The long and winding road – part 2

(UPDATE retitled as part 2 as forgot previous ‘The long an winding road entry’ – oops!)

Since being made redundant in 2007,  I have been endeavouring to turn my martial arts coaching into a a full time occupation.

Along the way I decided (rightly or wrongly) to add several more coaching qualifications to my bow, my logic being that more coaching skills equalled additional opportunities, which in turn would generate extra earning potential. I also had the idea that coaching more ‘mainstream’ sports would  provide opportunities to work in schools and, once my foot was in the door, so to speak, then I could promote my martial arts classes.

First there was football. Seemed a natural choice really. You can’t get more mainstream and being a fan and player it seemed the most obvious first choice. I did the course, qualified as a level 1 coach and then advertised my services to a couple of companies that supplied coaching services to schools and clubs. I was invited along to a couple of sessions to see exactly how it was done and that was when I realised that I’d wasted my £100 fee.

The sessions I attended were nothing like the coaching book examples, in fact, one of the rotund level 2 coaches I was supposed to shadow, merely stood in one position with a clipboard shouting out advise to his assistant who was charging around everywhere trying to cajole and encourage the melee of screaming kids.

I received no advise on how or why this session was run like this, or how to integrate myself, nor did I recognise the game being played from the 50 or so I’d recently studied. | suspect this ‘game’ was designed so that the senior coach didn’t need to move around too much – good thing really, my CPR skills were a little rusty. I came away from this and a 15 minute perusal at another session extremely disappointed and disillusioned.

The martial arts classes continued, numbers weren’t increasing, income was low things were not looking good. I was still convinced that I needed other coaching skills, my school option still rated high in my optimism as a was of increasing numbers, so I continued to look around for other skills to acquire.

I discounted the likes of Rugby, on the grounds that I thought it would provide a similar experience to football, and cricket ‘cos I can’t stand the game!

Long story short, I can now coach, in addition to the enhanced self defence and martial arts training I’ve acquired, Boxercise, Boxfit, Go Fence, Athlefit and Dodgeball. Add to this skill set, courses in fundamental movement and coaching disabled athletes and I think that I have a pretty varied and wide set of coaching skills.

But the motive for doing all these courses and continuing to do them had now changed. Getting into schools as a coach is pretty difficult. Most schools employ agencies to supply their sports needs, agencies like the earlier one I’d been invited to. There was no way I was going to commit myself to one of these companies on the grounds that the pay per hour was crap and having grown used to the idea of working for myself, I didn’t relish reporting to someone else!

However there was one thing I did learn on the football course which made a big impact on me – warm up games! These were new to me and some weren’t particularly football-centric, it dawned on me that I could use some of them in my martial arts classes not only that , I quickly learned that warm up game drills used by sports coaches in other sports could also be used in the dojo.

This was a revelation. For someone brought up on the regimented, boring, robotic style warm ups, this was a eureka moment. I’d also found  a solution to a problem that had been bugging me for years, ever since I was employed by the local leisure centre to assistant my instructor  – how to engage children during these boring routines and how to actually get them to actually warm up!

Warm up games was the answer!

In addition, having discounted the desire to coach team sports (dodgeball was the notable exception, but even that game requires an element of individualism) I concentrated on those sports or activities that would have synergy with my martial arts classes. I learned coaching techniques and drills that easily translated to the dojo and provided excellent ice breakers for introductory school sessions and new students.

Not only that,  I learned to listen to my students and encouraged them to work things out for themselves. This is something that most sports coaches incorporate in their sessions but I’d never seen it in a martial arts class.

The way I’d learned was to have a technique demonstrated several times, then pair off with a partner and try to replicate it. Other sports were doing the same, but then encouraging their participants to question why it was done that way, could it be done better or different, what happened if it went wrong and have the confidence to demonstrate their findings – more of that in part 2.

This was amazing. This was coaching and not instructing. Up until this revelation I had been an instructor and not a very good one at that, an instructor who merely regurgitated the lessons I’d learned in imitation of my instructor.

Coaching provides something else altogether, exactly what that is I’ll explore in part 3.