How can a world class international player become an incredible coach?
That is the question that FIH Coach Educator Darren Cheesman posed at the beginning of the inaugural online FIH Academy Athlete2Coach session.
Along with fellow Coach Educator Tsoanelo Pholo of South Africa, Cheesman was working with 10 top level players or former players on a programme designed to support their transition from athlete to coach. The course is part of the FIH Academy’s raft of coaching qualifications and is focused very much upon meeting the learning needs of international athletes and keeping their skills and experience within hockey long after they retire as players.
Where most coaching courses focus on teaching high level technical and tactical skills, these are areas in which international athletes are well-honed. For these would be coaches, the most fundamental quality they need to master is how to coach a skill or explain a tactic to someone who does not yet have their level of ability and experience.
At the same time, for athletes who have experienced playing and being coached at the highest level of the game, starting as a beginner coach would not make sense. The Athlete2Coach programme enables the fast-tracking of athletes who show the necessary aptitude to become a good coach.
As Cheesman, who is a former Great Britain and England international, pointed out to the coach-athletes: “Being an international athlete, you have an incredible skill set. You are better able to do very complex technical skills on the hockey pitch than those who you are coaching. So often you may find it difficult to understand, for example, why someone cannot perform some skills the way you want them to. The question is whether you can take the complexity of the skill and break it down into steps they can understand, practice and then build back up to the level you are aiming for something simple.”
One of the attendees on the course is Argentina’s Lucas Rey. The midfield dynamo was part of the Argentina squad that won gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and he played a total of 225 games for Los Leones before retiring from international hockey in 2017.
“This kind of course is very important,” says Rey. “It will help us see and understand a different side of the game from that we experienced as a player. It will give us a lot of tools to improve our coaching.
“For us, as athletes, skills come easily so it is important that we realise that when we are explaining to a young player how to do a skill, we must teach them properly. To do that, we need to understand how coaching works. With the proper [coaching] tools we can share our knowledge and experience in the correct way.”
A feature of the Athlete2Coach course is the ability of the gathered coaches to share knowledge and experience. As this is an online course, it is easier for athletes from across the globe to come together in an online session. A question posed by the Coach Educators asked if there were cultural differences to how basic skills were performed and how they should be taught. The ensuing discussion saw the athlete-coaches grabbing their sticks to demonstrate a point and soon a lively debate was in full flow.
For Rey, a coaching career has probably always beckoned – he is already involved in physical education teaching in Argentina – but, he says, there was a moment when he was still playing when he started paying attention to the game in a different way. “You look at the skills, the tactics and the techniques in a different way – it is at that point that you know you are on a one-way road.”
The online Athlete2Coach course is just one example of the many courses offered by the FIH Academy. As an online course, Athlete2Coach takes away the necessity of extra travel to course venues and enables time-stretched athletes an improved opportunity to begin their transition from on-field to side-line.
Athlete2Coach Level 1 course candidates: Lucas Rey (ARG), Jonas Verest (SUI), Adriaan Kühn (GER), Eva de Goede (NED), Muhammad Waseem Aslam (PAK), Sebastian Valdas (CHI), Emma Buckley (IRL), Tengku Tajuddin (MAS)
Further Athlete2Coach courses will be announced soon, all information can be found at