Beginning the Coaching Process: Think, Plan, Do

by on March 17, 2011
in Great Coaching

Clive Woodward is the British Olympic Association’s Director of Elite Performance. Previously, he led England to the 2003 Rugby World Cup. After the World Cup victory, he wrote Winning! about the experiences leading up to the triumph.

“Think, Plan, Do” was something of a personal mantra or philosophy that he used whenever presented with a new opportunity. When he accepted his first job coaching a club rugby team – Henley – he writes:

The first question that I asked myself was OK, I’ve got to get these boys thinking correctly…thinking like winners. How am I going to do it?

He writes that he sat down and asked himself a couple questions:

How can we make training fun and games enjoyable regardless of the outcome?

Woodward played international rugby for England. He won a World Cup as its manager. His first question that he asked himself was about fun. If fun is important at the club and international levels with men, why are many coaches opposed to fun with children and teenagers? Why do we believe that fun and hard work do not go together despite researchers like K. Anders Ericsson suggesting that if you do not enjoy the activity, you will never invest enough effort in it to become an expert?

His next question was:

What sets us apart from the other teams so that we can be different in a significant way? Who wants to be the same as everyone else?

311298819_f94ea9f0ecOne way to motivate players is to choose something (anything) and convince the players that the training will make the team the best in the league, city, state or nation at that one thing. In college, my crew coach focused on the finish. He told us every day that we would be the strongest team at the end of the race. This became a self-fulfilling prophecy. He tried to differentiate us, at least in our minds, from everyone else by focusing on the finish. We felt different and competed differently as a result.

Next, Woodward wrote:

How can we build on our strengths when we win and learn from our mistakes when we lose?

Often, when a team wins, the coach and players believe that everyone is going well. Teams tend to get complacent, which is one reason long winning streaks and prolonged excellence are so compelling.

Rather than being happy with a win, we want to build on the win. If our defense led to the win, what was it about the defense? How can we continue to improve the defense to be even better during the next game?

When a team loses, the other team often exposes a flaw or a weakness. Good teams learn from these losses and attack their weaknesses. However, this requires an honest evaluation of the game, not an emotional response. When coaches rely on their emotional response, they may miss out on what really happened.

These three questions present an interesting approach to planning for a season. Woodward was concerned with fun, being different and learning from competition.

When you get hired and you Think, Plan and Do, what are the first three questions that you will ask yourself?

By Brian McCormick
Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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