation’s Over, Catching Up on Reading

vacation's overVacation’s over. I’ve been on vacation for the past week which means I’ve been reading and watching quite a bit, but not writing, blogging or tweeting. I know I’ve missed some interesting stuff, but I’ve also had a chance to read some books and catch up on articles and magazines I’ve been putting aside.

Back to work I go.

Coaching Book :

In honor of March Madness I read John Feinstein’s book The Legend’s Club

In the past, I have read and enjoyed other Feinstein books including A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled

Continue reading “Vacation’s Over, Catching Up on Reading”

Sunday Links: “Let Me Convince You To Save More Money”

Time to spring forward today with our Sunday Links. I’m including some links on investing and the need to save more money, as well as my traditional coaching links.  Not everybody enjoys these topics, but a little time, energy and focus early can save a lot of time and worry later when it comes to financial independence.

Save More Money

But first the coaching links, beginning with a New Yorker article whose idea I return to often…

Does a Coach Need a Coach?

*Personal Best: Top Athletes and Singers Have Coaches, Should You? (New Yorker)

The concept of a coach is slippery. Coaches are not teachers, but they teach. They’re not your boss—in professional tennis, golf, and skating, the athlete hires and fires the coach—but they can be bossy. They don’t even have to be good at the sport. The famous Olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi couldn’t do a split if his life depended on it. Mainly, they observe, they judge, and they guide.

Continue reading “Sunday Links: “Let Me Convince You To Save More Money””

Paint a Picture When Communicating With Your Staff

I have always been very clear that a coach needs to paint a picture when communicating with athletes. Don’t just say a word like hustle or a phrase like change your pace, but paint a picture of what that looks like. Use names. Add context on the field. Otherwise each athlete on your team will use his picture or her definition and you will lack the organization and cohesion that you are after.

paint a picture when communicatingToday I read a blog post that reminded me we each should be as attentive to language with staff.

Marcus Walfridsen writing at his own website has a nice reminder up.

Now, imagine that you are part of a coaching staff and your head coach talk to you in general non-contextual terms, saying for example ”be sharp in your coaching today” in the staff meeting before the training session. What does that mean? How will you be able to deliver a high-quality training session when you do not know what the head coach wants? This problem is only made worse by the difference in coach education between countries and the terminology that can differ even between coach educators in the same federation. The consequence is that when you have received your coaching license and arrive at the staff meeting you have the same amount of different interpretations of the same word as there are coaches in the room.

Of course we each “know” this, but have you been as diligent with staff as you are with your team?

Continue reading “Paint a Picture When Communicating With Your Staff”

Pete Carrill, Legendary Princeton Basketball Coach

The Smart Take From the Strong

Pete Carrill, legendary Princeton basketball coach, wrote one of my favorite coaching books.  The name of the book is The Smart Take from the Strong is a play on the quote “The strong take from the weak, but the smart take from the strong.”

When I was a young coach working at a very academic school, I read it multiple times. (The other book I read often during this time was My Life on a Napkin by Rick Majerus)

Pete Carrill, legendary princeton basketball coach Continue reading “Pete Carrill, Legendary Princeton Basketball Coach”

Sugar, Sugar, ah Honey, Honey

Sugar, sugar…ah honey, honey…did you know the song was first offered to the Archies (as in the comic strip) and not the Monkeys? I just learned that and that it reached number 1 on the charts.

sugar sugarAnyway, back to sugar. I’m trying to quit it and all its many forms and I’m finding it super hard even though I would not have identified myself as much of a dessert or sweet eater.

Why quit?

Continue reading “Sugar, Sugar, ah Honey, Honey”

Fitbit May Not Help You Lose Weight. So What?

There was a new study out recently that said wearable devices like the fitbit may not help you lose weight.

The results for “the idea trial” were released and showed that adults who were tracked for a year and a half lost more weight with diet changes alone than did those who also wore a fitbit. In addition, those with the fitbits were no more active, nor were they fitter than the others.

Yikes. That doesn’t sound good.

To this I say, who cares? I still love my fitbit. Why? Well probably cognitive dissonance to be honest.

But, I also think it may be a few other factors.

Continue reading “Fitbit May Not Help You Lose Weight. So What?”

Develop the Person, Develop the Player

"Educate the educators"

I recommend you read this editorial by Mark O’Sullivan in The Irish Times about the role the youth coach plays in developing both the person and the player.

The club has a part to play in the child’s broader education; the values, attitudes and behaviour that are cultivated through sport can be positive influences over the course of an entire life-time and if they like playing the game then that should be encouraged too. But it is vital to get the balance right and with this in mind we need to pay more attention to educating the educators.

The role of the youth coach is a more challenging concept than ever. They play a key role in developing and motivating the children they come into contact with. But there is an ever increasing obsession with identifying talent at an ever earlier stage, with many of the changes to children’s sport, however they might be presented in public, tied into these goals.

I’ve written about the tendency to try and identify the future professionals at too young an age and the need to let kids play more in our training sessions. I will continue to link to those who are offering compelling evidence and editorials on the topic.

Develop the person, develop the player.


develop the person, develop the player