High Performing vs High Performance
Last Friday I attended an excellent workshop hosted by SportScotland. It was to sound out representatives from many different sports on a new High Performance Coach Development Strategy.
It was so interesting to hear from coaches in other sports and one particular area of interest was when one coach asked ‘are we talking about high performance or high performing coaches?
Instantly my ears pricked up and I thought ‘hello, this is gonna be good’. The coach who asked is working at Olympic level and is very well respected both in coaching and coach development. He stated High Performance coaches are the ones working with the athletes performing in the top 0.75% of the top 1% of competitive athletes. Think about that sum for a second as it took me a while to digest it. He then added high performing coaches are simply the ones who do an outstanding job at whatever level of coaching they find themselves.
My instant thought when he said the sum was that we only have one high performance tennis coach in the UK. yet we have dozens, maybe even hundreds calling themselves high performance coaches. This is not a judgement, simply a fact based on his formula.
This brought me back to a workshop I helped run 3 years ago for an oil company. I worked with a corporate coach from London. I remember him asking me what high performance meant in the tennis world. My gut response was ‘unfortunately at the moment it is simply those who work with the best players’. His jaw almost hit the ground and he stated he thought that was a huge shame as it is completely misleading. He felt it was the coach who works at the sharpest end of whichever industry AND has a track record of developing things there. Not just working there.
Why does this matter? Simple, perception is reality and the perception of someone thinking someone is high performance simply because they work with good players lowers the bar for tennis coaching. In my opinion, a coach should not be judged on the level of player they work with. They should be judged on how much they help develop any player. People are quick to judge when it comes to a player. For example, I remember working with a player and I remember another coach judging her service action. I chipped in and said ‘you should have seen it before’. It is so easy to critique based on a snapshot but the valid opinion should be based on the journey the player and coach have been on. I have so much respect for any coach that helps a player make significant progress at any level. I see some coaches working with great players and they don’t seem to be making any progress. They have the same bad habits they did the YEAR before. If you are working day in day out and perform the same way year to year then there is something considerably wrong.
This brings me back to the workshop. Which coaches would I invest in? I would break this into 3 areas:
Openness to learning
I believe authenticity is at the absolute core of any high performing coach. When I think of authentic coaches I think of people like Dan Kiernan from Soto Tennis Academy, Mike Aitken from St. Andrews University, Adam Brown from all things in Central Scotland. They all operate at different levels and their day to day involvement in tennis varies dramatically but all have such a genuine vibe about them.
Openness to learning is a must as you will never reach a moment in your life where you know enough about how to coach another person. It is no coincidence the best coaches I know are the ones who are constantly looking to learn more in any area. The best example I know of this is Louis Cayer. By the Olympic coach’s definition at the start, Louis would be the only High Performance Coach in the UK unless you include Jamie Dalgado (as part of Andy’s team) and Alan MacDonald (Jamie’s team) in the mix. Louis was up in Scotland working with Judy and I two weeks ago. We started each session with some fun ideas on how you can develop skills in small spaces. This is far removed from the world that Louis works in yet he was taking in the information as much if not more than the coaches attending the workshop. The guy lives to learn, he is always on, never ever off when it comes to learning.
Leadership qualities, this is the area I believe is not looked at enough when it comes to investing in people. I’m not talking about perhaps the typical perception of what a leader is. I’m thinking more simply about how effective this person is at influencing others whether that be parents, other coaches, committee members, local authority staff, governing body staff and of course players. If you are to invest time and money in someone the most important factor for me is knowing the benefits will be paid forwards to others and so on.
It does feel like the tennis world (at least in the UK) is coming round to the idea of coaches being of huge value. They are the workforce in the trenches. They must be valued, treated with respect. Let’s seek out the most authentic coaches at all levels and invest in them. We can create so many different examples of great practice which can be shared across our sport and we can all pay it forward.
To finish, I believe every level of coach is as important as they next just as I do with players. I’m just a coach, not high performance, international high performance, intergalactic high performance…… just a coach.
We have some amazing coaches in the UK who work at various different levels. Let’s respect coaches for what different they make in their environment and not just assume the best coaches are working at the sharp end of the game.
I’ve just read this back quickly. I have to add, there are some amazing coaches working at the sharp end of the game too. The percentile bell curve exists at every level in my opinion, some are exceptional, the masses are average and some are not particularly great.
Dam, wish I’d started with that 😉
Remember, I don’t edit my blogs
Have a good one folks