Coaching & Mentoring Excellence: Steve Black

Steve Black, or ‘Blackie’ as he is affectionately known in the world of sport, has been involved with word class athletes for many years now.  He is most famous for being Jonny Wilkinson’s mentor and fitness coach over a number of years at Newcastle Falcons, including when Wilkinson was the best player in the world between 2000-2003 until injury robbed him of 3 years of his playing career.

Blackie has also worked under Graham Henry when he was coaching Wales (1998-2002) and the British and Irish Lions in their 2001 tour of Australia.  Most recently he has been working in football with Fulham,  Sunderland and his current team Huddersfield FC, working with their manager, the ex Newcastle United player Lee Clarke.

I have been following Blackie on Twitter (@B1ackie) for a while now and have found his tweets both informative and refreshing as I look to improve both my coaching and mentoring skills of young rugby players I work with at school.  He stresses that coaching, mentoring and motivating players is well thought out ‘common sense’ rather than following ‘common practice’.  This rationale forms the title of his next book, ‘Common Sense Not Common Practice’. and I, for one, will be purchasing this as soon as possible to pick up little gems of knowledge that I can adapt and apply in my own practice.

The following are my TOP 10 Blackie tweets released over the last few months that have struck a chord with me.  Have a look and see what you think:

1. We will ensure the organisational aspect of our performance is second nature to all. We will specifically practice personal skills, so that the player brings the best of themselves to the team performance. We will also license our players to step out of the organisational framework if, in their judgement, doing so could benefit the team result. Everyone be prepared to do the bread and butter stuff. Work hard to provide options to the man on the ball. Work hard to press the opposition when they are in possession. No time out on transitions.

2. You must specifically train at game intensity or above, as the body adapts to the speed of execution and less. Train to thrive in the game.

3. Be a student of the game Sunday to Thursday … Review , Reflect , upgrade your preparation … create habits to increase effectiveness

4. Coaches, listen to a guy called Einstein. ‘Keep it as simple as possible but not simpler’. Great, great advice. Don’t complicate and confuse.

5. Planning not to get beat uses up a load of energy for little potential return. Instead, be optimistic, and plan to win. Ambition over fear.

6. Whilst pace and power are perennial attributes, develop alongside, not in place of, skills. Practice those skills relentlessly, day by day.

7. In the race for quality there is no finish line, it’s a lifelong commitment to improvement.

8. Having the best team can make up for not having the best talent.

9. Coaching focuses on improving performance; mentoring focuses on helping fulfill potential; managing focuses on organization.

10. And my personal favourite, from a coach’s perspective = Successful coaches are driven by ambition over fear of failing. They are risk takers and upgrade before they need to. They expect excellence!

If you’re an ambitious coach or trainer and not following him on Twitter, do so immediately!

Here’s a video clip of Blackie training Jonny Wilkinson; a lot of transitional exercises focusing on different areas of fitness.  Check out his footballing skills towards the end under massive fatigue.  Very impressive!

 

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