This past weekend I attended US Squash’s first Level 3 Coach Certification seminar. The focus was on teaching elite players. I had been both looking forward to this weekend for several years (while it was in development) but I also have to admit that I had a healthy dose of skepticism – which it turns out was shared by the other 10 invited coaches. Training coaches can be tricky as the attendees often have more experience than the instructors, and there are a variety of philosophies on technical styles which can sometimes lead to unproductive debate rather than open discussion. Coaches also can often have healthy egos that can get in the way. So as I took my seat for the start of the weekend it was with a bit of trepidation.
The session was run by two relatively young Englishmen, Rich Wade and Alex Stait both of whom, besides being excellent players and coaches, had been intimately involved with the coaching certification process in England. They instantly set the tone for the weekend acknowledging the wealth of experience and knowledge in the room and letting us know that we would be discussing and sharing ideas all weekend and that they would not be lecturing. Instantly you could feel any tension in the room disappear. What followed was three of the most engaging, interesting and enlightening days of coaching I have ever experienced.
Rich and Alex went back and forth effortlessly leading discussions and introducing ideas. The discussions which were lively and very knowledgable also benefitted from both the geographical diversity of the coaches – coaches from virtually every region of the country – but also from the wide variety of international backgrounds represented: England, Australia, Egypt, Zimbabwe, and the US. So there were a lot of ideas.
It can be difficult for coaches to accept new ideas as they will often have a “personal” stake in the specific technique they have taught, and it can be strangely uncomfortable for a coach to go back to a student they have taught and change something they may have reinforced for a long time. But clearly in this group all those concerns were not involved and we were all determined to learn as much as possible.
John White, former world #1, was brought in for a session to get his take on several technical issues as well as an experienced strength trainer who works extensively with squash players.
Daily sessions were long – we would start early and go late – but invariably everybody would stay to get games in at the end of the day. As I write this I am sore from all of the end-of-day games I played – 3 games each against an Egyptian, and Englishman, an Australian and an American. Playing tough games against so many styles was an experience in and of itself.
A strong bond was built between the twelve of us and we are determined to keep in touch on ideas and results which will inevitably make us continue to grow and improve as coaches.