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June 7, 2019
As part of UK Coaching’s Coaching Week, we want to celebrate the fantastic coaches who help to make Surrey Sports Park a thriving hub of sporting excellence.
Our fourth subject is SSP Director of Squash, Jesse Engelbrecht, who rose as high as 55 in the world rankings and, representing Zimbabwe, won the Plate Final at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
What is your coaching philosophy?
My philosophy has evolved over the years. When I first went into coaching it what was very much ‘do as I say, this is what squash should be played like’. I went at it quite hard, I was quite authoritarian, and over time I tended to put players off the game a bit.
Where it sits at the moment, it’s very much based on a games-based approach to learning – I like to create an environment where there’s lots of small games being played, lots of challenges, and we sit and discuss those games. We discuss those challenges, and what they found positive and negative. My philosophy is then to take my players down that path – to say ‘here’s the challenge, I think I know what the result is, but can you discover the result for yourself?’
What I’ve found is that it’s an inclusive philosophy, where we work together. We workshop it together, and especially juniors and developing players like that process. You go with them on this journey, rather than being authoritarian. When they feel they have ownership, it creates a much more holistic environment for good learning.
Ultimately, players become good puzzle solvers during the heat of a match – they’re not looking for me, they solve the problem themselves.
What makes a good coach?
There are a lot of factors, but I think the first thing is empathy. Being on the same page as the player you’re working with – it’s very easy to have all the technical or tactical knowledge in the world, but it’s how you put that knowledge across. If you’re not doing it in a caring or empathetic way it can come across as quite harsh and stern. Being on the same page is a key coaching skill.
I’m lucky enough to coach other coaches, and I’ve tutored people who have the best technical knowledge and amazing information on the game, but it’s their soft skills that are sometimes lacking, in how they put themselves across in an enthusiastic and encouraging manner.
One of the main key areas for the best coaches is having empathy with your players, in trying to motivate them or pick them up when they’re down or take them to a really high level.
Is there one coach who has particularly influenced you, and what was it that made them so good?
Paul Carter (former UK Champion, England international and England Squash Head of Coach Development) was brilliant. He had a very stern way of coaching but while he was doing it he had this beautiful way of being kind and empathetic at the same time.
He took me on a really interesting journey, inviting me to do my High Performance Award, which is the top tier of coaching in squash.
He was a really hard taskmaster but he had this ability to turn it into a really positive thing, where you’d feel big, as though you could run through a brick-wall for the guy.
I looked up to him in my younger days and still look up to him now. I’ve taken a lot of stuff that he’s done and try to put my own spin on it, my own style, and that’s one thing he said to me: you’ve got to put your own personality into coaching, you can’t fake it. You can’t just hope it’s going to work. Only when you put your own personality into it can you put across some really good messages.
Book a place on one of Jesse’s Junior Summer Camps running during July and August – click here for details
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