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As a coach, what is our role?

Pretty straight forward question, I would think. Or is it?

Most of us keep ourselves quite busy with various pursuits whether they be career related, children, or favourite hobbies such as coaching.

How often do we actually sit and genuinely examine our role as a coach. What do we see ourselves actually doing when we put the whistle around our neck and pick up that clipboard?

Reflecting on our role as a coach is an important element of being a quality coach and doing this regularly helps us maintain our focus on being the best coach we can be. Our role as a coach is different to our coaching philosophy and we will save that chat for another time. In saying that, our role and our philosophy are very closely linked.

When we think of our role we should almost be running through a checklist of tasks that would make up our job description for the particular team we are involved in. I highlight the 'particular team' because our role will be greatly influenced by the team we coach. The role of an U10 rugby coach will be different to that of a Super Rugby coach, so as we progress through our coaching career from team to team we need to be aware of the differing tasks that each role requires.

So, what is it to reflect on our role as a coach? The tasks require a clear understanding of a few things:

1 the aim or goals of the team

2 the game understanding of the team

3 the skill level of the team

4 the mental and emotional maturity of the team

5 the level of support we have access to, etc

Once we know or have established the goal of the team, and how much the players understand and can execute the skills of the game, then we can start to build some detail on our role from a results and learning point of view. For example, as an U12 coach we would recognise where the skill level and game sense of the group is and work out how much of an educator we are going to be. I would suggest this role would be fairly high on the priority list, and especially if the goal of the team was to develop skill execution and understanding of the game as much as possible across the season. The role of driver of results may be lower on the priority list, so we wouldn't focus as much of our attention on game plans and opposition and making sure we are doing what's required week in and week out to win games. Roles like this lend themselves to the Head Coach of a Super Rugby team. This would include being a personality manager making sure each member of the team was performing at their best, and having other coaches who would ensure skills are developed, game plans are accurate, allowing us to focus on making sure a winning performance was a high priority.

Another role will relate to where the team is emotionally and from a maturity point of view. The role of a coach in a newly formed team may be different to that of a well established, deeply rooted team. As coach of a fresh team we would ensure we harness the enthusiasm and novelty of creating something new, whilst at the same time working hard on creating behaviours that develop sound values within the whole team environment. As a coach of a well established team our role might be to ensure the team environment can handle the pressure of cracks in the relationships of players and coaches, and to find new ways to create a stimulus so complacency and boredom don't set in.

We would also have to recognise what support we would have. As a professional coach we can be very detailed in our role due to the extensive resourcing of professional teams. There will be experts around us who can do their job and bring value in specific areas. As a community coach we will need to complete a variety of tasks that may normally be done by a manager or physiotherapist or strength and conditioning coach. As community coaches our roles tend to be broader.

Gaining an understanding of these elements makes it easier to then sit down and complete that job description for our team. It comes down to creating some time to think and reflect on our role, make sure it is clear in our heads, and make sure it suits our team and that we will bring maximum impact and value to the team if we successfully complete our role. By documenting our role, we can then provide this information to assistant coaches and managers, and any other ancillary staff so they are aware of what our role is. They may be able to provide us with their perspective on our role and their own, and in this way we can ensure the team is serviced effectively.

If we get our role right and truly understand it then how much greater will our impact on the team be.

To join a community of rugby coaches willing to share knowledge and experience check out The Art of Rugby

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