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What questions inspired us in 2021?

As we come towards the end of 2021 it's good to look back and appreciate the things that touched us deeply. What inspired you in relation to your coaching this year and what are your lessons learned? TeamPlay Academy facilitated bi-weekly calls for coaches until the end of September. Here, we have distilled these nineteen ‘Coaching Corners’ calls into three key questions and a few words of wisdom that emerged from our conversations. Hopefully they can inspire you too!

How to build trust between me and my athlete?

Establishing and building strong bonds with your athletes or team requires trust. It is essential for being able to develop them as individuals and as a team. As a coach it might be challenging to know how your athletes are doing, and you might sense something is going on, but they don’t share with you, or shut down when you ask into it. The question is, how do we establish trust in our team, between us and our athletes but also athlete to athlete? We want to share some golden nuggets from our coaching corners gatherings: 

  • We can't just expect to be there, we cannot take it for granted. We have to do something actively to establish and build trust in every relationship and in every team.
  • Look into the Self first: What is your own relation with trust? What experiences made an impact on how you view trust? Do you trust yourself? Exploring such questions may be a good starting point for you to observe and reflect upon yourself, before looking at building trust in your team.
  • Make an agreement in the team that when something ‘feels off’ we turn towards it and talk about it, rather than shying away from it. It’s important how we model ourselves as coaches and how we talk with each other; what is needed for you, and your team to feel safe and share with each other?
  • Consider what you could share from your life that feels ‘risky’ or makes you slightly vulnerable in relation to your athlete. When you share something first, it’s likely to invite them to share something that feels ‘risky’ too. If you never talk about your struggles in life, how can you expect others to share theirs with you?
  • Create space: Be early at the place of your training and don’t leave immediately after the training is finished to give athletes a chance to talk to you whenever needed.

What can I do to make everyone feel part of the team, and encourage them to pay more attention to the WE?

No matter if you are coaching a team sport or individual sport, you are training together and there are a lot of reasons to pay attention to the WE. Many of us have found friends for life through sports. When somebody chooses to be part of a sports club it is about being part of something bigger, a community. Cheering for the win, releasing rage when things don’t go our way - life is simply more fun when WE are on a journey together. In our tradition we have a saying that “I am only as strong as my people are. And my people are only as strong as I am. And these two things can not be taken apart.” Same principle in sport clubs, we have to be attentive to others and we have to be ready to contribute with what is needed in the situation. Here we share some golden nuggets from our coaching corners gatherings on what you can do make everybody feel part of the team:

  • How can you involve your athletes and invite them to bring in their voices? Today we are so used to being passive and consuming, therefore it can be quite a change to get your athletes more involved and doing their part in the process of making a stronger, better team. It is a mindset change; be patient and try one thing at the time. Take care and don’t exhaust yourself – remember you are not responsible for everything – we all play a part in a team.
  • Be clear in explaining how you see the team roles and responsibilities, along with the coach role and responsibilities. There are many small aspects of a team which the athletes can learn to take responsibility for. Who wants to create and lead a 10 min. warm up for next week? And then see if anyone feels called. Challenge the athletes so they feel how it can be hard to always come up with something fun and inspiring.  
  • We suggest letting some roles rotate because this way we don’t rely on the same to take care of something or assume it’s him/her doing this. We strengthen the team by taking our part and trying out different roles. 
  • One of our coaches started with the idea of training buddies; two athletes training together during covid. This concept could easily become a permanent support structure, as part of a bigger group. This way athletes learn to look after each other, pay attention to another person's strengths and weaknesses and exchange and strategize together how to improve and reach their goals.
  • Look into playful ways to make your team realize that they depend on each other. Especially in team sports, every contribution to the team, on and off the field is important for the teamspirit and for any success. You can’t win a game on your own.

Realigning in Covid times: What is needed to get my team back on track - or on to the track?

We had the first coaching corners gatherings in the middle of the covid pandemic and therefore we were all impacted by the situation, and the consequences of being in lockdown, which for most of us meant no physical gatherings. It brought new challenges to coaches having to find new ways to uphold training and contact. And also as things started to open up again and it became possible to gather for training, we all felt a little changed and instead of just assuming we continue with the plan from before covid, coaches had to accommodate these changes. We want to share some golden nuggets from our coaching corners gatherings:

  • Maybe the ultimate question is, who WANTS to move on? Give people a bit of time to feel into it, get clarity and re-commit or re-locate/leave. Respect people’s decisions and try to stay clear of judgements. 
  • In renewal and realignment we could do individual and collective measures to see where people are at, not only physically but also mentally and spiritually. What is needed for our team to get back on track (after re-committing or adjusting our goals)?
  • Look into how covid impacted your lives, together, and include yourself in the group. Sit in a circle, give people time to share individually, without interrupting, asking questions or commenting. Simply give space for people to share their voice and listen deeply. Possible questions for you and your team could be: How are you right now? What new things did you try during lockdown? And what was your biggest challenge?
  • Talk about new goals that have emerged or changed. 

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