A Guide to Better Preparation

We know as coaches that in order to increase the chance of winning the next game, preparation in terms of knowing the tactical inclinations of our opponent is crucial. However, preparing for the next game by analyzing your opponent is only one example of how preparation plays a part in creating success for you as the coach. 


The legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden was a firm believer in good preparation and echoed Benjamin Franklin when saying “Failing to prepare is to prepare for failure”. Now, of course Mr. Wooden was a role model for all coaches when we speak about how to prepare. This is the man who taught his players how to tie their shoelaces and even how to put on their socks correctly. 


Why did he do that you might be thinking? Well, if your socks get wrinkles you’ll probably end up with blisters that will at least take your focus away from your job on the court. What if your shoelace gets untied during a transition moment in the game, will you be able to join and help your team? This detailed approach of preparing is important when every game is decided by inches and fractions of a second. This leads to the question, what if you don’t prepare in detail, will you fail? 


Let me answer that question with another question: what is failure for a coach? Because, if you ask a fan on the street, the answer would probably be that a coach fails when more games are lost than won. But how do you know what number of lost games constitutes failure and how many wins will make you a success?


This complexity surrounding winning and losing makes it difficult to only base failure for a coach upon the results. Especially since the result is also the hardest thing to control in a team sport. Sure, at the end of the day every game is about winning, at least on a philosophical level, so we cannot remove the aspect of winning and losing completely from the equation. 


However, there might be some less obvious ways of failing in your coaching environment that can hurt your chances of success without you being fully aware of it. How often do you prepare for all of your tasks in the best possible way? Do you prepare before every training session and every type of meeting? Do you prepare as well before a staff meeting as you do for the team meeting before the game? 


If you are coaching young players, the cause and effect might not be so obvious short term. Seeing the link between lack of training preparation, results, and long-term player development will be difficult to spot. And developing players who go on and play collegiately or professional, that’s up to the players themselves right? 


Partly yes, but one thing that’s for sure is that coaches who don’t prepare their training sessions will not help their players, nor their teams develop in the best possible way. 


 How many times has it happened to you, that you had to repeat yourself somehow due to a lack of preparation? Either in terms of holding another meeting, or coaching the same player on the same topic the very next day? 


When speaking to coaches and asking them this question, I often hear that they would like to prepare better but there’s just not enough time. Many coaches also say that in order to save time they skip some or all of their preparations in certain areas. This concept of saving time by not preparing is deeply flawed. 


What I will show you in this guide is that it’s actually the opposite, by being well prepared, you save time by not having to do things twice. One of the other key points is that you can prepare better for all the different types of task that you have. It doesn’t matter if it’s preparing for a training session, a team meeting or a surprise meeting with your director of coaching. 


The risk of not preparing for these types of situations is that you might eventually find yourself in a situation that will have a negative impact for your future coaching career. If you fail to prepare once or twice for a session, a meeting or some sort of public appearance, you will probably be fine. 


But given enough iterations of failing to prepare, regardless of what the task might be, you will increase the risk of suddenly finding yourself without a coaching job. By using the model I will teach you, there is nothing that will catch you totally by surprise and jeopardize your journey towards success. 


The Looking Model


Step 1: Look for clues

The first step of this model is to make sure you know what you are preparing for. Within a club and organization, the next task is not always as straightforward as it might seem. What's the topic of the upcoming meeting? Who's going to be at that event? What does that body language of your player mean? Learn more >>


Step 2: Look within

When you've figured out what you are preparing for, you need to ask yourself whether you know what you want out of it. Preparing for any of your coaching tasks is impossible without knowing what type of result you want out of it. Asking yourself "what do I want out of this task" might work once in a while, but you don't have time to do that in the middle of the session... Learn more >>


Step 3: Look out 

Regardless of your level of coaching or education, there's always more information out there. You don't need to attend a multi-year formal education on every topic, but you do need the relevant knowledge for your upcoming tasks. Learn more >> 


Step 4: Look forward

The last step of the Looking Model is the transition between preparing and executing your coaching. When you've gone through the previous steps you can increase the chance of actually executing the way you want by looking into the future and use visualization techniques. Learn more >>



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