Coaching Across Cultures
I have been coaching across cultures for over 2 decades now, and I have learned some of my biggest life lessons from all those experiences.
Coaching athletes across cultures involves navigating complex challenges. It requires cultural awareness and sensitivity to understand different backgrounds and different norms.
Effective communication is key, often necessitating adjustments in language and approach. But very often – the communication will be difficult, especially if you can’t have a translator 100% of time during the training (which often happens in situations when a head coach, an assistant coach and a goalkeeper coach need to share one translator during the practice).
Creating an inclusive, welcoming and positive environment is crucial, where every athlete feels valued, accepted, and respected.
When coaching across cultures, coaches need to be flexible and adaptable in their methods, considering the varied cultural perspectives of their athletes.
Empathy plays a significant role in connecting with athletes from diverse backgrounds. Continual self-education about different cultures enhances the coach’s ability to interact effectively and respectfully with all athletes.
At the end, under our all cultural and linguistic differences – we are all only human, and we have a lot in common. Being understandable, approachable, warm, relaxed, confident, welcoming, empathetic and kind as a coach will help you in interaction with your athletes no matter where from they are and no matter where in the world you are working.
My Long-Standing Experience in Coaching Across Cultures
My handball goalkeeper coaching across cultures continues this summer with my Asian team on our preparation camp in Europe.
Our 1 month long European training camp came to an end yesterday and today we are on our way back to South Korea.
We spent 1 week in Denmark and 3 weeks in Portugal.
Over the last 4 weeks in Europe, we played 12 friendly matches and several joint practices with other European teams, focusing on many different aspects of our game, but mostly on a stronger defence with more physical contact in defence (which is one of the biggest differences between Asian and European handball styles).
When it comes to goalkeeping, our biggest focus during the last 1 month was on saves of the wing shots, saves of the pivot shots and cooperation with defence in saves of shots from 9 meters.
In this video, you can see a few clips from a few different aspects of our practices during the first week of our camp in Denmark.
The biggest focus for our goalkeepers during that first week was on a proper positioning + good timing and direction for stepping towards the wing shooter + correction of the position (depending on the wing shooter’s movement and flight during the jump) + proper save reaction.
Besides technical goalkeeping topics, the big focus for me during this camp was/is to learn more about my goalkeepers individually. Which is always more challenging (in so many beautiful ways) when there is such a big and strong cultural difference and a language barrier. I always find it interesting to learn about people from how they actually are, from how they act and behave, rather than from who they tell me they are. 🙂 Especially when there is a language barrier present, it makes it more special and more creative to communicate with people (in moments when the translator is not available).
Some of my other focuses in this preparation camp were:
- to learn more about how my Korean goalkeepers behave during games and practices;
- what makes it easier for them to focus and perform better;
- what motivates them;
- what frustrates them;
- how do they handle pressure and difficulties in hard parts of the game;
- when and how they can receive a new input in the most useful and in the fastest way;
- how do they behave when they are very tired;
- how can we overcome obvious physical challenges and challenges with bigger angles of shooting and with taller opponents than the ones they are used to play against in Korea;
- how can we overcome linguistic and cultural barriers and bring out the best from everyone for the benefit of the entire team.
This project is extremely challenging, but also extremely enjoyable, because every single day we all get to learn so much (we-coaches, as well as players). I was always inspired to work in a multicultural setting, as I believe that every good coach is the one who is able to apply different approaches for different kinds of players/goalkeepers and to get out the best from them in any given moment!
I am eager to keep learning more in this amazing environment with such disciplined and hard working athletes like Korean handball players and goalkeepers are! 🙂
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