Getting coaches to work together

Several attempts have been made over the years to establish a National Coaches Association. For all of the goodwill underpinning the efforts of those who took on the challenge the situation has remained the same. The coaching fraternity in St Vincent and the Grenadines as are divided today as they have ever been; a phenomenon that undermines their very claim to commitment to developing sport and the nation’s athletes in the different sporting disciplines.

There are several coaches in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the numbers continue to grow annually.
Opportunities for training have long since ceased being the undertaking of the individual in terms of cost. Instead the National Olympic Committee (NOC) offers countless coaching courses to national sports associations for developing coaches at the local level. The international federations (IF) for the respective sports increasingly offer their national affiliates the opportunity to host training courses for coaches.
The NOC offers advanced training opportunities to associations for coaches whom the later have identified as meeting the requirements. This too is an annual activity.
There is therefore no shortage of opportunities for Vincentian coaches and individuals desirous of becoming coaches advancing themselves and making a career path.
It is no secret that among the persons accessing the majority of the training offered to coaches are teachers and more recently, those who are assigned responsibility for physical education programmes in the various educational institutions.
Many of the same teachers have accessed coaching courses in several sports, officially equipping them to work with athletes whether in schools or clubs for the various competitions in which they engage themselves.
Hundreds of teachers have been trained in this way and hence the expectation is that we should be seeing significantly better results than is currently the case in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Importantly, if our understanding of coaching theory is correct, we should be seeing increased discipline among our students and youths involved in sports at the various levels. Coaches are supposed to focus on the holistic development of the individual. It is not about training them merely to compete on the playing field. Coaches are also responsible for the inculcation of values in their charges.
Certification vs education
The problem that exists is what happens after all of this training has been accessed.
At the core is the distinction that as to be made between education and certification.
Education addresses the capacity to receive information for learning and being able to apply it to different life situations in which one finds oneself.
Certification, on the other had addresses the fetish some people develop for garnering the pieces of paper that identify which programme of learning one has successfully passed.
It is common for some people, including unfortunately coaches, to garner as many certificates as possible. They fill their walls with them, allowing for chest-thumping about their achievements.
We have many coaches here who readily boast of having attended several coaching courses but who, if called upon, are incapable of conducting the most fundamental training programme or of discussing programmes of a developmental nature relative to any particular sport.
The reality is that certification only declares that the individual was successful in a course. It does not state whether the individual can apply what he/she was exposed to in that very course.
In the field of coaching this is very common.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines this may well explain why so many individuals who have attended and successfully completed one coaching course after another in different sports do not coach anybody. They are fearful of being exposed as not being competent in the field of coaching.
Some who do go out to coach have immense difficulty preparing programmes for their athletes and teams because they are not adequately equipped to do so.
One of the primary reasons we do not see many of our trained hundreds of coaches practising the sport is a direct result of their discomfort in respect of their capacity to deliver.
Admittedly, there are some coaches who have what it takes. They educated themselves sin attending courses and continue to develop themselves by dint of continuing education in the field of coaching. Such coaches, all to few in St Vincent and the Grenadines, vigorously follow new developments in their chosen sport and seek innovative ways of bring these to bear on their coaching strategies to reap greater success.
Working with athletes
For many years the NOC has lamented the fact that despite having facilitated the training of hundreds of Vincentians to become coaches in a range of sports there is little evidence that more than 5% are actually working in the field with athletes. National sports associations have the same complaint.
This reality explains the continued poor performances we get at the level of school sports and on the broader national stage.
On the one hand however we have some very committed coaches who are prepared to give all they have at their disposal to developing athletes. These constitute a mere handful and they usually literally have their hands full because of the interest they generate among the youths who gravitate to the sport. This is very good and highly commendable.
Unfortunately we have some coaches who seem to believe that because of their own popularity as coaches they should make the transition to administration even as they continue to coach. They fail to realise the dangers inherent in adopting such an approach. There is ample evidence of the damage done to sport globally where this has occurred. The roles and responsibilities require different education and training.
Unfortunately too, we have some coaches who, rather than empower the athlete – either deliberately or unwittingly – instil in their charges a dependency on themselves such that they come to believe that they can achieve nothing unless they are with this or that particular coach. These coaches even encourage parents into the same dependency mode.
There is too another phenomenon emerging. This is where coaches attach themselves to the leadership of institutions such that they create the same dependency syndrome with the institutions’ authorities as occurs with their athletes and themselves. There is a carrot and stick approach that is tantamount to pure, unadulterated blackmail of both the athletes and their parents.
Then there are the coaches who do not prepare the athletes as required. Their failure to take their responsibilities seriously leaves them without adequate preparation for the training of the athletes. There is no developmental strategy to take the athlete along the path to excellence.
The end result is that several of our coaches do more harm than good to the athletes in their charge. Later, as the athletes mature, they turn away from the sport and the coach, ruing the day they ever entered the sport. They literally turn their backs on the sport.
Working with each other
Unlike teachers who understand the serious responsibility they have for the education of the nation’s children, many of our coaches remain a very selfish lot. They do not like to work with each other. This is the reason for the perennial failure of the attempts at establishing a national coaches association.
Some of our coaches literally hide their work from others, fearful perhaps that their strategies would be adopted. Since they are in a competitive mode they take it to mean that they are in competition with each other. This often results in harm to many athletes since, in our case, some coaches are better at some events than others. It is the reason that international federations organise specialised courses for coaches addressing different aspects of their respective sports.
Too many of our coaches are still caught up in the one size fits all approach that does not work to the benefit of the athletes in their charge. Unfortunately the blinkers prevent them from seeing that the needs of the athletes must always come first. Instead, they rationalise that they alone must do everything to prove to themselves at the detriment of the athlete that they are capable.
Many of our coaches are yet to learn that working together brings better results at the individual and national levels.
There remains much merit in the claim, two heads are better than one. But the acceptance of this old adage by many of our coaches, hinges on possession of a humility that allows for sufficient magnanimity in dealing with others.
One is often forced to wonder whether some of our coaches missed the session in their education formation that placed the best interest of the athlete as primordial in the latter’s development in sport.
The big picture – the nation
What is missing is a clear understanding of and appreciation for the big picture.
All too often our coaches seek personal gratification and personal aggrandisement ahead of the well being of the athletes in their charge and the status of the country in the particular sport. Everything is secondary to the polishing of their own egos.
St Vincent and the Grenadines as a sporting nation can only move forward when coaches begin to acknowledge that the country comes first.
We can only improve our performances if our coaches work together to fashion appropriate development pathways for the respective sporting disciplines.
We can only sustain the success we have achieved thus far by ensuring that our coaches engage themselves in the collective undertaking to develop their coaching education and objectively monitor and evaluate their performances periodically.
Coaching is a science. It is more than just a passion yet it allows for and thrives on the application of passion to the education process.
Coaching is about developing minds, instilling positive values and engendering effective communication skills.
Coaching is about caring and taking seriously the responsibility for the formation of young minds.
Finally, coaching thrives best in an environment of trust supported by continuing education to sustain genuine development strategies aimed at the betterment of the athlete committed to St Vincent and the Grenadines.