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AGC #015 - My favorite coaching ideas from 2023

10 cool things that caught my coach's eye last year

A few bits of housekeeping…

Firstly, The Everyman Coach is now called A Good Coach. Many of you told me if it was good enough to be my social media handle, it was good enough to be my newsletter name. Giving the people what they want!

Lastly, this is the final call to help shape 2024’s newsletter content via this short, 5-question survey. Thank you!

2023 was the year I started writing about coaching - which means I did a better job of keeping track of useful ideas.

Here are 10 of my favorite coaching-related things I encountered last year. I hope they’re as useful to you as they were to me!

Kirby Smart’s costs of leadership

This summer, Liberty Field Hockey organized some informal, in-house, peer-to-peer professional development opportunities within our athletic department. Ritchie McKay and Joe Pierre of Men’s Basketball presented on team culture and dropped this gem somewhere along the way.

Georgia Football head coach Kirby Smart reckons there are three costs to leadership:

  • Having to make hard decisions that'll negatively affect people you care about

  • Being disliked despite your best attempt to do the best for the most

  • Being misunderstood and not always having the opportunity to defend yourself

It was like someone had summed up coaching in 30 seconds. I’ll do a deeper dive into this in another newsletter later this year.

Dave Wright setting individual challenges

This is a well-executed example of “drive-by coaching” from Dave Wright, as he challenges a young soccer player to take more risks.

The communication is clear, the rationale is relevant, and it’s topped off by Wright “catching the player being good” and providing positive reinforcement to the athlete.

So many coaching examples we see are from professional settings, but this was a great one from a grassroots environment that every coach can emulate.

Jamy Bechler on standards

The best messages are well-crafted, and Bechler’s post format here helps paint clear pictures in a coach’s mind of what these different types of teams look like.

It also speaks to the idea that ownership of a team’s standards and culture is everyone’s responsibility and that waiting for someone else to do it won’t move the group forward.

Newcastle Knights’ balls-to-the-wall defensive transition

Like most coaches, I’m always looking to steal things I see online that can be useful visuals for my team.

This was the best example of defensive transition, work-rate, and desire I’ve ever seen.

Even if you don’t understand the nuance of rugby league, you can appreciate the never-say-die mentality on display here.

Todd Beane’s six steps to better coaching

I wrote last year about coaching communication habits to break, but the simplest one could have gone above them all: Talk less, observe more.

This past season, I wasn’t on the sidelines with our team, instead observing the game from an elevated position.

I was stunned at how much better my observational skills got once I was removed from having to communicate with anyone except the head coach.

Beane’s post reminds us of the need to observe more in practice too. Many coaches, myself included, over-function in this setting and talk too much, to the detriment of our ability to observe and then diagnose both problems and solutions.

My Coaching Journey on practice complexity

This hits on a really important point about practice design, namely that the devil is in the details - but which ones?

As a younger coach, I made practices more complex than they needed to be. I’d rarely do the same exercise twice for fear players “find me out” as a coach, and the ones I did were too convoluted.

I’ve since learned that our job as coaches is to make a complex game simpler for the players. The intentionality should go into how you coach, not what you coach.

Brad Stevens urging externality

Some of the best content value I get as a coach is seeing how top-level coaches communicate in real-life, unscripted situations, not just in guarded interviews.

This snippet on externality from Brad Stevens from his time as Boston Celtics head coach wasn’t a new concept for me, but it did give me a new way of communicating the idea: “If something’s going well for you right now, make it go well for someone else.”

Mikel Arteta's sideline behavior

Coaches are supposed to be performers in the game, not fans of it.

Yet many of us act like deranged lunatics on the sideline - perhaps not surprising given our competitive nature, the lack of actual control we have over the game, the pressure to get results, etc.

These quotes from Arsenal manager (read: coach, everywhere except English football) Arteta get at something we all know:

Bad sideline behavior clouds our judgment and observation, doesn’t help the players, and usually makes things worse.

But we also really want to justify doing it.

A timely reminder to work more on our sideline behavior, and make fewer excuses for it.

Sahil Bloom’s 1-1-1 Journaling Method

As someone who finds it hard to turn my brain off and get to sleep - don’t most coaches! - I appreciated Bloom sharing this quick journaling technique to close loops in your mind before bed.

It involves writing down three points every evening:

  • 1 win from the day

  • 1 point of tension, stress, or anxiety

  • 1 point of gratitude

A five-minute practice that, as Bloom says, “provides an incredible return in the form of clarity and peace of mind” - perfect for the overthinking coach.

Jose Mourinho takes principles of play mainstream

I’m not always Mourinho’s biggest fan.

However, in a world of under-researched football pundits trading on name and opinion only, he at least can help TV viewers understand the art of coaching.

Most people outside the coaching world understand what tactics are, but very few understand principles of play, why they’re crucial to how a team operates, and how they differ from tactics.

Kudos to Jose - and to the ever-insightful David Garcia for sharing - for bringing a little bit of coaching nerdiness and nuance to the masses.

Thanks for reading! If you found some great coaching ideas in 2023, please let me know!

Whenever you’re ready, here are a few ways I can help you:

1. Efficient Practice Design: My multi-step system for creating practice plans that will flow smoothly, stretch your players appropriately, and save coaches of all team sports dozens of hours a year, on and off the field.

2. Premium Practice Planner:  A Notion template to help sports coaches plan, deliver and review their sessions with maximum efficiency - then smartly archive everything.

3. Coach’s Dozen: An ebook of 12 small-sided games with diagrams and animations to help you train goalscoring in field hockey, co-authored with Mark Egner.