Getting to Know Dr Richard Bailey

//Getting to Know Dr Richard Bailey

Getting to Know Dr Richard Bailey

We are pleased to announce that Dr Richard Bailey, head of research at the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE) in Berlin, will be among our key note speakers at the next the IG conference in May: The Coaching Mastery Journey, May 10-11, 2019 in Geneva.

We are truly honoured to have him aboard to share his wisdom, insight and lively sense of humour!  Richard is one of those people who I have only “met” via a few emails and telephone calls, yet I feel he has been a friend for a long-time.  Below, I share some insider information about Dr. Bailey, his passions, his definition of Coaching Mastery and a little teaser about what you can expect from his talk next May.  (You won’t want to miss it.)

A former teach and full-professor at 4 different UK Universities, Richard also consults with Nike, OECD, UNESCO, various PGA’s, and martial arts coaches in addition to his work at ICSSPE.  Here are some other details:

Nationality:    British

Sports as a youth/young(er) man: Thai boxing, Karate, Cricket, Rugby

Favourite Sport:  All fighting sports and martial arts

Sporting claim to fame: Was the number 1 ranked Thai boxer in the UK, #3 ranked in Karate, and is very pleased that he narrowly missed having to fight against Mike Tyson!

Current Passion:  Thai boxing – loves to watch it, coach it and be a part of it.

Favourite animal: a self-proclaimed Cat lover with 2 cats!

Below are a few excerpts from our conversation:

IG: What do you love about sport?

Richard:  This is difficult to answer, but I would say that for me, sport was always about a challenge, and confronting fears.  It was for that reason that I picked a sport that I was completely unsuited for (Boxing).  I thrived on the transition from sheer terror, to relief, success and then friendship, that I achieved through boxing. 

IG: You frequently asked to consult to various football and Professional Golf Associations around the world, have you played either of those sports

Richard:  (Laughs) NO!  I think it’s my complete ignorance that makes me a good consultant as I don’t get hung up on the technical aspects of the sport.  Generally, I am asked or consult to share my knowledge of the science of coaching and the relationship between science and pedagogy and how that applies to sport coaching.  Consulting with PGAs makes up about 2/3 of my coach education work.

IG: What is coaching science – what does that really mean?

Richard: Very broadly, it is evidence-based coaching. I.e basing coaching on the best information that we currently have and that is supported through research (as opposed to tradition and dogma).

IG: The theme of the conference this year was largely inspired by our earlier conversation:  the Coaching Mastery Journey. How do you define Coaching Mastery?

Richard:  Well, Mastery is really developing an expertise, while Coaching is supporting the development of that expertise.  But it is a lifelong journey – nobody really ever becomes a Master, as there is always something else to learn.

IG: Do you think that FUN and Mastery/expertise are mutually exclusive in sport?

Richard:  Absolutely not!  FUN is part of the mastery process.  But fun is defined differently at different ages and stages.  My fear now with coaching, is that we have shifted the focus too far to making sport only about fun, without developing excellence.  Fun is defined by different types of learners at different stages of their mastery journey in different ways.  A 6-year-old and a 16-year-old do not define FUN the same way.  Teaching 6-year olds like they are mini-Olympians, is a recipe for disaster and drop out. Conversely, teaching 16-year olds a sport by having them just have a bit of fun, is also a recipe for dropout due to boredom.

To a high performing athlete, the hard work and achievement is FUN.  For a ballet dancer – who wants to be a professional dancer – fun is realising his/her goal.

I have an evolutionary model I like to use in coaching.

Running, jumping, playing, twisting, turn are innate, biologically primary abilities, whereas,

Golf, Ice Hockey, football for example, are not innate and biologically secondary. “So, you can’t be a “natural“ hockey, soccer or cricket player – the idea makes no sense!

IG: Should sport be fun?

Richard: Of course, it should be fun, but the term fun has become almost meaningless in coaching. FUN is inseparable from the needs and wants of the individual player. For some coaches, fun has become linked to hedonism or the pursuit of pleasure, and their sessions are a sully of kids running around with little intention of learning and developing. That seems a very limited understanding of fun to me!

So, mastery is a lifelong journey of developing expertise. It starts, before we know it starts.  Young children are already learning to move at a very young age and developing skills. Every player turns up to training sessions with a long and complex biography of movement experiences. There is no such thing as a true novice in sport! One of the most important jobs for the coach is to learn a little more about the movement experiences that brought this individual to this session.

IG: Can you give us a teaser about your talk?

Richard:  I like this notion of Mastery and developing expertise. I like the idea of excellence – but this does not mean ELITE.   Mastery and excellence are really driving goals. But not in a non-exclusive way. There is performance excellence and personal excellence – both are legitimate, and both are defined by the individual athlete.

I would like to talk about how we as coaches can make striving for excellence, or mastery, a lifelong journey, and what are the conditions to make this happen?

We know, for example, that the typical model of coaching based on pressure, achievement and climbing up the elite performance ladder, clearly doesn’t work, due to the high degree of dropout in that model.

What could mastery look like if we make it a lifelong journey?

IG: What do see is the role of the coach in this mastery journey?

Richard: The coach’s role is to help the players to achieve their goals. A coach is really a facilitator. His/her role is to bring about progress, improvement and enjoyment. The keyword is here is “facilitator” as it doesn’t mean they have to do it themselves. It may mean they have to talk to other coaches and experts.  It may mean they have to push a player on to another coach because the athlete has exceeded the coaches abilities or knowledge. It may also mean they have to be a bad-ass at that moment, with that athlete, to help him achieve a goal.

A good coach should consider everything in relation to the student (athlete) at that moment and nothing else.  Not the club or association.  We spend too much time trying to achieve the club/team’s goals.  Successful coaches are athlete orientated – over the whole span of lifetime development.

So coaches need to really know their athletes. It’s a very fine-line to not pushing enough and pushing too much.  A coach needs to know when to push and when to step back!


Richard and I spoke for a little while longer, but I won’t share our entire conversation. Suffice it to say, he is a wealth of information for all coaches and you should not miss his talk!

To hear more from Dr. Richard Bailey, register for the Inside Game conference: The Coaching Mastery Journey.

You can also listen Richard on this podcast he did with John O’Sullivan of Changing the Game Project.

2018-12-10T19:00:32+00:00 Coaching|0 Comments

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