“Progress to success is not linear: prepare for the long and winding road.” – Greig Paterson
Greig Paterson is Head of Coach Education and Development at the SFA. His coaching journey began in the role of development officer at Glasgow where he was given the opportunity to take responsibility for the coach education programme. From there, he stepped into the role of National Coordinator of Coach Education in Ireland, meaning everything he’d done on a city basis was now being done on a national basis, before returning to Scotland to take on his current role. This might seem like a fairly linear leap to success, but Greig’s words of advice for those just starting out on their coaching journey are: “Be prepared for the long haul.”
Learn Your Trade
Unlike some other industries, there are no shortcuts or fast-tracks to mastering the skills needed to succeed in football coaching. Greig says: “Young people in society today are brought up in a world of quick wins and instantaneous information, but football doesn’t necessarily connect with that. You still need to serve an apprenticeship; you still need to learn your trade, and it’s going to take years to go through the processes, the learning, and the gaining of experience. It takes time and effort to really get to know the fabric and the structure of the industry, but it’s only through putting in the time to understand the idiosyncrasies of football that a coach can become a success.”
Successful coaching takes myriad skills. Greig’s journey may appear linear, but he faced a steep learning curve at every step, and every step led to many more years of continued learning. Skills go way beyond knowing the game to include communication and being able to speak in front of people, strategy, man management, HR, finances and budgeting… the list goes on, and perhaps above all, developing the ability to get the best out of every individual in the team. Finding your style and getting the balance right between ‘guided discovery’ and ‘telling’ can be a skill that coaches struggle with.
Greig says: “You need to experiment to find your style. It’s like a set of golf clubs – you’re out on the course and you use the club that best suits the shot. Once a coach knows a player or knows what they’re trying to get out of a session, they know what club to pull out of the bag in terms of style or approach to use. It’s all about context.”
Changing Face of Coaching
Coach education is constantly evolving.
As society changes, so must football and football coaching. Greig believes that IT has helped to simplify much of the record-keeping and progress-charting process, and this is important when everyone is working towards a final practical assessment. An awareness of progress at every stage can be just as important as the final assessment, helping to identify strengths and weaknesses that can be utilised or improved.
Greig says: “Players are more educated now, and performance analysis is expected, meaning it’s more important than ever that coaches continue to educate themselves. Players want to know the WHY of what they’re being asked to do.”
As Scotland begins to ease out of lockdown, the SFA will be giving some thought to how they provide coach education in the future. Online courses have helped to keep people learning, but Greig believes that getting people back out onto the pitch is needed to give coaches the opportunity to continue developing and growing. As he found in his own steep learning curve, it’s all about getting out to meet people and building relationships.
He says, “Becoming a successful coach takes a long time and it’s all-encompassing – be prepared for the long and winding road.”
Don MacNaughton is a High-Performance Coach working with athletes, teams, and coaches.
To listen to Dons’ full interview with Greig click here