Does Coaching From The Sidelines Help?
“Why does an article talking about coaching have a picture of a band as the featured image?” I hear you asking. Good question. The reason is that there are many areas in which the mental aspects of an excellent performance are the same across multiple activities. Whether it is sport, music, singing, acting, or any other activity where a performance is required, the components are the same – practice, rehearsal, choice of tools, team-building, discipline, and some form of coaching (this may be a coach, director, songwriter, or anyone else who directs the activity and pushes for improvement).
A while back I spoke about the difference between practicing and rehearsing, and I won’t rehash that here, but it is an important component of performance. In this article, as the title suggests, we are going to look at the purpose of coaching in rehearsal and performance. When I first started coaching I made so many errors it is amazing I was allowed to continue. I was focused on results because players and parents wanted to win, which was a huge error. I would play players in their strongest positions and try to eliminate weaknesses in the team by putting weaker players in positions less likely to harm the team from a results perspective. Of course, I was doing greater harm from a development perspective. I wish I knew then what I know now. One of the biggest problems is that I would be yelling across the field telling players what I wanted to see while play was going on, giving instruction on who should be where, and what they should be doing. Looking back, I was not a coach I would want to send my kids to be coached by. I was a distraction and prevented my players from making decisions or growing in a game environment.
A lightbulb went off one day, and I can give what I think is a great parallel as to why coaching from the sidelines is a bad idea. A while back I was able to go see The Kickback (pictured), one of my favourite bands. During the show someone shouted for them to play one of the new songs on their latest album. They responded by saying that the song wasn’t yet ready for a live performance, but thanked the person for supporting their new music. Why would a song they have played on an album not be ready for a live performance? Someone in the crowd could have listened to it a hundred times and learned it by now and told them the chords. It wasn’t ready because what happens in the canned environment of a studio or even in practice isn’t the same as what happens in a live performance. There are things that cannot be controlled in a performance and coaching from the sidelines tries to recreate a practice environment in a real performance. It can’t be done and we’ll look at this a bit more next time.
Here are the three takeaways for today:
1 – Performance psychology principles can be applied across disciplines and the role of a coach is critical in helping growth and development.
2 – Managing is not coaching. Managing to get results is often a short-term project putting the pieces in place. Coaching involves long-term goals and development.
3 – Coaching from the sidelines creates a distraction, and when growth could be happening we often see coaches taking away moments where players could learn and simply directing the play. Growth is stifled.
A coach should be judged on their long-term performance, not just results. Manchester United recently won the U18 title, but their U23 team was relegated. There are many U23 players on loan at other teams or even in the Manchester United first team. When the U18s are the best, and the U23s are developed and playing at higher levels, this is what success in coaching looks like.