Spread the love

Innovation Team leaders at Paralympics Australia have delivered a successful first instalment of their national head coaches learning lab and are confident the program will help lift the performances by Australian athletes at the Paralympic Games and other major competitions.

The learning lab is part of Paralympics Australia’s Community of Practice initiative, which was started after the proposal won a $20,000 coach development grant from the Australian Institute of Sport.

The purpose is to increase connectedness within the Para-coaching environment. It will allow the nation’s top Para-sport minds to tap into one another’s strengths and experiences, offer advice and friendship and create more of a ‘team’ ethos at multi-sport events.

“We talk about the ‘Mob’ from an athlete perspective and we’ve seen how it’s positively impacted performance,” Paralympics Australia Coach Development Advisor Alex Jago said, referring to the name Australia’s Paralympians have given their inclusive team culture.

“One of the call-outs from the coaching group is ‘We want to continue to evolve and build our tribe’. They feel they have nuances they want to share and learn about together. They want to explore what it could look and feel like to be better connected at the Games.”

Fifteen head coaches of Para-sport converged at Paralympics Australia’s Melbourne headquarters at The Hangar for a two-day session which, Jago said, was about connecting and discussing challenges, stories and opportunities.

What emerged was a vulnerability not often expressed by elite level coaches, who tend to downplay their tension, despite working in a high pressure field.

“We created an environment where the coaches could feel safe to be themselves,” Jago said. “It wasn’t about expert presentations, it was more of an ‘around the fire pit’ type of environment, a yarning circle.

The experts were already in the room. Everyone was at the same level, sharing and listening. It was terrific.
“They were sharing hero stories and hardship stories. It got pretty deep at times, we had some real emotion. I think it’s a recognition of the environment that the coaches created.”

A range of activities were held to connect in one-on-one groups and small and larger groups. Essendon AFLW head coach Natalie Wood guest spoke about her story, which resonated with the group. The participants also enjoyed social activities including bowling and had dinners together.

Among the feedback the Innovation Team received, one coach said they enjoyed hearing about how other coaches deal with challenges, another said there was a wealth of experience among Para-coaches and it’s good to share experiences and a third comment was that they were looking forward to developing the relationships now they’ve been initiated.

“We want to make the Australian Paralympic Team even stronger as a unit,” Jago said.

“We want coaches to be able to pick up the phone and ask each other questions or for advice, go into each other’s daily training environments and maximise collaboration at the Games.

“It’s about creating a greater community, improving coach development and human development. Ultimately, we’re creating a group of highly connected coaches who can support each other on their high performance coaching journeys.”

By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 29 November 2022