Henk Groener, professor of the Master in Coaching in Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam, explains us his coaching techniques
If there is a word that defines Henk Groener to a T it’s the word ‘coach’. Not only because he’s the coach for the Dutch Women’s Handball team, but also because outside of competition he does what he knows best as professor of the Master in Coaching at Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam. Therefore, who would be better to speak to about how to prepare a national team to deal with a European Championship and what training and teaching have in common? Today the first phase of the of European Women’s Handball Championships kicks off, where the Netherlands will face Group C countries like Germany, Sweden and Croatia. Moving on to the next phase will already be, in itself, like a Master’s… Discover the resources of a trainer with coaching techniques.
What’s the number one rule in coaching?
The number one rule in coaching is that it has to be about the person you coach. As a coach, although you are both in this relationship, the most important thing is that the person you are coaching performs better and will develop. So that is what it is about, and not what you think or how you feel about it.
What are the differences between a teacher and a coach?
The difference, especially in the Master in Coaching, is that the coach often wants to determine his own path of development and that it is a very diverse group of 18 students. If you are on the road with the Dutch handball team, you all want the same thing: to win the next game or the next tournament, and excel on the handball field. You have much more uniformity in one common goal and where you are headed.
Do you focus on team building or in personal relationships?
On both. A team consists of individuals. A team functions well when individuals operate properly. So in order to make sure that the team operates well, you should coach both the individual as well as the team dynamics.
What are the biggest challenges for a national coach compared to a club coach?
The biggest difference between my current work as a coach of the national women’s team and my previous work as coach for a club is that, as a club coach you see your players on a daily basis, you are more in touch with them and you have more control over processes. When you work as a national coach you only see your players four or five times a year, and many players’ developments and group processes take place out of your sight. You have to travel abroad a lot, and maintain contact with your players but there’s always distance. So you have fewer grips on the processes over there and on individual development. Because they also have to listen to their club coach, who might have an entirely different perspective of the game and the qualities of that player, than you have. And that is the biggest challenge.The situation at the club is that you have to deal with many more direct influences on players, and disappointments and frustrations are closer together. We are together maybe four or five times a year and we only have one big tournament a year. So you will be judged only once. You have to deal with that club on a weekly basis. So phrases you typically hear regarding club trainers careers are: “Will he make it to Christmas or not?”
How do you keep in contact with players?
It’s quite diverse: visiting games, a lot of travelling abroad, phone calls, Skype, e-mail, all sorts of different ways. You try to see them personally. That does not always succeed, because we all travel a lot due to game schedules, but nevertheless you try to do that, or at least call and e-mail them. We also created a website where we share all sorts of things: images, questionnaires, programs, etc. So we are in touch.
Is a coach like a CEO in a company?
You have to separate two things when you talk about coaching. You have coaching as a job, and you have coaching as an approach to guiding people. The same applies for a manager in a company. You can introduce a coaching style or you can be more directive as a manager. So coaching is a way of managing, a way of guiding, and it’s a job. You see, as a manager you can coach people and as a coach you have to manage processes. Those are two things that are intertwined.
How do you handle egos in a national team?
There are just as many egos’ as there are players in a team. If you realize that, you also know that there has to be space for everybody, because we all want to be seen, heard and recognized in a team. At the same time you expect that all egos conform to the common objectives and their own roles and responsibilities within the group. So it’s a continuous process of switching between team interests and individual interests, where every individual has the right to be seen and heard and has room for his or her qualities, while asking everybody to be at the complete service of the team.
What are your expectations for this European Championship?
We go to each tournament and game to win. That means that we go to the European Championships to become European champions. There are 16 countries who all want to be European champion and only one can win. And where we stand now is that we are at the bottom of the ladder, slowly climbing. We are number 13 or 14 in the World ranking and are eager to make another step. We try to win every game we try to win. I believe we have reached a level that, if we play well, we can be very hard opponents for any team. We will play against countries that we haven’t beat in recent years, so that will be a nice challenge. But we also have proven, for example against Spain and Russia, that we can take a victory. So the challenge is to ensure that everyone is fit, have a good start of the tournament and ensure that we deliver a better performance than the last time.
The Master in Coaching is developed for everybody who seeks self-knowledge and self-development with the aim to improve oneself as a (sport) coach and/or manager. This 7 month program is delivered in Amsterdam, in English, and based on the vision of Johan Cruyff in which sport coaching is more than using tactical and technical knowledge. It is about yourself, the players & staff, the team and the environment. We believe that you can only coach others if you know how to coach yourself.Sign up