November 31, 2022 | 50:39 min

Episode 5: Coaching Practices from the world of Lacrosse

The world of sports is often referenced in organizations. So it seemed natural to have as a guest someone who’s been fully immersed in it and can tell us the story of how coaches nurture player development, but also how they receive support in growing themselves. In this episode, we’re talking to Anne Pedersen, Coaching Coordinator for the European Lacrosse Federation, among others, about the athlete development model, feedback loops, and different units of the coaching development program she facilitates.

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Episode Podsheet

Here's the main things we got out of this episode, and something you should keep in mind as well.

Episode Transcript

Mili: Welcome everyone. In today's episode, we are diving into the fascinating world of sports. I think we have been very, very intrigued to explore this field a little bit more because as L&D professionals, we do refer to it quite a lot. So we were curious to learn more about how learning happens in sports in this context, who is actually responsible for the team's development, and what skills coaches need to have to be the best in the.

Mili: We're excited to explore these topics together with Anne Pedersen. Anne is a coaching coordinator for the European Lacrosse Federation and a coach developer with World Lacrosse. She has over 10 years of coaching experience at the youth, adolescent, and senior levels based in Oslo. She's the current coach of the Christiania Lacrosse and a former coach of the Norwegian national team. Her biggest passions are leadership, development, talent and performance management, and organizational culture.

Mili: We are very happy to have you today with us and welcome. 

Anne: Thank you. I'm excited to be here.

Mili: All right, so for everybody who will be listening for the next 45 to 50 minutes, let's start a little bit by unpacking lacrosse. So I remember, you know, when we got in touch I had to, you know, Google it, learn a little bit about it, and because, you know, it's something that you don't come across quite often.

Mili: We are overwhelmed with football and basketball and all of that. If you could give us a little intro about the sport itself a little bit, you know, what skills are needed, just a little bit to kind of go into this world that you are so familiar with. 

Anne: Yeah, so lacrosse is, uh, an incredible sport. Of course, I'm definitely quite biased.

Anne: I got interested in it, back when I was in primary school, uh, living in, in Scotland of all places. And, uh, have been involved with the sport now for over 20 years, uh, as a player and then as now as a coach. It was created by the indigenous. In North America, it dates back many centuries and, originated around what is now the border of Canada and the United States.

Anne: And it's played with a ball, uh, now made of solid rubber and a stick, which is usually now a titanium shaft, but used to be, you know, a piece of wood curled at the end with a net. Um, and then used for, for passing and catching and, and picking the ball up off the ground. 

Anne: It was used actually as a medicine game between different tribes and within tribes, uh, to do anything from resolve disputes to create community cohesion. Um, and was sometimes played by, you know, over a hundred people at the same time, over many, many kilometers. So now it's modernized and been codified into rules. And so we play on a football pitch. Uh, we play, I would say if you've never seen it before, obviously, YouTube is gonna be a great resource for you, but, it's, the back and forth of it is a lot like ice hockey.

Anne: Um, same with the substitutions. We're always on and off constantly, sometimes every single minute. Uh, substituting players in, um, with a similar kind of face-off structure. The offense and defense, I would say are closest to basketball, uh, because we can attack the goal, we can get behind the goal, and yeah, put all those things together and we call it the fastest game on two legs. Because of the speed at which the ball can travel through the air and how much back and forth, uh, you cover during, uh, during a game. And so usually you can get between 10 and 20 goals per game. So it's, uh, it's very fun to watch.

Anne: And, um, it's been played in Europe since the 18 hundreds. Um, and women have played the sport since the 1890s. So women actually have a, really robust history in this sport. And, uh, and now in Europe, we have over 50,000 players in 35 to 37 ish countries. And my role is to coordinate coach education, uh, and development across.

Lavinia: Or coaches that, that's so, so fascinating. Everything, like from the history of the sport, and I had no idea, just like Milli said, we're maybe not as familiar with the sport as we are, with others. But you mentioned being involved, with the sport very early on. How did you get into it? 

Anne: It was, it was a funny story because I, I got introduced to it to primary school, just in, in gym class, and then I didn't, I wasn't around it for another six years until I was in the States. I was living in Texas and in high school, and I saw some people in the spring, like wearing uniforms and I had this like, very strong sense of, of nostalgia because I had seen it, you know, on the other side of the world, uh, as a, you know, when I was 10 or something like that.

Anne: And so by that time I was in high school and I just knew, I was like, oh, that's gonna be my sport. And, uh, played through high school, played through university, after university and then, yeah, just, just kept, kept involved and then transitioned out of, out of coaching, or I'm sorry, out of playing into the coaching role.

Anne: I did them both at the same time for about the first seven years and then switched over permanently in 2014 when I, uh, became a national coach. 

Mili: Nice. And I think when we talked to you, that was also what we got very attractive because you played it, you coached and you actually developed a program that helps other coaches develop. I think, you know, if someone is an expert, that's you. Um, and I think we want to tackle both sides of this medal, right? That you actually have, you have been working as a coach. So I think a parallel that we wanna drive and explore more is just like a leader on the field. What does that look like? You look at how they relate to your teams, et cetera, and then we will, I think, pass towards, actually then based on the learning, how did you go about, uh, creating something for other coaches, to get better and all of that. So starting with the first one, do you wanna tell us a little bit as a coach, What are some skills that you are called to develop in your team? Uh, what is really important, and maybe how do you go about it? Like, how does that really, you know, really practically look like? Because it's very different from our leadership image in the office or something like that. So it's interesting. Let's go to explore a bit about your role as a coach. 

Anne: Well, what I think is so wonderful about sport and, you know, I think. It becomes more obvious when you think about how often it is referenced as you said in books on leadership and, and management and things like that, is that even though all of this really is tailored to sport, all of it is translatable into the workplace, uh, and in a different sense.

Anne: Um, so we break down skills into four areas. Uh, the first is technical and these are the skills that you need to succeed as an individual. And so this is going to be how to catch and throw a ball, how to pick a ground ball, one that's left on the, on, on the ground, how to shoot, how to save a ball if you're a goalie, all those things that make you excel as an individual. 

Anne: The second type is tactical and those are the skills you need to successfully work with other people, which is a different way of thinking about how you're, it's a behavioral skill in a sense, but also a technical skill. It's anticipating the movement of other people. It's offenses and defenses working together as a team and the communication that's involved with that. It's seeing the broader field and, and understanding your, your, where you are, where, what distance you need to travel and, um, and how to work with with a person next to you. 

Anne: The third is physical. And so this is where we get into speed and acceleration, strength and conditioning. And one of the biggest parts of our job is injury prevention, especially knowing the physical toll that's being taken on, on bodies, cuz these are bodies that need to last us for the rest of our lives. So it's a huge responsibility that we have as, as caretakers, uh, on the field. 

Anne: Um, and the final one is psychosocial. And so this is really these abstract concepts like resilience, how to deal with failure, how to emotionally regulate yourself, which, if you've ever dealt with teenagers, you'll know intimately is its own skill, uh, especially when you're dealing with 25 to 30 of them at once. 

Anne: And then you know how to be a supportive teammate, what it means to have a, you know, team culture and, and abide by the values that you agreed on. All those kinds of things. 

Anne: And then all of those exist within our adm, which is called an athlete development model. And that makes sure that when you're building your practice plans and your team plans, that it's developmentally appropriate for who you're working with, whether you're working with kids, you know, adolescents, adults.

Anne: Are they, is it a serious team? Are they super competitive? Is it just a rec league? So it helps you make sure that you are hitting the right notes, challenging them enough, but also ensuring their safety and not pushing them into a zone that's not, not going to help them in the best way possible or give them the best experience, I guess.

Anne: And so our job as coaches is then to, when you show up as a player to a field, ideally it's. Here are the things I've decided we're doing today to keep you busy or to teach you this skill. It's, it means that I need to teach you how to do, how to achieve certain things, but taking all of these four areas into, into account as we're doing it. And one of the biggest techniques that drive to make it as realistic as possible, because I think that one of the biggest evolutions that's happened in the practice of coaching over the past 10 years. 

Anne: We used to think of coaching as teaching skills and movement, So you think about cones, putting out cones, coaches, putting out cones on a field, and you say you start here and then you do this and you do this, and then boom, you score it and that's it. And so we were much more of a, an instructor in that kind of environment. And now the theory is really more teaching for understanding and teaching decision making.

Anne: And it's more about you're creating the environment in which those skills can just naturally appear.  And that the athletes are much more in control of driving, how far they're going, how fast they're progressing, and you are just like the alchemist on the outside facilitating that to make sure.

Anne: They have the, the best, uh, experience possible and creating that environment that fosters learning and growth.

Anne: So I say nowadays we focus a lot less on things like technique, where it used to be like, this is how you catch, this is how you throw it, and this is specifically how you need to do that. It's, you know, one of my favorite quotes that I've heard from a coach, she was like, at some point I realized like, I don't care if you look like Animal from the Muppets playing the drums when you make a save.

Anne: If you've made the save, you've made the save. My job is to make sure that that behavior is, is predictable to people playing with you so they understand, so they recognize how you're playing. 

Anne: So what's beautiful about that is that it allows so many different types of play and decision-making and personalities to thrive and not be, you know, constrained to this is what a good player looks.

Anne: Now, I think there's so many more accepted and celebrated variations to what a successful athlete can look like because it can be not just skill-based, it can be personality-based and, uh, and, and team, you know, if you're a good player, if you're, if you're just there as a primarily physical player, you know, there's all these different variations, which I think is, is great and healthy for, for the world of.

Mili: Oh yeah, you're called actually to do quite a lot. And I think, um, what would be really interesting to hear is how do you assure that you follow your team, both on the individual and also team level? Because you, you said there all these components are very important. So maybe if I, make a parallel to the deneral, what leaders do or coaches do, um, also in different environments. So how do you assure that you have certain goals set? How do you monitor those? What is the interaction that you have with your team? How does it look like, look like in, in the sports context? I'm really, really curious. 

Anne: I can't say enough about pre-season planning, um, or, you know, everything at the end of the day, especially for me.

Anne: And I mean, there's different ways. There's no right way to do anything. But for me, pre-season planning and having a strategic plan that lasts you at least throughout a season, ideally longer term, uh, is what's going to be your, your guiding light, and how I'm able to then implement that is very much controlled by my team.

Anne: Because it's worthless for me to have these ideas if I don't have a team that is on board to implement those ideas and make the sacrifices and the commitments necessary to reach the objectives that we want to meet because then people are not gonna be on the same page. We're not going to be aligned, you know, all those kinds of things.

Anne: And so I really think to be a good coach, to be a good manager in general, you have to be the most curious. You have to be the most curious person in your organization and you have to not be afraid to ask all sorts of questions that are going to give you the information. You need to figure out how your athletes want to perform, how they want to, you know, what goals they have and the way that they want to get there.

Anne: Cause at the end of the day, I'm gonna be the most successful if I'm harnessing all of their wants and needs. and, and, and merging what I want to achieve with that. You know, it's very much a servant leadership kind of model. Yeah. Uh, for, for me, and, um, because people are going to perform best when they're happiest when they're feeling like that they are valued, but they are challenged and when they are heard.

Anne: So you have to make sure that you're doing all three of those things. And it has honestly, so little to do with me because I'm just making sense of 20 different people's wants and then, bringing that together, saying, here's what I'm, here's what I'm hearing, seeing, and think we have the potential to do.

Anne: Here's how I think we're going to get there. And I very much, I, you know, come September or August, I'm already visualizing what I think we're capable of 10 months later. How would we look? How can we look in offense on defense in the championship? and then I'm creating a work back schedule. What would that skill look like if it's not where we are now?

Anne: What does that look like in six months? And then what does that look like three months before that? And then at six weeks before that so that I can then, then you break it down. Here's what I need to get done in September, October, November, and December. Here's where my benchmarks are. And so you can do that, we use a lot of the same tools that you would use you know, in management. You know, to make, I think it's been such a, an incredible tool for coaching, I think, can have, we can rely a little bit on motivational speeches and making sure that our people are really pumped up and engaged in what they wanna do. But we aren't great at being specific.

Anne: And so when I'm working with coaches, one of the things that we have to fix is the idea of what specific means, because it's really underdeveloped in a lot of coaches.I told them I need them to be better at this. I go, okay, great. Well, what does better mean? There's just five different ways to interpret.

Anne: There's no, there's 50 types. You know, I need you to be better at shooting. What does that mean? You know, you have to figure out where you are now, how much you want it to grow by, in what way, which environment, because then they actually have the right expectations to, to meet. If you don't set the expectation, you can't then evaluate whether they've been successful.

Anne: It's also one of our big roles. It's, um, you have to make sure you have all those things in order, and so you can do that at the individual level, people setting up those goals. You can do it by, you know, your role on the field, are you at an offense, defense midfield, um, a goalie? And then, um, it becomes great because then if you share those goals within your units, then people also celebrate your successes.

Anne: Even if you feel like, oh, I barely scraped that through, but someone else knows. Oh, I know you've been working on that for three months, and that just got you like smarter to that goal that you wanna hit by, you know, the halfway mark of the season. So there are a lot of different ways to then integrate.

Anne: And, you know, as long as we have the team goals, then people can set up to make sure that those individual goals, again, feed the, you know, the end result that we want to achieve at the end of the day. And so, when you're thinking about, you know, it's, it's really the same when you come to strategic planning.

Anne: How do we get the business outcomes that we want? What are the benchmarks? What are the measurable outputs? All those kinds of things, uh, also apply, uh, in that kind of sense. And then, of course, you have to, you need to adapt. If you're dealing with kids, it's gonna look a little different. 

Anne: Still a really cool exercise to do on a simple level, uh, with a kid to, to help them, you know, explain what it would, what it looks like to track something for, for three months, and whether it's a good thing to track or not worthy to track, or does this mean you're a good player?

Anne: Not really. Let's think about something else that actually shows that, uh, you're contributing to what the team is, is trying to do. So, uh, yeah. So I think it's, uh, it's a big mix. Uh, but I, I mean, I ask. We ask I think some uncomfortable questions or I think questions that people wouldn't expect in the off-season.

Anne: And so it's, you know, we openly ask people, how many more years do you think you're going to be here? Because at the end of the day, like what's interesting about my job is, you know, we have to apply all these similar metrics and things like that, but at the end of the day, everyone's here voluntarily.

Anne: They don't, you know, it's not like, oh I need to stay in the shop because that's my income. Like, there's none of that. There's no incentive keeping them or stopping them from leaving as opposed to being an incentive. It's everyone is there of their free will cuz this is where they wanna spend their time.

Anne: And so, you know, my job is to make sure that we create an environment that's so enjoyable that, you know, we say like one of your biggest definitions for success as a coach is just, do people come back tomorrow? Especially for kids, you know, if your environment is so much fun that regardless of how today went, someone's showing up tomorrow is such a huge mark of success.

Anne: Especially when you get, I mean, one of the biggest discussions we have in sport is especially that kind of 12-year-old, the 13-year-old shelf where so many kids drop out of the sport for whatever reason. And, um, there's a lot of, you know, research ongoing about that. You know, across every single sport. And so it's all about like, how do I make this, that place that they have to be, that they cannot, you know, I have to be at practice.

Anne: Because we were doing something, so, yeah. Yeah. And it seems to me, in order for that to work, there needs to be a very good connection to your coach, and your team, of course. But it feels like you get this individual, uh, development plan. And it relies a lot on what you get as a, as feedback from your coach.

Milica: Right. How do you develop, so, how does that look like, I mean, I suppose you're also monitoring how they develop on core, but like, do you have regular one on ones, do you create some kind of development plan? How does that look? In terms of the flow of, uh, feedback, um, because I assume that's the basis of, of your conversation that you have with your players.

Anne: Yeah. And so I think, I mean, right now I'm dealing with clubs for it, so you also have to understand at some point like how serious is this to them? So it's you mm-hmm, you know? Mm-hmm. Probably, you know, compared to when you're running a national team, it's much less one on ones and, and things like that.

Anne: But, uh, I make it up to my players, so it's like if, if they're here constantly, information or, or feedback on, on how they're performing, then we make sure that they know that they have the opportunity to do that. So right now, you know, I just had a big competition weekend two weeks ago and I had two or three people who said I'd really like one on one feedback.

Anne: So that means me going back and one of the big things that you know, cuz when we get to the coach development stuff, we'll talk about the different units that we focus on. But one of them is, is feedback, and one of the most important things, With coaching, is kind of taking control over your feedback process because the best feedback is gonna be feedback that works for you.

Anne: In a sense, at least when I talk about scheduling it, you know, I'm very big on my players. I'm like if you want feedback, I need three weeks notice. So if a player says, you know, I'd like some detailed feedback on how I'm progressing on, on or developing, um, over the season, if you expect an answer right there, the feedback you're gonna get is gonna be terrible, because it's gonna be based on recency. It's gonna be, you know, you hope to come up with everything you can possibly hear, in, in that moment.

Anne: And so I say, no, I, I want a few weeks' notice because then the next practice I'm gonna let my assistant run it. And what I do, is I pop it in an AirPod. I just create a voice memo and I just walk around and I watch them and I think about, okay. Let's look at technical skills. How are they, how are they functioning today as an individual?

Anne: Where are they with, they're catching. What are they missing? What can they be better at? But I looked at tactical and I'm like, are they seeing how other people are moving? Do they, are they anticipating, like where, what are the decision-making processes that they haven't mastered yet? And then you look at the physical, could they be faster here?

Anne: Do they need to be slower here? How's their accuracy when they're shooting? Those different types of things. And then the psychosocial, you know, how are they interacting with their teammates, all those kinds of things? And I usually take things, in probably six weeks bursts. Like I wouldn't give feedback more than every month and a half or, or actually no, eight weeks, or three months. 

Anne: And then when I'm ultimately thinking about their development, I'm like, where were they three months ago? Where are they now? And where do I want you to be? Or where, yeah, where do I need you to be in three months? So that I can also give them that through a line of, mot just saying, here's how you are, but this is, you know, to make me happy or to make me feel like you're still succeeding this is the direction I need to see, and this is how I think you should get there, so that it is specific and they have the direction they need to follow. And it's not, you know, clarity is the biggest thing you can give as a coach.

Anne: Um, making sure you're, you're either not allowing them to go in the wrong direction of what their train of thought, but also don't allow them to assume, what they, you know, assumptions just, you know, there are so many different ways to define things that you have to be super specific as a coach of this is where you need to go.

Lavinia: Oh, I so love that because I feel like it also, Puts you as a player in the shoes of your own learning process, right? If you want to develop, please let me know. So it doesn't fall only on the shoulders of the leader, uh, because,yeah, the, the manager or the leader, or the coach in your case is not the one that should be directing the learning journey of someone else, but it's, it's theirs. And you are only someone that gives input and gives help whenever they feel the need for that. Oh, and, to be honest, I have so many thoughts for everything you, you just said, and I know, um, both Mili and I are also curious to jump, uh, into the coaching development part.

Lavinia: But before moving there, you mentioned something that seems to be very similar with what, what's happening for leaders in organizations, which is they're, they aren't only managing the development of their people or the team development, but they are also sometimes having, you know, tasks that they need to do, technical tasks.

Lavinia: And you mentioned having experienced both working as a player and as a coach at the same time. Have I heard that right? 

Anne: No. So I personally haven't really done that and for a good reason cuz, it's a very hard job. But in my job as a coach developer, where I'm running these courses over and over again one of the, I think 30% of the questions that I get of people who still need extra instruction or extra insight are people who do have that role.

Anne: They play and they coach at the same time. And so my, what I, what I've done this year, uh, primarily as a coach developer, is actually develop a supplemental curriculum just for people in that role. And so, um, We can talk about that in a bit. I do have one more thing I wanna add about the feedback loop.

Anne: I think the most powerful thing I was able to do with my players this year we talk about, you know, there's this kind of short pyramid of, of things that matter as a coach, but one of them is, is connection. And you talk about the connection you have with your individual athletes. And we had, especially after Covid restrictions were lifted. I mean, sports came back at the same time as every major event.

Anne: So suddenly people have every wedding, every work trip, every, you know, social get-together that they wanted. And, and I was struggling with attendance for a little bit, and so I had to think, I was like, okay. In their mind, you know, especially because we don't have that many people showing up, then their value proposition has changed, right?

Anne: Like, is it still worth it for me to go to this instead of like actually finally going out to the pub with my friends and, and catching up? 

Anne: And so I sent out a message to the entire team, not just like the five people who were showing up that day. And I said, if you're still showing up tomorrow, send me a DM and, cause one of my biggest problems is as soon as people drop off, that means I have to reorganize everything.

Anne: I have to start from scratch in terms of planning. And uh, I said, send me a DM and I want you to tell me what part of your game you are least confident with right now.

Anne: What are you least confident with? 

Anne: What makes you scared on the field? What decision are you afraid to make? You know, what, what do you feel like you can't tell your teammates?

Anne: You know what, what's, what's one skill you think your weakest? 

Anne: I said, send me a dm. We'll spend 45 minutes on it tomorrow. 

Anne: And so suddenly, and it's like, I, it's, it's, it was such a different question to ask instead of like, what do you want to work on? It's where you feel weakest? Where do you feel like you possibly could be letting someone down?

Anne: It has created such an incredible dialogue because now it's an ongoing thing. Anytime I have, you know, a low level of practice or I really wanna engage with people, I'm like, send me a dm. What are you worried about right now? 

Anne: So instead of having maybe these one-on-ones once a year where you take that deep dive into what are you struggling with at work or what are you struggling with on the team? It's become this, this wonderful dialogue where I hear some from them sometimes every other week of this is what I'm worried about, this is where I wish I could be better, and it has then created this, you know, because you, if you react well to it and you give them that attention and one on one support immediately, and, and actually you're able to make the intervention, they're so much more engaged. They take more risks in the way that you want them to take risks. And, um, and then they, I think more often than not now, more come proactively to me about, this is where I wish I could be better.

Anne: You know, is there something that we could do? Could we integrate this into prices for everybody? Um, and so that's, the coolest changes I've made just with how deeply I'm talking to my people about what they need and it allows me better insight into what I can then do. As I can't help if I don't know.

Anne: So now I like created this open channel of, oh, I can actively, man, I can manage people so much more actively, um, and effectively because I'm asking those questions, uh, and making sure that they have the opportunity to. 

Lavinia: Yeah. And it also feels like you're creating a more psychologically safe environment because having a weakness is no longer a problem, but it's rather something we're gonna, you know, work on together or, yeah.

Lavinia: So, um, definitely I feel it has to do with psychological safety. I would like to move on now to, uh, how you're working with coaches and how you're helping coaches develop, and maybe we can touch on that difference of curriculum you, you mentioned for, for the two different people. How, maybe even a bit about your personal story, how did you end up doing that?

Anne: World Lacrosse is putting together a committee because globally we didn't have an educational resource to get coaches trained. It's been up to individual national governing bodies. So if you were a super developed country like the US or Canada or Australia, or um, the United Kingdom, you have developed over the past, you know, 20, 30, 40 years coaching curriculum, you certify your coaches.

Anne: And things like that, but at the global level, it did not exist. And that's just because we are globally a young sport. And so finally in 2019, they were saying, okay, we're putting a coaching curriculum together, we're going to create, um, a group of coach developers and they wanted something that was globally representative. And so because I had, you know, been in touch with the European Lacrosse Federation about, you know, I had no support when I was a national coach. If I needed help developing as a coach, I had to call the United States and be like, can someone just please help me with getting access to resources? And so it was something.

Anne: You know, because I hadn't struggled with it personally, I was just like so passionate about making sure that this was accessible for free to as many people as possible around the world. And so they nominated me to be on this committee that put out the first, you know, we're building out, of course, like a matrix, so we're starting with bronze and now it's gonna go up to Olympic because hopefully in 2028 we'll be part of the La Olympic. Which is super exciting, and we hope, you know, if that doesn't work out, maybe, maybe Brisbane afterward in 2032. 

Anne: So we have some really ambitious goals that we wanna achieve globally, and that means that we need to have an army of coaches that know what they're doing because, you know, we have seen from research, if you have a certified coach, you retain more players, your teams are, are, are healthier, your, your players last longer, and um, and so, you know, it's all. The sustainability of, of programs and support. 

Anne: And so, world across, they have a, a great, person in charge of, of development. And so they had come up with a framework and then we had this group of 10 of us from around the world to represent the people, that we worked with on the ground.

Anne: Our players, our coaches say, this is what people need. This is what people don't need. This is way too American-focused. This is what matters in Europe. This is what matters in Asia. 

Anne: And, uh, and come up with something as broad as possible that could be used to get everyone on the same page as terms of where, I mean, I, I got certified for the first time in 2010 or 2011. And, you know, the way we talk about coaching now, like I said, has completely changed. So even if you've been working for 20 years, when you take a coaching course with me, you're learning fresh methodology that's, you know, based on the most up-to-date research of, of what is most effective, uh, for coaching.

Anne: And so we have broken it down into six different units for our kind of bronze intro to coaching. Um, and that is we break it down into defining great coaching. So getting clarity about what the job is and, um, coaching domains, which is those four areas of coaching. Because I think, you know, a lot of people, you've never been trained as a coach.

Anne: You're like, okay, I have to keep these kids busy today. Let's work on this and this and this, and so by doing that, it gives you so much more information on how to build a season, how to build a plan, how to, because once you've identified all these skills, you suddenly have things to evaluate and then how do you build that in?

Anne: So, uh, then we have a unit on effective communication and kind of part one of the feedback process, and then we have coaching techniques, and this is thinking differently about how you build progressive exercise, how you actually build skill, and building that decision-making process. And so, and this was completely, this was new to me and has been transformative and how I coach.

Anne: And so it's like everything you do in order to make it realistic has to. Direction, a sense of direction because the sport you're going back, you have to be going a certain way defense, which can be either people defending you or it could be psychological defense, it could be a time restraint, things like that because you, you know, that's something that you have in real life.

Anne: Uh, and decision-making. How do you meet and beat those, those defensive elements and, and the directional challenge? 

Anne: So everything you do, how do I make it as realistic as possible? Because we know from how the brain works that if you teach an individual skill and a second individual skill and you don't connect them, you're you, you, we assume the brain will just do that work for us and it will not unless you practice A and then transitioning straight into B.

Anne: You have to, you know, build up not the muscle memory, but the neural pathway. To have your brain do that because if you don't do that suddenly on the field, you can't actually execute whatever you've been working on for six months. And so things look a lot messier now when we're coaching, but that's because every rep is unpredictable and your brain has to make a new decision and figure out what works and what doesn't work and why it didn't work.

Anne: And it's such a deeper learning process that even though it takes the same amount of time, you're able to, your ability to actually then transition it onto the field and. Is seamless because you've been practicing under a game, under a game scenario, under a real world scenario the whole time. 

Anne: So you drop a lot more balls, but your brain knows how to make the right decisions. So that's, uh, what's been so interesting, I think, in the past few years. So then we get into practice planning then, okay, how do I build an hour of this or two hours of this for eight year olds for 28 year olds for a national. 

Anne: And then the evaluation and feedback process. So that's kind of the core intro to how to do your job, and we split that over six hours classroom and then another five hours on the field where it's like, okay, now you're getting small groups, you're building your practices, and then I'm there, you know, advice on how they're communicating, how they're standing, are they facing the right direction?

Anne: Can everyone hear you? All of these things where it's like you as. You can tell someone the best ways or best practices to do that, but it's so hard to actually do it in person without someone being like, oh, remember, you need to be this way. Or you didn't explain this properly. Or not properly, but did you introduce everything you were actually expecting?

Anne: No. Okay, let's go back and think about how we would do it differently. 

Anne: And then, so I've been doing that for the past two and a half years now, running those courses. We, of course, had to change everything digital when Covid happened, but it ended up being great because we really jumped on the Miro train very early and created these amazing, interactive courses.

Anne: We got amazing feedback, and, um, it actually means I have to travel a lot less, which is, you know, everyone's best interests. 

Anne: And then out of that I kept getting all of these questions. But what about this? Or, I'm not sure about this, or how do I do this? But I'm also playing at the same time. Because we don't have this educated army of coaches, we have something is called the, we call the player-coach, which means someone is appointed at the last minute when they realize no one is willing to take on the leadership position.

Anne: It's out of necessity. They're managing their peers, which is a completely different dynamic from actually being a coach and having emotional boundaries that come with that job. 

Anne: And so I was like, okay, I did, you know, then you start the research process of how do I build a learning experience for this, this cohort or this group of people?

Anne: I ran a survey. As many players coaches as I could engage with in, in Europe, uh, who had this role. And 50% said they were unsure if they were successful in what they were doing. But what was even more interesting was that when I restrained that to people with 10 years of experience in that role, and more and over 67% were unsure if they were successful, which means that people actually became, Sure the longer they were in the role, which was shocking to me, and so, uh, you know, it's not something like, oh, I finally feel like I'm getting better at this. It's like now people are just kind of clueless and, and lacking support, for, for a decade on end. 

Anne: And it's the most common first coaching role. So I realized that, realized like, oh, we have a massively huge onboarding problem globally.

Anne: The reason that we probably don't have a lot of people, or as many coaches as we want coming to get an education is cause they've probably had a pretty terrible experience as their first experience. Feeling overwhelmed, feeling unsupported, and, and not having the guidance they need or the support network to, um, to be successful.

Anne: And so my goal with this, I was like, okay, I need to transform this from like, I have to do this to, I want to. And looking at every part of that journey and, and how they come into a, a leadership role in our sport. 

Anne: So we, I wanted to, you know, try it in that this is how programs develop. This is how entire countries get better at the sport, and it, you know, we needed to like really encourage some year over year reflection and, and measurement and goal setting and just the basics. 

Anne: Now we've built this course and we break it down into four main areas and it's first defining your role, so getting that clarity, how to set boundaries, season management, and this is a bit different from what they do in the bronze because we go into a kind of what it means to track, succession planning. So making sure that you're identifying the people who will come after you. 

Anne: And what does it mean to delegate? How do I delegate? What is it? You know, what can I delegate?

Anne: What shouldn't I delegate? It's such a basic skill, but I mean, people coming into these roles are sometimes 19 years old, 20 years old, they haven't had an office job yet. They're still in university. So a lot of these people are getting what is essentially first-time manager training. 

Anne: Five to six years before they would get it in a corporate setting, which I kind of love because then I just like, ooh, how do I, how do I get to influence all of their feelings about managing people, and set them up for success, you know, 10 years down the line.

Anne: It's awesome. And then we talk about how do I engage your players because so much of what they struggle with is buy-in because they don't have confidence in themselves, to begin with. So how are you gonna get 20 other people to sign off on a new methodology and a new way of working? Even though they're like, you have all these great ideas and, and I want to try them, but I know I'm gonna struggle getting people to actually follow my vision cuz now I feel like I have a vision.

Anne: And so supporting them through that process and then practice planning, um, because sometimes it's not just one player-coach, they have four people sharing the role. Because someone can do it on Tuesdays but not Thursdays, and someone could do it in August, but not January. And so, how do you then, how do you divide a role?

Anne: So we use, you know, the language of job sharing. Are you, are you twins? Are you doing the same thing on different days or are you islands, you're on defense, and I'm on offense. Then that's how we split it up. So it's like, how can we design this role to actually serve our team the best? If we have three people running this, what are your strengths?

Anne: Who's available when, you know, is it gonna be time-based or is it gonna be skill based? It's all these different questions that you can help them ask to actually just make their job easier. 

Anne: And so I said, the more you can do in June in July, and August before things get going, you're gonna feel much more confident and set in what you need, what the team needs.

Anne: You're gonna ask all these uncomfortable questions to your players, and they're gonna be able to tell you, this is how committed I am. And then you build everything around that because then when people have questions, you can say, look, you know, or I want us to be doing more difficult things. And you can say, well, 80% of the team said they're here to have fun and they don't really care as much about becoming elite performers. And so right now you have to understand that this isn't for you, but we're gonna do the harder stuff next week or in this kind of, you know, on this schedule, so you're at least able to better explain your own decision-making processes and things like that. So I'm super excited.

Milica: Yeah. Sounds like you really are setting up wonderful bases. You know, who knows how this is going to develop mm-hmm. Uh, but the challenges that you presented to us are so well known, and I think so much needed for first-time leads in whatever context. And I think we all struggle with the same kind of, uh, uh, you know, also setting up learning processes around it.

Anne: Um, I, I mean this was really insightful also, you know, your perspective as a coach, but also how do you kind of build in the skills for those who are going to lead? And maybe if you reflect, uh, since we are kind of going towards the end of the, of session, if you could now, summarize your learnings, and tomorrow you will be a leading organization.

Anne: What are the key lessons that you bring from your lacrosse experience directly into the business context? 

Anne: I think especially in a, now I've been doing this like over 10 years. One thing I have learned about myself is that I've become kind of fearless in, in the feedback process. And I think that's such a key skill in actually understanding our people, is asking the uncomfortable questions and, and being able to act on them and set up that plan.

Anne: I can't, I feel like I've read so many books on this. I, I can't remember if it's like an independent thought or not, but, um, you know, I realized that you know, when you work with people, they're going to have opinions about you and the way that you work, and if they feel like you're successful whether you ask them or not. So the question then becomes, am I the kind of person who knows that people have opinions and information that can help me be better, and I go in to investigate and get that feedback? Or am I the kind of person who knows that that exists and chooses not to ask the question?

Anne: And so, and I realized, I was like, I can't be that second person. I just can't, and my own kind of personal values. And so it's made me so much braver in terms of I don't know if I'm gonna like the answer to the question I'm about to ask, but I know that this person has an opinion and it's my job to ask for that.

Anne: And I know that there's a lot of people out there who aren't comfortable doing that. And so it's like, I'm like, this might suck, but you know what a lot of people wouldn't ask in the first place. And so that's the win. And then the more that you ask those uncomfortable questions and you get, you know, uncomfortable answers back.

Anne: And you respond well to it, the more that people are going to come to you earlier, before you're asking 'em my uncomfortable questions and be like, I don't really like the way you're doing this. Can you give me a more insight into why you're doing it? And so you have this much more constructive dialogue on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis as opposed to these things bottling up.

Anne: Because what if my boss asked me about this? Then I'm afraid to ask or answer honestly. It's like, how can I engineer this? So from day one, they're excited to give an honest answer that I can actually then address. Because so many times if we don't ask these questions, we assume, okay, this is what will help the situation.

Anne: And we build all these plans and we use all this effort, and it's not actually solving the problem that existed because you haven't asked the right questions to get to the, the source of, of the, of the discomfort, of the reason why people look at their opinions, all these kinds of things. So it's like you have to be, like I said, an investigator and you have.

Anne: Love the fact that everyone's different and has different ways of working and different ways of expressing how they're feeling at any given day. I think that's what I would definitely, you know, and I think it probably scares, you know, scares some, some sets of managers, that you're willing to say, oh, well this is what people are actually saying. And those kinds of meetings. But I dunno. I like it, I'm never afraid to raise my hand and say, but why? 

Anne: So I think there's that and one thing that I, I personally am very frustrated with and I met, I sent a message out to my board, um, before I was planning this and I said, you know, how many of you work?

Anne: Cause all of us work as volunteers. Everything that I've done as a coach, and developer, everything I've done as a coach, I've never made a single dollar from it. We're all working, doing this on top of nine to five. And uh, so I sent a message. I said, how many of your organizations that you're working for?

Anne: Cause you know, I have like scientists, I have health professionals, people training astronauts, like on our board, it's, it's wild. It's like, how many of you work for companies that have these professional development systems and things like that? 90% of them work in those, in that kind of, you know, modern organization.

Anne: And I said, how many of you think that like the skills that you use in this role are accounted for and seen by that organization? And 90% said there's no way for me to even indicate that I have these. And so, I mean, and I've experienced the same thing. I laughed at like my last organization, I wasn't eligible for intro to manager training, and like I like three hours before I'm going to work.

Anne: I'm running a leadership program or like an intro to management course for seven countries in Asia. And then I go to my day job and they're like, oh, but you know, it's not on your predefined possible path, so, therefore, you know you're not eligible even though you're technically running intro to management courses.

Anne: And uh, like our, our former president, she just stepped down because she's moving to a job or a role at World Lacrosse. Just this year we had to bring on a medical, a medical examiner to beat on our board for all of the covid, um, coming out of Covid, all these international qualifying events for World Cups and things like that. Getting back on the ground post covid with all the different quarantining rules and all this kind of stuff. 

Anne: And then finally, six weeks back into play, two of our members states to go to war. How do you know, and then it's navigating who gets to play, what are the rules? Like how do we do this fairly? What are the implications of that? And at her day job, it's entirely possible that her professional profile says she has zero experience with stakeholder management when she's been in that role for eight years. It's wild how much of us as humans and our skill set is not present in how we're building learning opportunities and, and personal development paths in our organizations. And so I think like seeing the whole person within those systems is, we are definitely not there yet. 

Milica: Well, I'm really, really happy for your future team. Uh, cause you'll definitely know how to be in tune with them, with their needs to build up, you know, plans that go both ways. You know, bottom up and top down. So there's a beautiful middle line for everyone to flourish and you know, you will see them with everything, all the experiences because that's true. You know, like I played volleyball for a long time and I know what it's taught me on very different levels.

Milica: But you know, I've never put that anywhere in my conversations. But I like deep down, I know how that influenced my, what you said, decision making, teamwork, the drive, you know, willingness to kind of, you know, get it done and, and, and, and celebrate. So yeah, I, I, I'm really happy for your future team, um, because I think you will, you will definitely, um, take a good care, uh, of them.

Anne: And thank you for sharing all this knowledge from this wonderful, you know, universe of lacrosse. I think, you know, we got so many wonderful insights, and, uh, I, I'm sure our listeners will enjoy this episode as we did. Uh, so thank you for being us, uh, with us tonight. Well, today, and, uh, And yeah, uh, uh, I hope that, uh, I, Lavinia, do you have any other questions or we can.

Lavinia: No, no, no. I'm, I'm fine. I just wanted to say thank you, Anna, for being with us. Although you're a bit sick. I know this has not been easy, so thank you so, so much. 

Anne: Well, you're more than welcome. I, I mean, the problem is not me talking about the problem is me shutting up about it. I'm always so excited to talk about it anything to do with leadership and culture and all that stuff, and I just, yeah, I've enjoyed all the episodes so far, so congratulations on a first kind of few months with the podcast. 

Lavinia & Milica: Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. 

Milica: Thank you so much for listening to today's podcast, which gave us an insight into the world of sports and how coaches sharpen their skills and take care of their team development by championing true leadership based on inclusivity and constant feedback.

Lavinia: Hope you learned as much as we did, and that you took this as a gentle nudge to reflect on which of Anne's practices you can adopt in your work as a learning and development professional. 

Milica: All our lessons learned are captured in the episode PO Sheet. You will find it in the description of this episode. If you're looking for more resources, go ahead and subscribe to our newsletter or join us in the Offbeat Fellowship where we facilitate social and practical learning among others to help you grow in your career. Create a happy day and never stop learning.

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