Lessons from Coaching a New Team

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

By Tim Clarke
VFL & Development Coach - Richmond FC

Five lessons from Coaching a New Team in the VFL
1. The Environment

Creating a healthy and safe sporting environment is critical to the success of professional and community sporting clubs. A positive environment helps build strong culture and attract players, staff, volunteers, sponsors and supporters to the organisation.

One of the main focuses when setting up the Richmond standalone VFL side was looking at what environment we wanted to create for all staff and players involved in the program. We came up with our objective and made this, and their role within the team, clear for all staff and players.

When your program is attached to an AFL club the focus is always on development and providing the best platform for players on the AFL list to develop and prepare for senior AFL football, but you canít loose sight of the fact that it is still a team and people involved want to be a part of something great, something successful.

What do you want to your team to look like at training?
What do you want your team to look like when they play?
When someone visits your club or meets the staff what is their fist impression?
What does your club look like?
What does your club smell like?
What does your club sound like?

All are very important questions when looking to set up the best possible environment for you and your sporting club.

2. The People

In most books you read and in interviews with successful people they mention how important it is to get the right people into your club/organisation and get those people in the right positions to have an impact.

In reflecting on season 2014, it was clear that the people involved are critically important to the successful implementation of the environment mentioned above and making sure everyone is on the same page with what you want this to look like. It is also important to how your team functions and performs at training and match day.

As a coach have you given clear expectations to key staff and players as to what your expectations are? You donít need to manage all the staff and players involved but it is important they are clear on what you expect of them.

What is your expectation of the property team?
What is your expectation of your football manager?
What is your expectation of your captain? Off-field? On- field?
What is your expectation of the head trainer and their team?
Do your assistant coaches know how you want to coach? What you expect of them at training and during games?

3. Clarity Around the Fundamentals of How You Want to Play

ďIf you donít stand for something you will fall for anythingĒ

When you are coaching young players the fundamentals are very important. The players need to know your teamís style and the key fundamentals that make your team unique.

For the Richmond VFL side this is simple; teach the players the Richmond way.

Very easy to say and speak about, but the players need to really understand what this looks like and feels like because once the players are clear, they then can drive the behaviours and it becomes very powerful.

Player and coach involvement in coming up with these fundamentals and making subtle changes to suit your group are also important and something to consider as you and your team evolve.

Some questions to get you thinking in this area:

What are your offensive fundamentals?
What are your contested situation fundamentals?
What are your defensive fundamentals?
What are your training fundamentals?

4. Player and Coach Buy In

Once you are clear on the way you want your team to play and the fundamentals you are holding your team accountable for, you need to get coach and player buy in. 

Coach and player buy in starts with the leaders or players and staff at the club with the most influence over the program. They need to be educated on exactly what the key messages are and again what this looks like and feels like. Having a system that is driven by all is critical to the success on field and makes coaching the group easier and more rewarding.

The best way to get player and staff buy in is building relationships, spending time having conversations that build trust, and making sure you are honest with feedback and direction.

When thinking about your coaching priorities where does building relationships and trust fit in?

5. Making Sure What you Want is Getting Done

When times are tough whether it be during a season, during a game, or in a conversation, it is critical that the most important action needed at the time is executed as well as you can do it. 

Once the event has passed you can review it to see if your action was the best one for that time or how you could have done it better, but you need to make sure what you wanted to get done was done. The review process is irrelevant and the plans you have in place are not worth the paper they are written on if the message was not delivered or followed.

Often in coaching we look to make changes before we acknowledge that what we wanted to happen is indeed happening. For example, if your plan when a team gets a run on is to put an extra player behind the ball and during a game you are faced with this situation; make sure what you want to happen is happening.

Is the extra player behind the ball?
Is it the player you want to do the job?
Have the other team allowed this to happen?

There are many lessons to learn when coaching a team and the five listed above are only a few. The beauty of coaching is that you never stop learning and your playing list and football club will never stop surprising you.

Tim Clarke is VFL and Development Coach at Richmond Football Club. This article was written as part of the requirement for AFL High Performance Coach accreditation.

John Loughman, 05-11-14 17:31:
Found this interesting, and would enjoy learning more

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