Perceived shortcomings as a coach: an opportunity or threat?

As a strength and conditioning coach, it is important to have met threshold industry standards as a basic requirement to become accredited with the UK strength and conditioning association. The accreditation should be viewed as the minimum standard of competency to enter the profession as a fully licensed and insured coach. Following accreditation, it is the responsibility of the individual practitioner to continue to develop their coaching skills.

As an accredited coach, I have a lot of practical coaching experience and have made a lot of mistakes from which I have learnt from and developed my coaching skills. It is important to realise that we all naturally have a range of strengths and weaknesses and it is important to recognise these to be able to identify opportunities to improve as a coach. An example from my development was my lack of time spent training with medicine balls to improve ballistic power and rate of force development in the upper body. I identified this as a weakness in my coaching and took an opportunity to learn from the Great Britain lead throws coach and accredited strength and conditioning coach at Loughborough University. This few hours spent with a leading professional was worth every penny and every minute I spent getting to and from the venue. The opportunity taught me a range of very practical coaching skills related to medicine ball work and facilitated the development of my medicine ball coaching.

Therefore, identifying my weaknesses as a coach revealed an opportunity for development. However, it can be tough and embarrassing to acknowledge personal short comings. Consequently, it is important to reframe mistakes made as an opportunity for professional development, rather than questioning your ability as a coach. A useful process for reframing mistakes as opportunities is reflective practice. Through the process of writing and/or conversing honestly with a trusted mentor, friend or colleague it is possible to analyse experience in an unbiased manner. Writing provides emotional distance and by using language as the process of exploring experience analytically we can begin to make sense of problems encountered. Thus, reflection can facilitate problem solving and help us perceive mistakes as opportunities rather than threats to our professional status, self­-esteem and self-perception. Reflection can also enable practitioners to make sense of positive experiences to understand the cause of the experience and subsequently make attempts to replicate these positive experiences. Because reflective writing helps us to view and understand experience from a less biased and objective point of view, this enables the practitioner to ‘view things as they are’ and not get carried away by positive or negative feelings.

Summary

Mistakes are inevitable and as such it is important to consider ways that practitioners can objectify their perceptions and reduce bias in their perceptions. Reflective practice facilitates emotional distance and uses language to explain and understand both positive and negative experiences. By rationalising experiences, we can begin to identify solutions to problems and understand how to replicate positive experiences.