GUNN TIPS FOR COACHES #12 - 365 DAY PROJECT 2019/20 - "Have you kept any of your planning diaries over the decades Stu? If so I will buy them off ya!"

G’Day ‘learners’.

Today’s blog will help sports coaches (and all caring adult stakeholders) to:

Consider the idea of failing harder to better inform the practice and future of your own and peers’ efforts with learners…

The beauty of getting to know the great Dale Sidebottom over the past year (thanks Dr. Shane Pill the ‘go-giver’ for the introduction), is that I’ve been able to introduce him to different teachers from around the World whose work I rate, but, whom I haven’t really gotten to know well due to the tyranny of distance. Dale has a great way of getting people's story out which is intriguing, as he has ENERGY levels that are superhuman. Yet, unlike me, he can patiently contain himself. Indeed, my ‘Gunn Eangaement’ business partner Anthony says I’m easy to direct on camera as I’m always just “Gunny”! Have a look how I’m almost uncontaiinable when interviewing a great young coach at 43 seconds below.

Having forgone any plans of achieving anything higher than my Master’s Degree (FIRST World issues…), I have decided to write a post a day for 365 days to improve my learning journey. Clearly, Dale Sidebottom is doing the same thing through his podcast. For me, it's funny how the forced habit of writing/creating provides so much clarity. It's getting easier and easeir too. AND, in doing so, I hope to help fellow teachers with their own reflection on their own learning journeys.

Speaking of Dale and teacher/coach learning journeys, I once recently made sure that Dale met one of my favourite pragmatists on social media, the amazing, Stuart Wilkinson. Stuart has a way of cutting through the noise, especially within the current ecological psychology vs educational psychology debate. People have disagreed with me (probably Stuart even), but I believe that whilst this debate is very important, it’s also giving governing bodies and government departments an opportunity to sit on their hands at present. “Just awaiting clarification from the research” style…

I am not gonna speak for Stuart on this but I will say that I listened to his story with Dale twice and tweeted that, “This is probably the best sports coaching podcast episode I have ever listened too!” AND, it’s not just because Stu is a Rugby League man like me (although FAR more highly decorated), I again reckon it’s the way he cuts through to focus constantly on the unique learner. I also loved his description of teachers who can engage as coaches who": “Light up the grass!!!” Here is the great man in action.

I love hearing about sports’ coaches journies, especially the ones willing to try anything to improve. I asked Stuart if I could access more of his learning diaries and thankfully he’s writing a PHD and an accompanying book to help us all by way of these. AND there is a lot of it said Stuart, “not many electronic and when my son gets time to clean out the loft we did agree to burn them as there is 10x10m and 1m of boxes of records I’ve kept.” Yet here is one of the kickers for me from Stu, “over the past few years I’ve found I didn’t use my intended plans as I just coach what emerges from the players’ reactions.” This is teaching and being willing to fail too, just like we surely want our players to experience.

In contrast, let me give you an example of a teacher who has STOPPED teaching. I was once asked by a professional coach (of the television type) a couple of questions in a friendly face to face learning exchange. From now on, the ‘pro’ coach will be called _______:

_______: Gunny caught up with Shane Pill lately? I’ve often wondered about Game Sense. What percentage should your sessions be Game Sense, as well as Craftwork, Fitness etc?

Gunny: _______, there is no ‘correct’ formula if that’s what you’re asking _______.

_______: What do you mean Gunny?

Gunny: It Depends…

______: Depends on what?

Gunny: What you’ve got in front of you… Who they are. What they need. Your mood. Their moods. What they want. What you want… AND it changes moment by moment etc etc…

He then points to the team I’m helping, where in essence I was coaching their coaches.

_______: Give me an example. What’s the secret?

Gunny: Well first you encourage the coaches to get their players and then the leaders in particular to highlight a problem that needs solving. (I then explained it all in great detail). For example, at the start of the season, our very first session we worked on…

_______: We don’t work on that!

Gunny: Why?

_______: That just comes implicitly… (Gunny walks away in shock wondering, ‘whatever happened to teaching?’)

You see here is a coach that’s stopped trying and learning. Yet the coach more than likely shows videos of NBA players etc talking about ‘failing harder’. Stuart Wilkinson if you listen below seems the opposite. He just keeps trying and failing and improving just like we want our players to do. Have a listen yourself: https://energetic.education/130-stuart-wilkinson-coaching-relationships-inspiration/

AND the great man goes further in saying that most of the earlier mentioned training diaries could be ‘hopeless’… YES! That’s the point. Or as Stuart puts it, in response to one of the ‘epic fails’ I tried in coaching rugby union almost twenty years ago and trying to borrow from Rugby League structure:

We all need to try this stuff until it finally dawns on us that self organised, collaborative & small communities of practice all enhance self determined & independent thinkers within our teams.
— Stuart Wilkinson, 2019

Therefore, here you go peers! Compliments of Uncle Gunny. Below is an activity I designed for a ‘talent academy’ I was supposed to work at, but instead was laid up and recovering on my bed from one of my two different achilles snaps. It was designed (as were the other two untouched activities) to fit the problems that the coaches identified. Of course, they didn’t implement it. Not because they didn’t understand it. It was because they didn’t have the courage to ‘fail harder’. You see, coaching is a process of learning… Not a whole heap of flaky infographics and motivational quotes. This activity was designed to get support runners running ‘cut and angled leads’. I no doubt got inspired by a book by Shane Pill or other great PE teachers, let alone the teachers from my university days so feel free to use.

Handpass around on the ‘GO’ from coach with one defender who remains for three-six rotations – it is 3v1 – each side of triangle starts in order on attack – coloured markers line the outside lines – when coach calls a colour the ball player needs to try and hit a lead who is heading to a colour on another line from where they started – again I would bring in many constraints.  However, I would always go from Keepings Off and then Endball variations but using the old rugby league waves in a grid even in 2v1 with you calling the side or a colour that they need to lead to would have them cutting. With other coaches doing and calling you could look for someone doing it right. When you spot it: “Did anyone see that? That was impossible to defend against. How did Joe put the distance between him and defence and give a clear option? (silence) Where not playing League are we? Where is the space?” Just keep at ‘em….

Handpass around on the ‘GO’ from coach with one defender who remains for three-six rotations – it is 3v1 – each side of triangle starts in order on attack – coloured markers line the outside lines – when coach calls a colour the ball player needs to try and hit a lead who is heading to a colour on another line from where they started – again I would bring in many constraints. However, I would always go from Keepings Off and then Endball variations but using the old rugby league waves in a grid even in 2v1 with you calling the side or a colour that they need to lead to would have them cutting. With other coaches doing and calling you could look for someone doing it right. When you spot it: “Did anyone see that? That was impossible to defend against. How did Joe put the distance between him and defence and give a clear option? (silence) Where not playing League are we? Where is the space?” Just keep at ‘em….

The coach who I am describing this to above in email was exceptionally experienced. Thus, I’m not sure why it wasn’t implemented. If it wasn’t understood, I was on my back looking for phone calls. I’d guess just too lazy to be prepared to follow the slogans that are flagrantly touted on social media… It reminds me of the term ‘Lifelong Learning’ that you will see in any syllabus document or university prospectus. However, it’s just a couple of words unless you are prepared to enact it through ‘doing’ like the great Stuart Wilkinson. Indeed, create a learning legacy whatever context you are in if you are prepared to really roll the dice and take a risk.

I would love to hear your thoughts on when you failed forward. Contact me at anytime via email: coachgunny@craiggunn.org or subscribe and find me in all the usual ways.

Yours in learning,

Gunny