It is no longer a trend but pretty much a constant that schools in South Africa make use of people to coach sport in schools that are considered external to the school staff – the school staff being classified as mostly those that teach academic subjects and the Sports Department are seen as a level down for some obscure reason and then comes administration staff etc. It constantly confuses me further how an academic teacher relegates sport to an obstacle as opposed to an ally.
However there are some concerning challenges that come with this need to contract “external coaches” . I personally have picked up on this in many discussions with colleagues as well as with my own department. It is one thing to make plans around the sporting program of a school and sprout the educational value that sport plays, which I myself have sprouted very often. It is a completely different thing to actually action such value and ensure that there is a consistency in application.
In this light, I do believe that as part of this modern disposable society, coaches, who generally are students themselves at University are seeking the quick fix. Their skill set in the line of administration, process management, discipline and communication are for the most part incredibly lacking and worst of all they seem quite happy with presenting this half-hearted package – well it should not be allowed. To coach sport is a very serious responsibility. Not only do you have to have technical proficiency but you must show a willingness to grow skills. From where I sit at a strategic level, a policy making level and a decision making level I maintain consistently that a sports department, coaching staff or single coach MUST lead by example. A coach has to be more than he/she is expecting from the players in the school. If you are not the example then you cannot align any degree of expectation because you yourself are not performing positively.
This in turn does apply to me – I have to be an example to coaches if I am to have expectations of them and their performance.
In my lists made up by so called experts about what a coach is – very few lists say that a coach must “hear” – the word listen may crop up – but “hear” does not. A coach must be super alert for all signs and signals from the individuals and teams. Schools are cash cows for coaches to make an easy buck, schools today have extreme levels of accountability – some very realistic and some over the top. However coaches have to realise that they are an extension, a very important one, of the school. A school is an educational facility, shaping minds, thoughts, perceptions and characters. This job of coaching is no longer about turning up and spending an hour baby-sitting some talented people and going home. There has to be improvement in your performance as a coach all the time. No two sessions can ever be the same, don’t cancel sport when it rains go into a room and talk about the mental side or game plans and patterns. The point I am driving at is to realize that education comes first and sport itself comes second.
I have said many times before – the process of coaching is much more important than the result of coaching. If the process is correct, if the process is authentic and genuine then the result should look after itself. But be very clear that your process has to be perfect and better than anybody else’s.
Overall and dangerously generalizing, coaches for the most part actually need to grow up and stand truly tall to the responsibility that comes with being part of a school sporting program. Schools themselves need to be clear on standards, payments and expectations. Schools must ‘invest’ time and energy into enrichment of coaches for the sake of the coach and the school. Gone are the days of 60 to 80% of the coaches being school teachers. We have not managed this shift well enough and I believe the kids are suffering and that is unacceptable. A dual responsibility exists with school and coach to bring their part.
We have no regulatory or governing structure for school sport and so it is up to us to make sure we get it right.