Game Development and Rules Development – the Role of the Coaches

If you are a coach, regardless of what level, do you feel a sense of responsibility for the development of the [u]rules[/u] of the game?? My point is that you clearly should do so, but that the overwhelming majority of coaches seem to ignore this part of [u]their[/u] job. It may be much more natural to contribute to the development of the game in the sense of teaching individual player techniques and team tactics, but obviously the rules must also develop in a way that supports and matches the development of the game; and who knows better than experienced coaches if certain rules have become outdated or constitute an obstacle to interesting new techniques and tactics!

It is possible that federations, at both the international and the national level, may have contributed to the tradition that coaches do not play a major role in rules development. At one stage it was typical, and seen as normal, that rules issues were handled by small groups of people mostly from the refereeing side, often ‘behind closed doors’. I tended to find this a bit strange, because the game is not played by, or for, the referees. Over the last 10-20 years, however, it has certainly become a firm principle, at least in the IHF, to try to get the coaching side very much involved. Top coaches have been members of rules working groups, interpretations and teaching material in connection with major events have been developed and shared with the coaches well ahead of time, and the rules development as an integral part of the game development has been stressed.

Unfortunately, despite these efforts, the amount of interest and input has been terribly limited. Spontaneous ideas and suggestions have been very rare, and repeated official requests for input have largely been met with silence. Most of the reactions from the coaching side have taken the form of ‘second-guessing’ [u]after[/u] proposals had to be developed without the requested input! It is possible that not enough has been done by the respective federations to get their coaches to come forward, but I certainly hope that the many active and competent national federations will want to do more to encourage continuous debate and input.

However, with the risk of inviting rebuttals and criticism, I am also prepared to venture the opinion that many coaches generally are not very excited about encouraging changes in the rules. I can understand the notion that the fundamentals of the rules remain good and that frequent changes can be disruptive, but surely this can’t be an argument against [u]all[/u] possible ideas? So I begin to wonder, partly on the basis of conversations with coaches over the years: perhaps coaches are resisting change out of a narrow self-interest!!??

Perhaps it is a more comfortable situation to avoid the burden of first understanding the implications of a specific change and then teaching the players how to adjust to new circumstances? Perhaps a coach feels he/she loses some hard-earned advantages if rules changes create the need for new methods and techniques? Having expressed these ‘suspicions’, I challenge coaches at all levels to prove me wrong by getting into the habit of offering new ideas for possible improvements of the rules! Don’t wait for someone to ask for your opinions; take the initiative!