National Coaches Day was on October 6 and the Indomitable Club hosted a virtual panel with Head Coach Mark Briggs, Academy Director Dennis Sanchez, Coaching Corps Program Manager Khali Blackman-Newton and Positive Coaching Alliance’s Executive Vice President Courtney Pollack who joined Connor Sutton for a roundtable discussion about lessons learned from their experiences in the game and the challenges they’ve had to face from the coach’s perspective.
The full 60-minute conversation can be listened to in its entirety below as all four – and later joined by special guest Republic FC President & COO Ben Gumpert – talked about the importance of coaching in terms of helping not just children grow their skills and passions for the game, but molding each of their young characters and encouraging overall positive growth in their communities.
“It’s not always about the tactical and the technical, it’s about the social and emotional skills and having those things built into your practice and your gamedays so that your building those kids up and helping those kids be the best that they can be,” Pollack said.
Building those individual skills are a crucial component to any coach’s success. And in order for a coach to be successful, they need to always be searching for ways to improve themselves while always trying to improve and encourage the group they’re leading. Among a number of topics, the group explored ways coaches can be better coaches and the challenges each of them is currently facing, and sometimes those challenges are bigger than the game itself.
Mark Briggs is in his first full season as head coach of Sacramento Republic FC.
“Often faces challenges reflective of the larger community,” Khali Blackman-Newton said. “That could be sports-specific like access to equipment and functioning facilities. Having access to trained and caring coaches. Difficulty enrolling children like player participation. And then what are challenges that can affect their ability to play like transportation, food insecurity, limited parental involvement. That’s why coaches are so important, they can help navigate all those intersections and still strive to create an environment where kids are learning, it’s fun and kids feel safe.”
Another difficult challenge each coach has encountered has been connecting with their teams during the pandemic. It’s been no easy task, but it’s been one all coaches have been faced with trying to figure out.
“We had to be creative,” Republic FC Academy Director Dennis Sanchez said. “We purposely instead of sending out technical exercises to do every day, we very much wanted to find a balance of some structure but at the same time almost challenging the players to be owners of their own development over time.”
Unique strategies coaches have had to implement at all skill levels and every age group. That includes the professional level where Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs had to do his best to take a positive approach to building team chemistry despite not spending physical time together. That focus on bringing life to his Zoom meetings was crucial for his team’s success when they returned to the pitch.
“We’ve had players open up and be honest about their feelings and emotions which I feel has helped us when we actually got back on the field from a group standpoint, from a mentality standpoint, from a togetherness standpoint,” Briggs said. “So I think it’s just about adapting and the glass is always half full and I think as a coach that’s imperative, you always want to see the positive and have a growth mindset because even though you’re on a computer screen and away from people, you have a big effect on the people looking at you and if you can be in a positive frame of mind and be enthusiastic, people can latch on to that.”
Be sure to listen to the whole discussion that also includes a Q&A, each of their experiences transitioning from playing to coaching and much more, and available on the Positive Coaching Alliance’s website is the full press release regarding the partnership between PCA and Coaching Corps.
“We’re connecting our broader communities and sharing that information, those forums and that knowledge to ultimately help more people – that’s the goal,” Blackman-Newton said.
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