Retaining Players

Retaining Players into Coaching

Players have lots of experience and knowledge of the sport. Retaining them when they retire is a great opportunity to not only increase coaching numbers, but also possibly finding coaches who have potential to excel to elite levels of coaching. Organisations should seek ways to retain players in other areas of the game once they’ve decided to stop participating.

When targeting players coming to the end of their careers to be future coaches, organisations should consider that some might need time away from a big commitment, especially if they have been playing at an elite level. It is useful to speak to athletes before they retire, maintain contact with them, and where feasible, develop a personal plan for their re-integration into the sport as a coach. This may involve a support role first with less commitment.

Many potential coaches have been lost over the years because of a failure to follow up with ex-players and encourage those with the motivation and appropriate skills for coaching back into the sport. This is also applicable to other roles within sport such as officiating, refereeing, support services (e.g. strength and conditioning, medical), management and administration. Other factors to consider regarding elite players transitioning into coaching:

  • They end up coaching at a level they were not ready for. If they fail, this can damage their confidence
  • and desire to coach.
  • They started coaching too soon after retiring from competing and burn out.
  • They started coaching their peers and found it hard to differentiate between friend and coach.
  • There isn’t a pathway or programme in place to fast track them into coaching, i.e. the only option is to start at the bottom and work their way up.
A swim coach instructs a group of female swimmers in a pool

Chapter 4: Retention Suggested Actions

  • Develop a ‘Player to Coach’ Transition programme for elite athletes. This programme might involve steps such as:

    • Running a coaching course for players interested in coaching.
    • Setting up coaching opportunities for players to assist with underage squads/athletes, provincial squads, development teams, schools/3rd level team/athlete training, etc.
    • Help the potential coach to develop a personal development plan for their coaching career.
  • Support clubs to transition players to coaches. This might be providing tips to clubs such as:

    • Offer to pay for athletes/players to attend a Foundation Level coaching course and link them up to help with underage athletes/teams in the club.
    • Encourage all senior athletes/players to help train the youngest age group monthly.
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