Coaching the whole system to deliver success

A few years back at the end of a session coaching young athletes the long jump I was approached by a parent looking less than impressed. Uh oh I thought, what’s happened here. The parent proceeded to point out that I had it all wrong. Long jump means running down the runway and jumping into a pit of sand before getting the distance measured. Having the whole group of the kids taking two steps and jumping into the pit from the side wasn’t what he was paying for.

Never mind that these were under 11 kids with a wide range of skills. Never mind that by jumping one at a time down the runway they might get 3 or 4 attempts (and didn’t have the skill to control their take off at speed) whereas jumping in from the side together they could get 20 jumps, spot their take point and practice using left and right legs to improve their skills (ask Jess Ennis about the value of being able to use either foot for take off) .

Why would the parent in question know why I was doing what I was doing if I hadn’t explained it to them? After all, their perception was entirely correct given their experience of doing long jump at school and watching it in competition. This was a bit of a wake up call for me to think more systemically about the impact of my coaching and who needed to be included in the process.

Some of the biggest stakeholders in an athlete’s development are the parents, and for older athletes, their partner. Helping them understand why you are doing what you are doing as a coach and how the parent/partner can best support the athlete’s development is time well spent. 

We are coaching more than just the athlete, we are coaching an entire system to deliver success.