From Tiger Woods to Wayne Rooney, top sportsmen and women surround themselves with top coaches. This is because a coach’s job, from the time you start playing sport as a child until you reach the heights of being the best in the world, is to offer an expert opinion on performance and guide improvement.
At its simplest the diagram (below) outlines the coaching process. This process of an athlete performing a skill, being observed by the coach who then makes recommendations/suggestions is known as the coaching process and is performed every time an athlete performs a skill. The coaching process still exists even if you are unaware of it or that it is not done in any formal way.
In order to improve an athlete’s performance level it is vital that you perform to the best of your ability in 3 of these 4 steps (you can’t perform for the athlete).
Traditionally, coaches’ observation has been based purely on looking at the athlete without any method to record the performance. The problem with only relying on your ‘coaching eye’ is that it is highly unreliable. For example research has shown that coaches can only recall about 30% of key factors in a game. This is much to an unreliable source to base the rest of the coaching process on.
Because of this problem coaches need to recognise the importance of recording aspects of performance as they happen rather than trying to recall what happened. Using pen and paper is a great way to start, but tools like video cameras and computers can add significantly to the accuracy and functionality of the observation stage.
‘Using Pen and Paper is a great place to start,
but tools like video cameras and computers
will help you even more’
Analysing performance is where your coaching expertise plays its biggest role in the coaching process. Observing the performance only informs you of the problems, devising a strategy to improve performance is the next step. This is where all your hours on the training field, coaching courses, meeting coaches and learning come into play. As a best practice don’t try and change too much at once, players like bite size pieces that they can work on.
Finally the coach – player interaction completes the coaching process before it begins all-over again. Athletes like clear, concise guidance. The more specific you can be about how well or badly a skill has been performed the more likely you are to see a change in behaviour. For example there is no point telling somebody the simply performed well or poorly, try and give them something specific to work on. E.g. “Great shot Johnny, next time keep your head down for longer, but that was a great effort.”
The above statement offers encouragement as well as a clear message to work on ‘next time, keep your head down’.Players have different learning styles, some like verbal feedback, others visual and some won’t learn until they perform the skill themselves. It is important that you recognise these differences among athlete when you plan your feedback. Technology is playing an increasing role in the feedback stage as athletes today are the MTV generation, the trust and use technology on a daily basis they can relate to it a lot easier.
In summary, it is vital that as a coach you understand the importance of accurately observing your athletes and how relying solely on your coaching eye will limit your ability to coach effectively. Even using pen and paper will greatly improve the quantity and accuracy of information you have.
Forming a strategy for improvement is a vital stage in the coaching process and this is where a lot of your coaching knowledge comes into use. Finally, as a coach, you must understand the importance of feedback – it is no use you knowing something if you can’t get that message across to your athletes. Consider different ways of presenting information in order to facilitate different learning styles.