Learning v Competition ?



One of the best coach development activities I've ever attended was a seminar/talk with Bill Sweetenham. The session was very straight forward. He wasn't selling anything and he wasn't trying to convince anyone he was right. I'm pretty sure he was so confident he was right he simply didn't care if anyone believed him! But at the same time, he is a coach who was largely self educated, and coached multiple Olympic Champions and World Record holders. So he had every right to think that.

One of the many many notes I took was his philosophy on competitions:
  • Experience is nothing if it is not Winning Experience. BUT the winning HAS to come from 'equal' opponents. Therefore there should be a range of competitions:
    • 3 'Equal' competitions, where you make corrections
    • 2 'Below' competitions, where you make mistakes and take risks (and still win)
    • 1 'Above' competitions', where you praise them regardless of the outcome
While this philosophy is put together specifically for individual sports, it could just as easily be applied for leagues or tournaments.

The key is to deliberately and methodically plan to learn in competition. To target specific competitions for specific outcomes. And please (please) note, this is not the same as not trying to win every competition you compete in. Of course you do. But in 'below' competitions, you would probably play more different players, different positions, different rotations. You would provide experiential opportunities to all the players but still expect them to perform.

People always talk about how important experience is, but it is important because it is an opportunity to learn things that can't be learned in practice (or at least a lot faster). If all competitions are so structured and there is only ever one focus of the coach (to win), then, as a learning environment, it is hugely limited.

(Photo Credit)

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