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At this point in the coaching calendar many coaches will have recovered from the demands of the previous season, and are getting eager to start the approaching one. In the gap between one season and the next coaches need strategies that will help them both recharge and continue to improve. One of the most valuable activities for accomplishing this is writing about coaching.
How so, you ask?
First, when we write about our craft we reconnect to the larger purpose that inspired us to become a coach. That big-picture perspective may have disappeared during the long grind of the season when it is easy to develop a narrow focus on immediate issues that demand attention. The constant pressure to resolve issues and prepare for optimal performance can quickly breakdown a coach and lead to burnout.
Second, writing allows coaches to share insights with the larger coaching community. Not only does this instill pride for contributing to the collective body of coaching wisdom, writing something that peers will evaluate requires deeper thought and sharper attention to detail.
Many cost-free options are available to coaches who seek a public forum for their writing:• Open a Twitter account and share personal coaching insights, comment on coaching insights posted by others or current sporting events.
• Create a coaching blog; unlike Twitter, a blog allows coaching insights to be shared in much greater detail. Popular blog services include Blogger and WordPress.
• Start an electronic newsletter for your sports program. In addition to personal coaching observations this may evolve into a regular forum for sharing program updates.
• Offer to write a column or short story for a coaching magazine or newsletter. Most coaching publications invite and encourage coaches to share their insights on current topics or examples of best practices.
An added benefit of sharing coaching insights with the broader coaching community is that it will quickly result in a much larger and valuable personal coaching network. Coaches will find that the more they write and share their insights, the more other coaches will want to reciprocate.
In addition to writing about best practices or success stories, writing about challenges such as unresolved conflicts or tough losses can be extremely therapeutic for coaches. This is particularly important following difficult seasons. This allows coaches to release pent-up negative energy that if left unexpressed can sour a coach’s outlook or interactions the following season. Although writing to release emotions associated with negative coaching experiences may never leave a coach’s personal journal, coaches may also find it helpful to share some of this writing with trusted colleagues or a wider audience.
This is exactly what St. Louis Cardinal’s coach Mike Matheny found himself doing as he embarked on his first experience as youth baseball coach. Frustrated by the unhealthy trend of over-specialization and intense training he was witnessing in youth sport, he wrote a 5-page letter that he intended to share with parents to promote his alternative approach to coaching. Little did he know the letter would go viral and become known as the ‘Matheny Manifesto’ (http://mikematheny.com/#manifesto).
The simple act of writing about coaching insights is a time-tested strategy used by successful coaches and professionals in other fields. The off-season presents an opportune time to write about coaching. Writing provides coaches with a renewed sense of energy and optimism, and also helps refine and develop coaching knowledge. Coaches will find the more they write, the more prepared they will feel for embracing the challenges of the next season.
Gawande, A. (2007). Better: A surgeon’s notes on performance (pp. 255-256). New York: Picador.
Gilbert, W., & Trudel, P. (2013). The role of deliberate practice in becoming an expert coach: Part 2 – Reflection. Olympic Coach Magazine, 24(1), 35-44. http://www.teamusa.org/About-the-USOC/Athlete-Development/Coaching-Education/Coach-E-Magazine.aspx
Matheny, M., & Jenkins, J. B. (2015). The Matheny manifesto: A young manager’s old-school views on success in sports and life. New York: Crown/Archetype.
Stoszkowski, J., & Collins, D. (2014). Blogs: A tool to facilitate reflection and community of practice in sports coaching? International Sport Coaching Journal, 1, 139-151.