In my experience, there can often be a perception from those who haven’t worked in professional clubs or seen high-performance sport environments that there is a ‘secret sauce’ or some kind of really complex programming going on behind closed doors, when in fact it often tends to be quite the opposite.

Over the last 12 months, I have spent time in two A-League clubs, two New Zealand Super Rugby franchises and an NRL club. The common thread is the clarity, purpose and simplicity with which they operate.

Coaches are crystal clear on their intentions, their vision, values, their roles, how they communicate and the outcomes they are looking for going into a session or season.

Shared language exists amongst staff and players. Whether it’s team meetings, video review, gym work or a field session, there is purpose and clarity in the work being undertaken. More so, the processes that lead to performance are paramount, while winning battles on the pitch, or a winning mentality may be discussed, the outcome is never the sole focus.

These experiences have made me reflect on how (at times) in grassroots environments we can overcomplicate the process or miss the point around development.

Whether this is poor task design, coaches over-communicating, perhaps determined to validate their own existence to an audience of parents watching from behind the fence? Or whether it’s the first question after a game to a young player from a well-meaning parent taking the form of, “Did you win today?”

We need to challenge it and perhaps strip our approach back to one question. Does practice look like the game?

Three things to consider.

  1. When planning your session, do you ensure the activities are realistic, well planned and the players get maximum time to solve problems?
  2. If working with other coaches, do you ensure you’re aligned on the intention of the session or programme and that you’re clear on your roles?
  3. Is your language clear, concise and consistent with the players?

One thing for you to try this week.

If you don’t do it already, consider reducing the number of components in your session. Maybe your normal process is 4 or 5 activities in 90 minutes. What would happen if you reduced it to 2 parts of 45 minutes and allowed the players more time to find a state of flow?

One critical resource on the topic.

Check out this top article from PDP Lead Researcher, James Vaughan, Simplicity vs. Complexity – A Guide to Training Session Design from the PDP archives.

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