Linking The Theory And Practice Of Coaching

The ‘Manager as Coach’ – a credible solution? According to a recent CIPD report (1), of the UK businesses that use coaching, 70 per cent of them have it delivered by line managers. That’s a large percentage isn’t it? But does this really offer organisations a ‘coaching solution’? In my experience, most of the organisations that train their managers in coaching, do so through a short course – typically two-days or even shorter. Does this make the manager into a coach? I suggest not. At best, it gives the manager an introduction to some coaching skills and can probably improve his or her ways of interacting with their direct reports. For example, engaging in shared problem-solving rather than giving direct instructions and ‘orders’. It might also encourage the manager to subsequently undertake some deeper coach training and even accredited coaching qualifications with an awarding body. What is clear to me is that coaching is a highly skilled, multi-faceted service which requires a very broad range of competencies and experience. These include business experience (in a variety of organisations) and knowledge of how organisations function (organisational behaviour), as well as at least a working knowledge of human psychology. So, to conclude. We should welcome the fact that organisations are waking up to the power of coaching and that some of them are putting managers through ‘The manager as coach’ programmes. But we should be clear about the strengths and limitations of such programmes. It is not surprising that many organisations find that they have to use a blend of both internal and external coaches.

3 on 2 and the defenders sag in the lane? 3 on 2 when the third defender is sprinting in behind? All of a sudden it isn’t as easy as it was in practice – the skill has shifted to a soft skill. Half court offense is another prime example of hard vs. Yes shooting, passing skills, dribbling are important. Closeouts are yet another skill we all struggle getting our players to do correctly in a game. Well, many times we practice closeouts 1 on 0 or with a dummy offense. It’s great for the technique but translates poorly to game situations. How do they know how to use the skill in a game? How do they know what angle to take when closing out when the offense is in a variety of positions? How do they know how to read the offensive player’s body language to see that he’s going to drive?

The answer is they do not have the knowledge, unless they’ve acquired the soft skills as well. And how about 1 on 1 skills? How many players can do a move that is textbook on a chair and then get to the game and they seem lost on when to do the move, or they cross over right into the defender? I guess the labored point I am trying to make is that basketball is a lot of soft skills. But as a coach are you teaching it a soft skill setting? As you all know by now, I am a HUGE fan of the work that Brian McCormick does. Mainly because he teaches the game in a soft skill setting. He develops those kinds of skills in players, which are very important skills. The question we as coaches have to ask ourselves is are we giving our players the correct teaching environment for the required skill? You want to teach the backcut, that’s great! But running a drill with a passer at the point, a wing, and a defender where the defender dummies it isn’t going to really help.

As I’ve talked about in other posts, this year I spent a lot of time experimenting with teaching the game using small sided games. What we found was that small sided games of 3 on 3, 2 on 2, and 1 on 1 where the ultimate way to build skills, habits, and the ability to adapt to and read situations. Reading this book now solidifies my theory on the topic – you have to spend a lot of time on the soft skills. You want players to really learn how to play and how to use a skill during the game then you need to teach in an environment that develops soft skill learning. Other wise you are going to be frustrated. Now don’t get me wrong, we still need drills to teach the hard skills. Players need to know the technical aspects of closing out, making a crossover dribble, or making a push pass. But many times we as coaches, myself included, spend too much time teaching the hard skill and not enough on the soft skill aspect and it’s evident that the soft skill aspect is far more important. It doesn’t matter if a player has picture perfect passing form if he’s throwing it to the other team every time. Teaching soft skills is the missing piece to basketball development in my opinion and why not enough players “know how to play”.