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After John Mcilroy’s ‘Balancing the Use of Humour in Coaching’ research blog post I’m interested to know how important is humour to your coaching?
I coach a 'beginner' adult run group at our club track session. These are not 'couch to 5k' runners, they are pretty well trained athletes (some of them are great swimmers) who are just not as fast as our top groups. When I took the group on, we had 3 attendees. Now we have around 15 come rain, hail, snow or shine. We have a brilliant laugh every week, and they train really really hard. We work hard on our drills but if we get them wrong we laugh about it. The main set is always a challenge, and pacing often a problem. We use humour to over come our relative weaknesses. We have seen great improvements in the running times because everyone is relaxed and have grown to love running and the friendship it brings. The objective is that they all get too fast for my group and move on to the next group. They are reluctant to leave but we have a steady flow of runners progressing on to greater things.
Where confidence is an issue, humour is crucial.
Essential in my opinion. Although how and the balance we use it will depend on the personality of the coach and the context in which they are working, which is the tricky bit.
I find that self-deprecating humour is a very useful tool for removing the 'role' barriers between the coach and athlete. Although it it does open you up to plenty of banter once the players feel like they have the green light!
A quote from Brendon McCullum really hit home with me recently:
“We talk about that playful little boy who fell in love with the game. When you have that mindset you can be positive and aggressive. Because you are thinking about what can go right, rather than what might go wrong.”
(Brendon McCullum, NZ Cricket Captain 2015)
Enjoying what we do is an essential part of being successful, especially over a sustained period. Humour I feel is essential for keeping our enjoyment and love for the game.
Really important - especially in the lower age groups. If you don't make it fun for the kids, you might aswell stop right now, because the kids lose interest so quickly. The only problem is, they don't have your level of intelligence, so they might get upset at something that an adult would laugh at... the tone has to be right and don't seem like you are picking on players.
With the older age groups, too much humour and you start to become their friend; I've found you lose control and the discipline goes... so it is important to strike that balance. These are kids that really want to focus and develop their skills, so I tend to tone it down a lot more.
I guess it really depends who you coach and their skill level, but you really need to show your human side instead of a drill sergeant - no one wants them! In any case, I want to have fun too!!!
Very! Coaching kids or adults - they need to know you are human too.
I think a coach's ability to use humour productively is a direct relfection of his/her ability to read the person rather than the player. Just as players react to different motivations and interactions, people respond and react to humour in different ways.
An example - I was coaching in a school a few months and one of the participants had been involved in a primary setting the year or two before. I knew she was a bit of a character and could give it out. Handing out bibs, I gave her an orange one, commenting that it would match her hair, which she and her classmates lauged at. But to make it better, she quickly asked did I have any grey bibs for myself! Her sharp wit coupled with me knowing her personality allowed me to quickly form a good rapport with her class leading to a great session.
I've also discovered after almost 4 years with my U17 boys football team that humour has progressively become a huge part of the team spirit. However, this must be monitored as dominant personalities can result is negativer behaviour. In this respect a slight telling off can be masked in humour so that the boys get the point but without me having to call anyone out on their behaviour.
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