The Powering Podiums event on October 4, 2018 was hosted with the purpose of facilitating a discussion around the well-being of high performance coaches, many of whom are leading our Provincial and National level athletes. In addition, the session focused on effective ways sport organizations can maintain positive relationships with their coaches.

Andrew Latham and Gail Donohue led PSO administrators and coaches through a discussion centered around what it takes to keep your coaches happy and healthy.

Andrew Latham

Andrew Latham is the Head coach for the Lower Island Soccer Association in British Columbia, Canada. He has more than 20 years of experience as a youth development coach in North America and the United Kingdom, including three and a half years with Sheffield United as a youth coach, where he played a key role in introducing Futsal to the Academy players. He holds a CSA A license, US license, UEFA B License and the USYSA Y License, and is a graduate of the National Coaching Institute of Canada.

Coaches take on several different roles in order to fulfill the demands of their organizations and athletes. In his presentation, Andrew outlines the three key elements of all sport organizations: Governance, Administration, and Technical (Coaches).  In some cases, administrators and governance may not fully understand the challenges that are associated with the technical aspects of a sport, for example: medical readiness, periodization, physical assessments, and team travel and competition schedules, to name a few. This can lead to a disconnect between Technical, Governance and Administrative roles of a sport organization. The affect these disconnects can have on a coach and overall program success can be profound.

Andrew emphasizes the importance of having “happy” coaches in order to have better athletes by exploring the challenges coaches face in and outside of their role and what organizations can do to build a community that supports and takes on a more holistic approach to their well-being. CSI Pacific’s recent survey of Advanced Coaching Diploma and National Coaching Institute graduates yielded 60 total responses. Survey findings showed that while 50% of respondents held Master’s degrees and 5% held a PhD, over 43% of these coaches were working in excess of 40 hours a week. Over a third of respondents were working between 10 and 30 hours, with their coach role being a second job. Alarmingly, almost a third of the coach respondents worked a full 52 weeks in the past year, and almost half had less than a three week break or vacation. Moreover, while the national median income of households in Canada in 2015 was around $70,000, over half of the coach respondents reported making $60,000 or less form their current coaching job.

As most coaching positions are renewed year to year, many coaches struggle with long-term financial commitments that impact their quality of life, such as mortgage approvals, as they are often required to reapply for work each year. Further, most coaching positions do not offer a benefits package, putting more financial strain on coaches who have to fund extended health care themselves, rather than through an employment package.

To better support coaches, Andrew proposes hiring coaches for what they CAN be. It is important to educate coaches, providing them growth opportunities through various professional development programs or coaching education such as the Advanced Coaching Diploma. Organizations should invest in coaches, both in terms of time spent understanding their technical roles, and in the financial sphere as well. It is also important to have discussions with coaches around a review of the program, helping them continue to progress through their coaching pathways, and having them assist in the succession planning of the program. These can be regarded as some of the key factors that support coaches and help them realize their full potential.

Gail Donohue

A former national-level synchronized swimmer, Olympic and current coach, Gail, who holds a science degree in kinesiology from Simon Fraser University and is a Chartered Professional Coach.  In addition, she is a Coach Developer and Coach Evaluator for viaSport and Synchro Canada.  Professionally, Gail’s career spans a number of important initiatives. Her expertise covers administration, financial management, partnership development and maintenance, and communications. Currently, she is the leadership theme mentor for the Advanced Coaching Diploma program with CSI Pacific and mentors over 25 coaches nationally. 

It’s a fast paced and changing world today. There is no shortage of tasks that leaders and coaches need to do. In this changing world, success is not just about getting things done, it is also about HOW you do it and the mindset you bring to work and life every day.  In our Powering Podiums session, we will rethink Leadership – what does it mean to BE a leader/coach?   How do you as a leader/coach embrace and recover from the challenges you face every day?  Would YOU follow YOU? Gail’s presentation dissects the concept of “leadership” and what it means to be a leader/coach.

Gail recommends that coaches develop self-awareness around how they are behaving. Consider what you say, what you do, and how you make others feel. She asks important thought provoking questions like “What is the impact you have with the words and actions you take every day?” Using the formula Be x Do = Have, Gail encourages coaches to consider what they need to be and what they need to do in order to get to what they want to have or to where they want to go. A coach might also consider, “How are you SHOWING up to make things happen?”

Emotions drive us; they are at the root of everything we do. As a coach, it is important to understand what others – your athletes and colleagues – are thinking, feeling and wanting. Your ability to do this is called your emotional intelligence (EQ).  Gail stresses the importance of emotional intelligence and understanding when working with others. Applying the SCARF acronym can be a useful way to understand your own responses after interactions with others, such as your supervisor or your athletes. “How are you BEING with other coaches, and athletes?”. The SCARF acronym includes five factors as the foundation for understanding how you might respond:

  1. Status – relative importance to others
  2. Certainty – the ability to predict the future
  3. Autonomy – having a sense of control over events
  4. Relatedness – having a sense of safety with others
  5. Fairness – having a sense of fairness between people

With regard to a coaches’ leadership in high performance sport, remember that the purpose is centered on athlete development. However, in leadership we spend far more time performing than we do actually practicing our leadership skills. In essence, it is opposite of an athlete’s performance, where they spend more time practicing and getting ready to perform. So consider, when and where do you get ready to perform and be your best leader or your best self?

Recall Gail’s recommendation that great leadership is represented in the formula BE X DO = Have. Our behaviors – how we think and feel – affect what we want and the impact we have on others. In understanding our own behaviors, we can create good habits to become good leaders. Evaluating what we need to ‘be’ and what we need to ‘do’ as leaders will reinforce our behaviors and, as a result, affect our habits. Therefore, leadership is a mindset that we need to continue practicing in order to make good habits permanent.