March 2023, Articles

Creating communities of practice for coaches

While a lot of emphasis is placed on creating pathways for athletes, HPSNZ’s Core Knowledge coaching programme lead, Craig Palmer, flips that on its head.

“In order to create pathways for athletes, you must create pathways for coaches because that is where we can make the greatest contribution to ongoing, sustainable and repeatable success,” says Craig.

Wā Kainga Core Knowledge is, as its name suggests, at the very heart of HPSNZ’s suite of end to end coaching programmes.

2023 will be the biggest roll out of Core Knowledge, a well-respected and, in the words of NSOs and participants alike, highly valuable programme since its inception as a pilot in 2020/21.

With a successful programme in 2022 under their belt, the Core Knowledge team of what Craig describes as 23 ‘top shelf’ learning consultants and presenters, will deliver 36 workshops for 305 registered participants across 37 sports in 2023.

Core Knowledge is founded on some very clear principles says Craig.

“It is first and last designed to ensure our coaches are better equipped to coach and that they are more skillful in how they do so.  Core Knowledge will set coaches on a lifelong learning journey.

“It will ensure our athletes gain the benefit of a holistic and integrated approach from coaches who understand and manage the complexity of their craft.”

Core Knowledge targets coaches on the New Zealand Performance Pathway who are coaching pre-high performance and/or high performance athletes, performance coaches intending to transition into the high performance space and athletes either at the latter end of their career or who have recently retired and are looking to transition into coaching.

Since its inception in 2020/21, some 250 coaches across 37 sports have attended one or all of the three modules – coach craft (performance impact and professional practice), body in motion (performance and technique analysis) and energy systems (nutrition and physiology).

In shaping the 2023 programme, Craig has drawn on feedback from participants and NSOs.

While participants from 2022 offered a range of insights about the value of Core Knowledge, the most consistent comments were the way the session spent time digging deeply into a topic, allowing time to apply the theory to the individual’s own context; building the connection with different sports and building relationships with other coaches; and simply being in the room to enjoy the open forum to discuss their respective sports and engage in learning across codes.

Many participants cited the value of face-to-face delivery and the way in which presenters created an environment that allowed everyone to express their ideas and to do so in a very safe space.

Craig says feedback from a broad range of NSOs is also great which is highly gratifying.  “The single most important feedback we received is that Core Knowledge is filling a critical gap in the coaching space.

“Ten to 15 years ago there quite simply was nothing to offer coaches to equip them for their journey along the pathway to coach at the high performance level.

“We have received feedback from podium sports like cycling, canoe racing, rowing, hockey and athletics, through to aspirational sports such as skateboarding, climbing, squash and surf lifesaving to name a few.”

While specific comments varied, the overall theme was consistent.

“All NSOs are very grateful for the investment from HPSNZ in this space.  They emphasise the programme is and will have a high impact, that developing communities of coaching practice is great, and the significant benefit of in-person rather than online workshops and the benefit of cross sport interaction,” says Craig.

Craig, the former Cycling NZ Men’s Track Endurance coach, has been in the role as Core Knowledge Lead for a little over six months.  He has nothing but praise for Lyn Gunson and the HPSNZ coaching team who set up the original programme, and for his team of very experienced facilitators who offer their time and expertise to deliver this cornerstone coaching initiative.

“What always makes me feel humble is that at every workshop, quite simply, the knowledge is in the room – from facilitators to the coaches attending.  The quality of our delivery team is exceptional and, I believe, is the real point of difference compared to other coaching programmes around the world.”

Simon Thorp, Skateboarding NZ Coach and 2022 Wā Kainga Core Knowledge participants