Why Do You Coach?

Friday, May 27, 2016

by Patrick Litherland, Claremont Football Club

In 2000 I made the decision to retire from playing football. Although I didnít want to play anymore, I did want to stay involved in some way. During the 2001 season I contacted a club my family and I had supported since the 1950ís. I was fortunate enough to form part of the support staff assisting the players and team on training nights and game days. 

At the end of 2005 I knew that I wanted to do more. I was seeing and hearing things I liked however I was also seeing and hearing things I wasnít feeling the same on or wanted to express in my own way. I knew what the next step was and put my hand up to become a coach for the 2006 season.

During the first couple of years I was having a very positive impact. There was a sense of that human connection between player and coach that I was looking for. The players were transitioning fast from boys to men and I was helping guide them in whichever direction their futures were taking them.

I thought this coaching caper was going OK. It was going so well that I decided to coach two teams. I didnít want to leave the club I was already coaching at and thought I could easily manage two teams. I just wanted to coach and with that impact on as many players and people as I could. I knew I could also manage my job as well as training Mondays to Fridays with games on Saturdays and Sundays.

I was enjoying the training nights, the games and most of what was involved in being a coach. However, as one season went on after another, I started asking myself some questions. There was something not quite right about being a coach, what was it? What was I doing right or wrong? Was coaching what I really wanted to do? Was my work/life balance where it should have been?  

It is difficult to put into words, other than to say that one day had simply run into the next. What had worked one year wasnít working as well the next. Some of that human connection between player and coach wasnít quite there. People expected me to be someone I wasnít and was never going to be. As hard as I tried for it not to, the odd personal issue, which everyone has, was having an impact on my coaching. I had not made sure I found time and confidence to discuss it as the players and coaches have always been encouraged to do.  

Over time I started to find the answers to the questions I had been asking myself. I had forgotten why I was coaching in the first place. It was not about the numbers of players or the wins and losses or even having the title of coach. It was about wanting to have a guiding impact, an influence on the player as well as the individual. To show them the teaching, empathy, strength and belief in what they are doing and communicating. To listen to them, including during the tough times when all types of emotions take over.

Seeking ongoing coaching education has impacted my development very positively, especially over the past three to four seasons. From attending or being part of accreditation courses, to listening to the experiences from those who have played and coached no matter how many games or what level. Watching our game, looking at articles and videos via the AFL website and its clubs, along with additional material out there covering different subjects and sports has allowed me to build a philosophy, my philosophy on why I coach today and tomorrow.  

But above all, what I have learned most during my coaching life so far, through all the types of feedback along the way including the trusted support of a mentor, is that a coach should be her or himself. Be guided and inspired by those around you, but be yourself. Coach because you want to, not because you have to.

There are many ups and downs in life. Being a coach is no different. 2016 is bringing new goals and challenges for coaches to attack head on. It could be a new club and with it understanding new players and coaches. It will be staying ahead of the opposition and continuing to develop the players and coaching teams in a way which will bring more energy, friendship, fun and real success to our great game.

This is why I coach.

Why do you coach?

Patrick Litherland is Senior Assistant Coach, Claremont Football Club and an AFL accredited High Performance Coach.

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