Behind every successful team there is a dedicated coach who helped it achieve its full potential. Moot courts are surprisingly similar to traditional sports. More often than not you can notice a significant, positive difference in performance of teams that had a dedicated and experienced coach or coaches to help them. If you are lucky enough to study at a university which makes sure its moot court teams are coached, you should definitely appreciate it! I am sure that if it was not for the coaches who spent a lot of their time helping me and my teams prepare and develop, we would never be successful.
However, it does not mean things are always rosy when you work with a coach. Having someone who monitors your progress, directs your efforts and gives constant feedback is helpful, but can lead to all sorts of conflicts. How can you make sure that your relationship with the coach is productive, not destructive? I hope these four hints will suffice!
- Show respect towards each other
It goes without saying that mutual respect should be the backbone of every cooperation. It is even more important in case of projects like moot courts, which are usually an additional activity for everyone, undertaken for the academic challenge, self-development and fun. In the vast majority of cases coaches are neither paid by the university or any other body, nor rewarded in any other tangible way – they simply volunteer to help teams and enjoy their success. As always in case of pro-bono work, being grateful for everybody’s work and respectful helps enormously.
At the same time, as a team member you also deserve respect from your coach. When you feel there is a problem with the way your coach works with the team you should definitely raise it: firstly internally, then before the body which supervises your preparations (usually the university).
- Trust each other
Trust in each other’s good intentions, work and motivations is as important as respect. Similarly, it is a two-edged sword. On one hand, as a team member, you should trust your coaches and their advice. When you have doubts, ask for more information. When something they suggest does not persuade you, try to clarify what is wrong and put forward your own proposals to discuss together with the rest of the team. Your coaches have experience and moot court know-how, but probably will never be able to learn the case and all its intricacies as well as you have to for the purpose of the competition, what may cause misunderstandings. On the other hand, make sure that the coaches and the rest of the team can trust you. Do not default on your moot court obligations, make sure what you claim has grounds and is more than just your opinion. Make sure others can rely on you whether it is a piece of research or a call to a sponsor.
- Engage in honest communication
To make sure respect and trust are maintained throughout several month a moot court usually takes, you need open and honest communication. Giving each other feedback, flagging problems, delays or disputes as they arise and reaching solutions that are a step forward is impossible if you cannot share your thoughts, ideas and concerns freely.
There are circumstances which can make it hard. Sometimes you find yourself in a team where people have already known each other before or are far more experienced in mooting than you are and that makes you afraid of asking questions or opposing their ideas that you believe are bad. Sometimes you are coached by someone very senior or a professor from the university whose classes you attend and you simply cannot treat that person as a colleague. Sometimes the cultural context is a factor, because in your country or at your university things simply tend to be very formal and you, as a student, might not feel in the position to question something. Sometimes there is just one person out there that has not read the parts of this post regarding respect and trust, and makes things complicated for you or the whole team… Despite all these and other obstacles that might appear, I encourage you to create opportunities for open dialogue about the moot court case, the way your team is working and the choices you make together. It simply help enormously and no one should punish you for trying.
- Remember that you would never be able to make it on your own
Mot courts are most often a group exercise. Taking part in them alone is usually not allowed by the rules. Even if it was, it would be futile to try. That is why you should always remember that what matters most is the success of the whole team. If you bear this principle in mind you will be always a part of the solution – and not a part the problem.
I hope that now the cooperation with your coach will be smooth and successful!