Before I had even got started with my three teams, I was already plotting how the opening weeks would go. The sessions would be fun yet informative and I would try to put a huge emphasis on creating a team dynamic from the get go. In my mind having a strong identity and sense of togetherness serves as the foundation for any team. Through testing times, you need to trust one another as well as yourself as doubt begins to creep in. After a disappointing performance or result, the need to retain your self belief and faith in your abilities as well as others becomes all the more important. Having a strong and consistent support network of both fellow players and parents is essential in ensuring that damage is limited and setbacks are turned around to then build some new momentum which can then hopefully be harnessed to go on to help the same team thrive. I strongly felt the best way to create this level of support was to get everyone involved with the teams together from the earliest stage.
As soon as the tryouts had wrapped up and my players had either been retained, released or acquired for the new season I began contact with my parent coordinators (PC). I realised that any good intentions I had to create or arrange anything would not work without a positive working relationship with my PCs. Fortunately all three of my PCs this season have proven to be outstanding. Since they have taken on the roles officially, their dedication and understanding of the role has hugely helped me as they have skillfully supported me with whatever has been asked of them no matter the size or nature of the task.
The first real task I wanted assistance on was to get some kind of team bonding event off the ground especially with the two older teams who had seen a lot of player turnover (The GU11s will have one too, soon as we can wrap up the roster, we are still at least three short of what we need). With my GU15s, the team had a brilliant PC in the role last season in Melanie and I was grateful she offered to continue for this season. A similar scenario played out with my GU11s with a close host family friend in Angela agreeing to continue. Then finally with my GU13s, I was lucky enough that Margaret accepted the role after bringing in five new players to our team including her talented daughter. Dates in the summer before the season would begin, were limited. If something was to happen as I had imagined it, it would have to happen soon as the number of family holidays were starting to increase. We managed to get the message out with both the GU13s and GU15s about a potential social event and the two teams responded just I had hoped; with enthusiasm and with availability!
The two events were casual events hosted at family homes in their backyards. Families brought snacks and spreads and the turnout was excellent for both events with only one or two players missing overall. Having the two sets of girls interact with one another was great to see. Being in a less pressured environment such as tryouts or game day was clearly relaxing for them with a sense of fun and silliness notably evident. The effect too could be seen in having the parents mingle with one another, of course the nature of the conversations being of a more adult level as opposed to the teenage girly giggling that was abound.
Since those two events in the latter weeks of August, we have had two sessions with the GU13s and GU15s and I can see already, that there is a developing sense of togetherness amongst the groups. Confirmation of the appreciation and effectiveness of the respective team bonding events was seen in the players’ desire to have such events be a regular feature in the season when they shared what they would like to include in their ‘team rules’.
For me, coaching had been about developing the player more so than the person. It wasn’t that I was ignoring the person behind the player, it was simply that I did not know better. My focus had always been on technique and creating brave players on the ball. It remains that. But that was my sole focus. It was ignorance on my part. In my last few seasons however through a cycle of curiosity and education, the importance of developing the person has really struck a cord with me so much so I that I have placed it at the forefront of my seasonal planning for my three teams. But even in my short time working with the teams, I feel like this will be a lesson to learn; I won’t get the same focus and dedication to learning in the long term that I want without the fun and playfulness that they want.
(Props to our multi talented PC Melanie for these great photos. Thanks for all you do Mel.)