Generali Offers Support for Coaches
8th August 2016
Rachel Sykes, a trained Educational Psychologist, has been working alongside the Guernsey Sports Commission for five years. During this time she has supported a number of coaches individually with a wide range of challenges.
A large part of Rachel’s career has been spent working in schools with parents, teachers and pupils and the work she does in sport has many similarities: ‘The coaches are very much like the teachers – they want the best for their athletes, and sometimes need support to ensure what they are doing will get the results they want. As part of the Generali Worldwide More Coaches, Better Coaches programme I am available to support individual coaches, so they in turn can support their athletes.’
Rugby Development Officer Steve Melbourne commented: ‘One of the main outcomes of getting support is simply knowing that you are not alone with a problem and there is someone with the skills and understanding to help. Rachel has helped us a couple of times and it’s given me some great insight into how I can help players perform better.’
Rachel added: ‘Often coaches just need the time and space to clear their heads away from their usual environment or for someone to provide a helicopter view of what’s happening.
‘Coaches spend a lot of time working in isolation and sometimes don’t have the time to work with their athletes in the way that they ideally would like to be able to. There is much made of the pressure athletes are under but there is pressure on the coaches too, even in amateur sport. Often there are issues with parents, other coaches, time pressures and all the related challenges in managing groups of young people.
‘More and more coaches on island are earning their living through sport and it can become like any other job.’
Jeremy Frith, Performance Director with Guernsey Sports Commission, added: ‘We’ve delivered a number of group workshops to coaches, however we also want to offer coaches bespoke coaching, as every situation and individual is different. Rachel has been with us for a while now and most people know her well. It’s important that coaches feel they can come to her with anything and even if she can’t help directly she is in a position to signpost people to the right places.’
Jeremy explained that local sports can make more use of Rachel to look at barriers to learning, particularly with age group sport. ‘Too often we focus on performance as simplistically that’s how we are often measured, but looking at barriers to learning and progress is the key to long-term, sustainable success. Having someone to take an overview of a session or match and simply feed back on what they have observed can be really revealing as sometimes we all miss things that are right under our noses.’
By supporting coaches, they in turn can support their athletes. Jeremy Frith suggests that a good place to start is by getting athletes to ask themselves a simple question – what do they want? Finding that answer then enables the coach and the rest of the support team, including parents, to see how they can help them achieve their goals.
A lot of Guernsey’s top performers are high achievers in more than one domain and the more they achieve, the greater the need for compromise in certain areas. Helping the athlete see the need for compromise along with teachers, parents and coaches is fundamental to constructing a schedule that is realistic, achievable and best suits the athlete’s overall direction.
Jeremy explained: ‘Sometimes we’ve seen athletes who have inadvertently ended up in a position where all they are doing is trying to keep people happy and meet the expectations that other people put upon them.
‘This creates real pressure for the athlete and kills their motivation in the long run. Parents, teachers, coaches and friends all have expectations of the athlete but aren’t always aware of how they fit with what the athlete wants or what other expectations are placed upon them.’
Athlete Sam Wallbridge, who is on the Brooks Macdonald High Performance Programme, recalled his experience of combining training with studying for his A-levels: ‘I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I often found that I felt under pressure because I didn’t think I had the time to do everything I needed to do to the standard I wanted. Jeremy came in to school a few times to meet with me and my tutor and work through my weekly plan for both inside and outside of school. This was really helpful as it helped me see that I had more time than I thought and also where I wasting a lot of time.’
Jeremy added: ‘My number one tip for parents and coaches is to set aside some time every few months, get a change of scene, sit down or go for a walk and ask the individual you are supporting three questions, without giving your own opinion. Firstly, “How are you?” Secondly, “What are your current goals?” And thirdly, “What can I do to help?” Then listen carefully to each answer.’