8 Tips for a Career in Coaching
For coaches starting out on their career journey it can be easy to focus more on the technical aspects required for the role without thinking about the soft skills and other behaviours that are required when you move into a coaching role in an organisation. However, in reality, these other aspects also have a huge role to play in being successful in a coaching role. We sat down with Des Ryan from our partners Setanta College to discuss this, and drawing on his experience, Des shared his 8 tips for a career in coaching.
Des Ryan is the Director of Coaching & Performance at Setanta College. With vast experience in strength and conditioning, youth athletic development, and performance, Des has previously worked in both the IRFU and Arsenal FC Academy.
8 Tips for a Career in Coaching
Tip #1: Be Mannerly, Objective, and Tell the Truth
Coaching is about people and when dealing with people, these are the three guidelines that have helped me and I feel they have helped the people working with me. Sport and coaching is a high-intensity environment and, at times, a stressful environment. Being mannerly helps to keep things calm and avoid making situations more difficult and stressful. Be objective and back up what you are saying. Have information to show what is going on, how something is working, or how something is not working. Tell the truth, even if that means having awkward conversations. This helps to avoid more difficult situations in the long term. Living by these principles can help to elongate a career and lower stress levels.
Tip #2: Develop a strong relationship with the head coach
Your relationship with the head coach is extremely important. It is vital to learn from them and understand their philosophy and what they are trying to achieve. Over the years, I have had three line managers but have been answerable to many different coaches. In athletic development, we need to work closely with these coaches and help to develop players that are able to bring their philosophies to life.
Tip #3: Help support the vision and mission of the organisation
When you join an organisation, learn what the vision and mission of that organisation are. The vision is “where we are going” and the mission is “how we are going to get there”. In the Arsenal Academy, our vision was “Strong Young Gunners”. That means that every player would be able to cope with what was coming for them in the future. Whether that be a successful player, going on loan, career change, or adversity. We had to prepare them for what they were going to encounter.
So, that’s what you’re aiming for. And how you’re going to get there? Our mission was “To create the most challenging and caring football academy in the world”. And that will help those players to become “Strong Young Gunners“. Every good organisation should have a strong vision and mission. My tip is to learn what that is and help achieve that. The organisation will appreciate you as a coach and you will be helping them to achieve their vision and mission.
Tip #4: Have a clear approach/philosophy
As a coach, it is very important to have a clear approach or philosophy. During my time in the IRFU, we had a clear approach – the Functional Approach. This emphasised stability and mobility, movement skills, getting fit through the game, and recovery. Everyone followed that approach and it was educated through the system. Developing this approach is important, to articulate to the players, parents, coaches you are working with and other people on the team.
Tip #5: Support everything with education
You could be doing the best job in the world as a coach but if people don’t understand why you’re doing something, it can be less impactful. Educating others on what you are doing can help things to flow better and help everyone in understanding what you are trying to achieve. Explaining the benefits of certain exercises, can support the process of creating buy-in amongst the group, be that players, coaches, or management. Always explain why you are doing what you are doing.
Tip #6: Invest in your own education
Coaching is constantly developing so it is important to stay educated on the most up-to-date progressions. The more educated you are, the better positioned you are as a coach. In coaching, there are always new tools and technology becoming available. Continuous education will help you to understand whether these tools are going to help your coaching practice or improve the performance of your teams or athletes. Every couple of years, I make sure I am investing in education through courses and certificates. Different coaches are at different stages of their careers, and this will determine the best road to take in terms of continuous education.
Tip #7: Keep long-term records
Our memories are short – we often look back to the last result or the last season. This is why it is important to keep track of the development of athletes that you are working with over the long term. You can do so through interviews, photos, injury audits, and fitness testing to name just a few. This will enable you to share the story of how certain aspects directly impact the development of the athlete i.e. from youth to adulthood. As mentioned, we have short memories. These records can show the huge amount of work that goes into developing young players and help to generate buy-in and help people to understand and embrace your programme as a coach.
Tip #8: There is a coaching role in every community
I firmly believe there is a coaching role in every environment. Whether it is an environment in a primary school, secondary school, aspirational athletes, participation in sports, or the elderly community – there are so many people that can be and want to be helped through coaching. With the right skill set, it is possible to have a coaching role in a diverse range of environments and we do not always need to think about elite sport as the only route.
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