Modern Approach to Coaching

I recently finished running a 5 day volleyball coaches course. Forty hours of education and development of volleyball coaches. Wonderful and exhausting!

Afterwards I got asked if I'd been sharing any new ideas. My first reaction was, 'no, there are no new ideas'. Having said that, many old ideas have not yet been adopted by most coaches, for various different reasons.

Old Idea #1

The fundamental difference the 'Modern Coaching Approach' and, well, everything else, is that it places the emphasis on the coach as the teacher. So if the athlete hasn't learned, it is not because they are lazy or not talented or disruptive or not committed, it is because the coach hasn't done their job yet. A great description of this comes from a coach who was successful in the 1960s (not new): 'You haven't taught until they have learned'.

This way of thinking completely changes the dynamic of a practice session on its head when you think about it. For example, if it is the coach's responsibility, then if the players aren't doing it 'right' should the coach be running laps for punishment? (Answer: of course not, no one should, but hopefully it makes you think.)

Old Idea #2

When at university in the 90s I learned about the three reasons kids stay in sport:
  1. because they are getting better, 
  2. they are having fun, and
  3. they enjoy being part of the group.
While I learned it in the 90s, it is from research in the 70s (not new). The important thing though, is that it is consistent with various research on sport dropout conducted since then.

If a goal of coaching is to keep children/players involved and develop a lifelong love of sport, then it makes sense a primary focus for a coach is to ensure their basic needs are being met. Note: THEIR basic needs, not the basic needs of the coach, which can be very different.

Old Ideas #3 and #4

There has been a lot written about Game Sense, Teaching Games for Understanding and Constraints Based Learning. Before you get stressed, for all practical purposes they are the same. They basically say that people learn more effectively in environments that are closer to the environment in which they need to perform. This links closely with another old idea, that a people learn better when they are involved in the learning process, rather than following instruction.  These ideas are from the 80s (not new). The challenge here is that operating like this is messy and trainings like this can seem to be less effective and efficient, when the opposite is true. 

Modern Coaching Approach

When you understand these old ideas, the next questions become:
  • how can I be GREAT at teaching?
  • how can I get the most from every moment of every session?
  • how can I get through to every child/athlete I'm coaching?
The answers include:
  • drill design - how can I get the most learning in the least time?
  • child pedagogy - how do children develop physically and how can I use this knowledge to teach better?
  • psycho-social development - how do children develop mentally and emotionally and how can I use this knowledge to teach better?
  • reflection - how much time to I spend reflecting on every session and interaction I have so I can teach better?
  • critical friends - how much time to I spend getting feedback from others I trust in order to ensure I can teach better?
  • group dynamics - how can I manage group behaviour to create the optimal environment for players/children to learn better?
  • trust and support - how can I ensure I create an environment where players/children feel they can take the risks required to operate in the uncomfortable space required to change behaviour?
  • brain neurochemistry - how to I optimise this to ensure players/children learn better?

So, no new ideas. Just old ones.

If you are interested in talking to Alexis about new ways of looking at old ideas please click here


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