The Coach Development Pathway relies heavily on coaches working with other coaches in a supportive or mentoring role. This is supported by the suggested coaching structures within the Performance Centres, whereby a Level 3 coach will work with a team of Level 2 and Level 1 coaches. Those of you who are lucky enough to have a team of coaches around you already, will know that it is a great way to work and can be very stimulating for all involved. We would like to help coaches to further develop the relationships that they have with other coaches, whether they be coaches you are supporting or being supported by.
A key part of the UKCC Coaching Qualifications is a mentoring structure to support coaches. Throughout the education process coaches are developing action plans for their future development, which will then form the basis for mentoring support. It will take some time until mentor support is fully integrated as we hope to be able to provide training for those who are mentoring other coaches. In the shorter term we are starting to work from the bottom and moving upwards, with Level 1 Assistant coaches being supported as they begin throughout and once they have completed their qualification. A pilot programme is currently taking place in Hertfordshire, where all those coaches who are taking their Level 1 qualification are being linked with a mentor who has undergone some initial training.
These mentors will be working with the Level 1 coach as soon as they begin their training and will continue to do so for a minimum number of weeks initially, but will hopefully develop mentoring relationships that will last much longer. Throughout 2008 this programme will be rolled out further and more training will become available for mentors.
The Role of the Mentor
We talk a lot about mentoring, both becoming one and working with one, but what do we actually mean by it? Before we go into that it is important that we have an understanding of how people learn as this is central to the role of the mentor, and it is especially important to remember that people learn in different ways.
Learning is not an automatic process, and does not always occur as a consequence of teaching! It is not simply about gaining knowledge but is about understanding how to use and apply that knowledge in different situations, and is normally demonstrated by a permanent change in behaviour and performance.
Many coaches will already be helping and working with other coaches, probably in a ‘support coach’ role with a team of assistant coaches. These coaches will benefit from the opportunity to observe a more experienced coach in action, as well as be observed by them and receive some feedback.
Depending on the type and level of feedback, there is probably some degree of mentoring going on as well, particularly if the Mentor asks open questions to raise awareness and involves the mentee in their own development thus having a positive impact on recall.
Fundamentally the role of the mentor in the coach’s learning process is to encourage the coach to examine their own coaching practice and take responsibility for their own development and performance. The most important thing therefore is that mentoring is Coach Centred, focusing on the coach’s agenda, with the mentor helping the coach to explore their own solutions (not the mentor’s!), whilst also growing their confidence and competence.
Want to become a Coach Mentor?
It is tempting to assume that only those with exceptional knowledge and experience are able to be mentors, whilst this is essential for those who are providing technical advice it is less critical for a mentor.
It is the skills and attributes of the mentor that are more important, such as the ability to establish relationships built on trust, respect and understanding, as well as the skills to encourage a coach to reflect on their own coaching practice and to be involved in their own learning and development. It is quite possible for a mentor to come from a completely different background to their mentee, possibly a coach from a different sport. T
his might seem like a slightly odd concept, however, having too much knowledge of the mentee’s role can lead to a lot of ‘telling’ and far less ‘mentoring’ and encouraging the coach to self-reflect and come up with the solutions themselves, although in reality this is more likely when a more experienced coach is working with a mentor.
A good mentor will be able to:
- build rapport
- use questioning to raise awareness
- set goals
- action plan
- use a framework to help coaches to learn
- help coaches review and take responsibility for their behaviour and development
- make others feel valued
- manage emotions
They will also need to know about how people learn as well as the principles of mentoring. They will need to be able to spend a bit of time getting to know their mentee as working with a mentor is quite a personal thing and therefore needs to be someone who is on the same ‘wavelength’ as the coach. A mentoring relationship is something that evolves, often with two people who know each other well or get to know each other well.
Further information about the BADMINTON England Mentoring Programme will be made available shortly.