NZ Coach links: February 2017

27 February 2017

The NZ Coach newsletter for February 2017


English author Samuel Johnson said ‘People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.’ And who am I to argue with the man who wrote A Dictionary of the English Language (1755). One of the core principles of the NZ Coaching Strategy is continuous learning, and the first ‘article’ this issue (an 11-minute video) speaks directly to this principle. Eduardo Briceno talks about two zones – the learning zone and the performance zone – and he does a nice job of reminding us that if we want to perform better at anything we do, we need to devote a certain amount of our time to learning how to do it better. As coaches, we understand that this is the world athletes and participants live in – practice and play, practice, and play, with practice being the learning zone. For coaches, the learning zone can be a little harder to figure out. Briceno provides a few examples of how coaches can do this (these won’t be new to you; collaboration is one) but he does so in the context of the four conditions needed for learning: (1) We need to believe we can perform better, (2) We must want to perform better (have a purpose for the learning), (3) We must understand how we can perform better, and (4) We need to create ‘low stakes’ environments where it’s safe to make mistakes (i.e. try new things to learn from). I don’t know who first said ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ but don’t believe it. Dogs, like people, will keep learning under the right conditions. The challenge for us as coaches is to create those conditions for ourselves.

Brett Reid, Community Coaching Consultant, Sport NZ

How to get better at things you care about
Work, parenting, creative hobbies: We all want to continuously improve, to get better at the things we care about doing. In this talk, educator Eduardo Briceño reveals a simple way to structure your time so you can always keep learning. (TED Talk)

Brett Geeves: How Cricket Tasmania ruined potential master coach Dan Marsh
DAN Marsh was the best captain I had. He wasn’t your clichéd footy style leader who yelled loud words and demanded that you yell loud words back in agreement, and nor was he the type of leader that would seek your approval; he had a smoother softer style. (Foxsport)

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets Which Shape Our Lives
How to fine-tune the internal monologue that scores every aspect of our lives, from leadership to love. (Brainpickings)

Year of the Quarterback – The Brady 6 (Video)
“They didn’t understand what drives somebody” (ESPN)

Balance Is Better: Erikana Pedersen
If 22-year-old Tactix midcourter Erikana Pedersen could say one thing to up-and-coming athletes and sportspeople it would be “look after your body. And if that means saying no, say it.” (Sport NZ)

The Neuroscience of Trust
Companies are twisting themselves into knots to empower and challenge their employees. They’re anxious about the sad state of engagement, and rightly so, given the value they’re losing. (Harvard Business Review)]

Professor Coach PhD? Getting your Coaching B.A.S.E. right.
By Wayne Goldsmith

“Anyone who’s spent 20 years on deck, working with swimmers every day, figuring out how to help them get the best out of themselves and giving everything they’ve got to being the best coach they can be, has earnt a PhD in coaching and then some.” (Australian Swimming Coach)
Every coach – from the first lesson on the first day of their coach education journey – is encouraged to at least try to integrate a little sports science into their coaching program.
It could be something as simple as understanding how an athlete’s heart rate increases when they start training (physiology).
It could be learning how to develop and correct technique using video and video analysis technologies on your i-pad (basic biomechanics and performance analysis).
It could be encouraging athletes to drink fresh, clean water regularly throughout their training sessions (nutrition).
Or it could be learning how to actively listen to an athlete and trying to understand their personal motivation and drive to train and compete (psychology).
The intention of coach educators and coach developers is not to try and turn all coaches into “Performance Professors”.
There is no expectation that every coach will develop PhD level expertise in any one or all the sports sciences.
There’s no need for a coach to spend years and years at university to earn the right to list 100 letters after their name.
Sports science is a tool – and it’s only one tool – that the coach has to help the athletes in their program improve.
And like all other tools – it is a tool best wielded by an “artist”: someone who understands how, when and why to use the tool to create something special.
Sports coaching is – at its finest – the integration – the balance - of art and science, i.e. the blending of the art of coaching and the science of sport.
Herein lies one of the great challenges for all coaches.

How do you as a coach – balance the art and the science in your program?
Over the past 25 years, I have worked with three fundamentally different types of sports coaches:

  1. Those who do it by “feel” – by instinct – by personality and by their capacity to work with and connect with other human beings – the ARTISTS.
  2. Those with strong sports science backgrounds – who understand the subtleties of heart rates, sports techniques and performance technologies etc. – the SCIENTISTS.
  3. Those who understand how to balance the art of coaching with the science of sport – the B.A.S.E. coaches (BALANCE of ART and SCIENCE for EXCELLENCE).

Think of the best coaches you’ve known. Maybe you’ve worked with them in the field, on the court, on the track or around the pool.
Or perhaps you’ve read about them. Or listened to them talk at conferences or conventions. Or maybe they coached you.
Were they artists?
Were they scientists?
Were they B.A.S.E. coaches?

There’s no doubt that some of the greatest coaches we’ve seen over the past 50 years have been ostensibly more artist than scientist, i.e. they seem to be achieving success through plain old hard work, discipline, commitment, and passion with little or no sports science evident in their programs.
There are many coaches who’ve seemingly produced outstanding results through nothing more than their own personal drive and ambition – and through their relentless pursuit of excellence through a dogged determination to work harder – more often than anyone else is prepared to.
However, the best of these “artists” have also been smart enough to know when and where it’s the right time to be an artist and when and where it’s the right time to be a scientist. And where they’ve lacked the knowledge, skills, and expertise in sports science that they’ve needed to achieve success, they’ve been smart enough to recruit people who do.
Recent inductee into the International Swimming Coaches Hall of Fame Coach Bill Sweetenham is a classic example of this. 
Bill was born and raised in one of toughest mining towns in outback Australia and his nature was to work hard, to never give up, to be uncompromising in the standards he expected of himself and his swimmers and to be more committed to winning than any of his competitors. 
Yet, Bill was – and still is – one of the smartest coaches in world swimming because he realised that to realise the level of success he desired, his “art” needed to embrace cutting edge swimming science, i.e. his art – by itself – was not going to be enough.
Coach Sweetenham has become one of the greatest “students” of the sport of swimming. A voracious reader, a tenacious learner, and a relentless student he has pursued a lifelong commitment to mastering his art and understanding how he can best integrate sports science into his programs and philosophies. Coach Sweetenham is a genuine B.A.S.E. coach.

The danger for coaches entering the industry for the first time is to rely too heavily on sports science and to look to the sciences to solve every performance problem they face.
For example, it is common for inexperienced coaches to spend hours writing overly complicated workouts and to prescribe precisely detailed training sets and sessions based on complex physiology, training zones and heart rates.
Yet, a more experienced coach doesn’t finalise their workout strategy until they observe the athletes as they arrive at training, have engaged with them before and during warm up and spent a little time just watching how the athletes move, how they communicate and how they “feel”.
The science of sport is best delivered through the heart and mind of a coach – an artist – who understand the specific needs of their athletes at every training session – every day.
Last year I had the great honour and privilege of spending a week with legendary U.S. Swimming Coach Eddie Reese in Austin Texas – in the home of the mighty Texas ‘Longhorns. 
Coach Reese and I spent countless hours discussing workouts, coaching strategies, speed development philosophies, the future of the sport and 100 other topics. His knowledge and understanding of his “craft” is second to none. 
But what was most impressive was his connection with his team. 
Coach Reese is – an observer of humans. Whilst his understanding of the science of swimming was impressive – his understanding of his swimmers and his ability to “read” the needs of each individual in his team was extraordinary. 
Whilst his actual programming, training sets and workout sessions are highly advanced, scientifically sound, and meticulously planned, the success of his program depends very much on his relationship with his athletes – his belief in them and, more importantly, their belief in him.
It is his ability as an artist that drives the science of his program.
I asked one of the team, “What’s so special about Eddie?” 
His reply – and I suspect I could have gotten the same reply from any member of the team – “We love the guy”. 
Coach Reese a B.A.S.E. coach? Absolutely.

So the question for every young coach is this – how do I become a B.A.S.E. coach? 
How do I develop that balance of art and science that is inherent in coaching success at the highest level?
1. First – understand yourself. Why are you coaching? What’s your motivation for coaching? What is it that’s driving you to coach? What is your personal philosophy on coaching? What is it you’re trying to achieve?
2. Second – understand your craft. Listen to and observe more experienced coaches. Talk to sports scientists. Read everything you can about technique, skills, athlete development, competition strategies and of course…sports science. Become a student of your sport.
3. Become a “how and a why” thinker. Once you’ve gained a fundamental understanding of the “whats” of coaching and sports science, deliberately evolve your thinking to ask how and why you do what you do.
4. Never stop learning. Just as you expect your athletes to learn something new every day and to get a little better every time they train or compete, develop a learning mindset where you are as committed to continuous improvement as your athletes are.
5. Reflect on your coaching daily:
a.            Did I coach at my best today?
b.            Did my coaching make a difference today?
c.            What did I learn today that will make me a better coach tomorrow?
5. Make People a Priority. Become a master of communication. Learn how to engage with people. Spend time understanding how to connect more effectively with others.
Wayne Goldsmith /
Wayne Goldsmith now offers a unique coach training, education and development opportunity for all NZ Coaches through his Coaching Club program. 

Check out for more details.