I read a really interesting debate on an online martial arts forum, UK BJJ Underground, a little while back. Being discussed was the age old question of whether a prerequisite to being a good/great coach is for the coach to have been a good/great player them self. I keep a daily diary and records of any prominent thoughts I have during the day, I find the Apple Notes and VoiceRecorder apps brilliant for this, below is something I wrote down that day after some thought provoking reading.
You don’t have to have been a World Champion to be a great coach but I do believe that you have to have competed in high/top level events for X number of years and been through the routines of the level and volume of training required to do so. Teaching techniques and tactics are the base of all levels of coaches, it is the effective intricate advices and philosophies around the core preparation that separates the good and the great from the rest.
From a players perspective I like to know that the person I’m working with has been through the wringer themselves, that they somewhat understand what I’m thinking and feeling. That, I have found, has made me able to have faith and confidence in what I am being asked to do. That level of connection I think is so vital, especially when going after longer term goals. I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with some excellent and world class coaches; at Camberley, Luke Preston and for a short while Mark Earle, on the national team plenty of time at tournaments and training camps spent with Billy Cusak. All of those men went through the mill themselves as players, competed at top international level for years, made the sacrifices to train full time, made weight etc. I know when they ask me to do something difficult that they have done similar or were willing to do so. What they are asking has already been tested under fire.
At the same time being a top level player certainly doesn’t directly give someone the ability to become a top level coach. It is merely one small piece of the puzzle.