Coaching Association of Canada

Chris Cowan - Certified NCCP Development Coach, Sailing

Maximizing Learning at Major Events: Look, Listen, Reflect!

Major events happen at every level of both the athlete and coach development pathways, from the grassroots level through to the Olympic Games. While you’re at the event trying to push your team or athletes to their highest potential, there are huge opportunities for you, the coach, to learn from this event as well. Many of us are trying to reach the highest echelons of our sport and there are always things we can take away from events whether they’re major multi-sport events or simple regional championships.

So much can be learned just from watching and studying other winning teams, athletes, and coaches. What are the athletes doing? Can you pick up any good techniques or routines? How does the coach interact/communicate with the athletes and how do they respond? Does the coach have any valuable in-competition or even out-of-competition habits? Looking and studying these behaviours with an open mind will allow you to pick up new ideas and properly reflect on them before deciding to adopt them or not.

Many of my most valuable learning opportunities come from casual conversations with other athletes and coaches. As a coach, you will likely have some down time without athletes around. Make an effort to interact and connect with other coaches. Whether it’s at the breakfast, a coffee shop, during a morning jog, etc.; make the most of this opportunity. Sometimes even a casual story will provide something valuable that you can take away. This is also your chance to share your experience in an informal setting and share some dialogue or questions with others. Major events often have coaching, officiating, or athlete development seminars and professional development events happening in parallel. Take advantage of these, no matter the subject; they are often led by veterans of the sport and present networking and collaboration opportunities.

Take quality time to reflect on what you have taken away from a competition as it relates to your goals and that of the athletes. Think about things you liked, didn’t like, found effective and valuable, and things you’d change. Are there opportunities for you to implement any of these lessons into your own program for yourself or the athletes? The more you can glean from your experiences at the competition, the more valuable you and your program become.

In your coaching, you will be exposed to many events, talented coaches, and talented athletes. Look and study situations, listen intently, and most importantly, set goals for yourself, maximize learning, and look back on your event experiences.

Chris Cowan
Canadian team coach, 2014 ISAF Youth World Sailing Championships
Ontario Sailing Provincial Coach