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Using self-isolation to learn and absorb

Gary Curneen's (Modern Soccer Coach) post about using self-isolation to improve your coaching crossed our desk right at the same time we were having the exact same sentiment. We too had noticed an increased amount of online coaching information and as coach educators we are conscious of the balance between quantity and quality - be that time for well-being, time with colleagues, or time to absorb good quality coaching information.


With Gary's permission we echo his recent post about '5 ways coaches can improve during self-isolation'. Here it is......

It's a crazy time for all coaches. Although it's somewhat easy in theory to have all this time to learn and get better, many of us are dealing with a great deal of uncertainty in our own world. Aspects like time away from our teams, disconnecting from friends and staff, and the dynamics of households now changing with kitchens turning into offices and classrooms have seriously unsettled our daily routines. So although we have more time during the day, using this period to get better is not without distractions and still requires a large amount of planning and prioritizing. With that in mind, I have created a few personal tips below that I would give young coaches who are looking at being as productive as possible during the self-isolation period.


1 - Read

Even before the break, there was an abundance of online information available for the coach. That has skyrocketed in recent weeks and will continue to grow as many coaches and companies are sharing more and more information. Although the level of content can seem like a dream for a coach, I think it's important to be aware that this is not a competition. Quality always beats quantity. Spend some time with an article or a book and be intentional about ways that you want to get better. It's sometimes difficult, especially for a head coach, because we are used to learning on the go. As Brendan Rodgers says in the clip below, once you go into management, it can become about performance and not necessarily about learning. This is now a great opportunity to catch up on some topics we may have bookmarked for a long time and being specific about the areas that we want to get better can definitely make us more productive here.


2 - Reflect

We must be careful that we do not apply ‘skimming’ the headlines like social media timelines have trained us to do, and instead develop the skill of careful and considerate reflection. This is where you can find your blind spots quicker and also where you can maybe adapt. I think a key skill today for a coach is to be very deliberate and careful about bringing new concepts and ideas to your team. Below, our recent MSC Podcast guest Fabrizio Piccareta (below) talks about how you must take your time with the learning process in coaching. "The quicker you get it, the quicker you lose it" is his personal motto and I think this is great advice for a young coach. To develop this skill, you need to constantly reflect and review the information that you are exposed to and, as Fabrizio says, it's not just a case of ticking the box and moving on. What worked before may not necessarily work now and understanding context is a skill that can be developed off the field at a time like this.


3 - Create

I have done a couple of recent workshops on coaching philosophy and game models with some younger coaches and the message has been consistent. You don't get points for taking a Barcelona model and changing the logo, or building a 30 page powerpoint filled with terms from a coaching course. That's impresses coaches, not players. The best way to get buy-in from those that matter most is to show them how it applies to them. One clip can beat 10 slides. This is a great time to go through game tape of your team and find what you want in your philosophy and model. How do game models impact session design? What does this process look like? Coaches that are struggling to connect with players over the break can build a new remote system so they can communicate more efficiently when the players return. Below, Jose Mourinho talks about "you being able to produce your own knowledge" and how "the capacity of operationalizing an idea is what makes training rich."


4 - "Social Closening"

Even though this is a period of self-isolation, it can be a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends within the game. Talking with coaches who are experiencing the same challenges as you are, can help lift spirits and also enable you to brainstorm around certain issues that you may be struggling with. Humour also helps here and the coaching community can often provide comic relief that can dramatically help mood and mindset. In terms of growth, I think this is a great opportunity to reach out to a coach who you respect and get some advice on a topic. If you do this however, let them know where you want help specifically and maybe send them a piece of work for them to review before the call. This way, you are respecting their time and also showing that you are prepared for the call. Take some notes after the call and then use that to work on #4.

5 - Workout

Although we preach and worry about the physical and mental well-being of our players, it can be difficult for a coach to take care of themselves. At the college and working at the professional level, you are frequently spending three to four days in a row on the road, which, although the hotels are more than adequate for the comfort level, the food can be a different story. This break allows you the opportunity to control your diet. The fast food on the way home from training is now somewhat inaccessible and that is a good thing. Alongside that, getting into a schedule is something that a lot of mental health experts recommend. I think a run or workout in the morning is a great way to start the day and creates a real positive frame of mind to go forward and enjoy the day.