Reflecting On Reflection.

Over the past academic year reflecting on my coaching experiences and the reflective coach lectures has been something that I have very much enjoyed and engaged with. The blog posts that I have created throughout the year reflect on the experiences I have had and how I have developed as a coach. This blog will focus on aspects such as, a reflection on the year, as well as where I could improve in the future too.

Whole Year Reflection

My second year of university has been the hardest one yet and has required me to engage in a lot more self-directed learning. It has also made me realise how crucial keeping on top of your work is, as in this module. The blog tasks are there to be done every few weeks however we are not told as and when to do them, it is up to us. Personally the blogs have not really been an assignment as such as I have enjoyed writing them and discussing what I have learnt from the lectures. Each week I have tried to critically reflect so that I know how I can improve in the future. Again each lecture allowed me to gain a better understanding of different approaches to coaching. For example: Before coming to university I could never really put names to coaching approaches, whereas now I can not only identify and describe different approaches but I can also implement them too. To be perfectly honest when I first started coaching I was all about linear pedagogy and I thought I was doing a great job. However this year’s module for the reflective coach have made me realise that there are many coaching approaches that can all be used to gain a variety of outcome’s, whether this is short or long term development for example (i.e. linear and non-linear pedagogy).

In addition to the academic side of this module I have also gained a lot more experience coaching within the local area. I currently run a team along with another student from my course and I also coach disabled participants when I can on a Friday night. Also as part of a placement I engage with refugee football and all of the voluntary work which I do has improved my confidence significantly and therefore benefitted the coaching that I do. A year or two ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to try something within a session but now I have the confidence to try new things even if they don’t work or go wrong. The volunteering I do gives me a chance to try out what I have learnt in lectures and therefore helps to give me a basis of reflection so that I can discuss what happened and more important why it happened, so I know how to improve it for the future.

Where Could I Still Improve?

To be honest I still have a lot of room for improvement but I am always wanting to improve and get better through the voluntary work I do. One main weakness which I do have though is my knowledge of drills and activities to use within my sessions. This could be because I do not have as much coaching experience as some students on my course however even so, I should be looking into this as an area to be improved. It is no good saying this though, what am I going to do about it? Well, I feel that gaining more experience is crucial to my development however watching other coaches sessions is just as beneficial. This allows me to gain ideas of drills that could be adapted and altered to suit the context that I am coaching within. Another key way that I can improve my knowledge is through coaching courses too. Currently I am looking to complete courses over the summer so that when I come back to university in September I have a greater pool of knowledge that can be used for academic and voluntary work too. The courses I am looking to do are the FA Youth Mod 1 & 2 as well as potentially a disability coaching course too which will all contribute to making the coaching sessions I implement, much more effective.

 

To conclude my final post of the year I believe that this module has been significantly beneficial and I actually believe that I have learnt more than I thought I would have. At the start of the reflection process I made a blog that described the importance of reflection but that doesn’t come close to explaining its benefits. Yes, a reflective blog helps you to discover your strengths and areas for improvement but this has allowed me to discover much more than just that. I have learnt a lot through the lectures and reflection process therefore in my eyes this module has been extremely beneficial and has helped me to become a better coach.


 

Effective Questioning

 

Questioning when coaching is something that is crucial in terms of reinforcing learning for the participants within the sessions. However reflecting back on the sessions I have done I don’t actually ask that many beneficial questions. Asking questions such as ‘Does everybody understand?’ or ‘Is everyone alright with that?’ do not actually benefit anyone other than myself and are essentially used to tick the Q&A box on the session plan. When I now think back to my younger years if my coach had of asked me a similar questions I would have just said yes because I didn’t want to speak out in front of my friends and look stupid. I would carry on regardless even if this meant that I had to struggle. It is exactly the same in a game scenario too, the coach would be shouting instructions at me from the sidelines but half the time I didn’t even know what he meant!! So on reflection, did I actually learn anything form the questions he asked me? No.

In the lecture a few weeks back regarding questioning we got onto the topic of instructing and coaching. But the main question is where would I put myself on this scale. I would say that a year or so ago I was very much an instructor, I was focused on telling the participants what to do as opposed to essentially the participants telling me what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Coaching is all about the players whereas instructing is pretty much all about the athlete. Bentley (2005) states that “Instructors continue to tell a driver what to do; coaches help drivers to learn”. Even though this quote comes from a book regarding drivers and engineering them, it can be transferred across to coaching too. I need to ensure that I am not only telling a player what to do I must ensure that I am helping them upon their journey of development as a player. If we take a match on a Sunday for example: An instructor would have to continue telling the player how to do something and as a result would rarely learn from the experience. A coach on the other hand would help the player identify the problem and then again help them to discover a strategy to stop this form happening again.

Below is an image which outlines and discusses Blooms theory of both high and low order questioning, suitably named Blooms Taxonomy:

Revise Taxonomy

This system is used to define and distinguish between different levels of human cognition i.e. thinking, learning and understanding (Great Schools Partnership, 2013). There are 6 categories within the taxonomy which can be seen above. As a coach I know that I rarely hit the higher order thinking questions (Analyzing, Evaluating, Creating) therefore this is an area for improvement in terms of effective questioning. If the higher order thinking questions are not being met then the participants ill not be learning as much as they potentially could do which quite a large issue in my eyes that needs establishing.

An idea for future sessions is that I will include questioning within my session plans each week. This way I can note down questions that fit into each level of Blooms Taxonomy. Consequently the questions I ask will help to derive in depth answers from the participants which gets them thinking. It will also help to reinforce the learning that they are doing within each session, consequently helping me move higher up the continuum from an instructor where I was 12 months ago, to where I am today – a coach.

 

References:

Bentley, R. (2005) Engineering the driver. United States: Motorbooks International.

Partnership, G.S. (2013) Bloom’s Taxonomy definition. [Online]. Available at: http://edglossary.org/blooms-taxonomy/ (Accessed: 21 April 2016).

 

Coaching Philosophy

My own coaching philosophy is something that I have not reflected on as of yet and is a subject that is essentially influenced by my own experiences of coaching, being coached, as well as watching the coaching methods of the team I support. Consequently this blog will discuss my coaching experiences and how I have developed into the coach I am today which will highlight my current philosophy.

One major aspect in regards to philosophy is how it can be defined as a term. Well, the basketball coach John Wooden compared a philosophy to “a pair of glasses that filter reality through ones person experiences, opinions, values and beliefs” as outlined by Prudden and Chancellor (2005). As a result this essentially means that our philosophy directly influences how we see and understand things along with the actions we take and most of all the way we choose to behave (eg. coaching methods). Similarly Kidman and Hanrahan (1997) outline that a philosophy is a personal statement that is based on the values and beliefs that direct one’s coaching”. Both definitions refer to values and beliefs therefore it is essential to formulate your own philosophy rather than just copying someone else’s you liked the sound of as it may not fit to your ontext!! Prudden and Chancellor (2005) also go on to state questions that you could ask yourself while yo are trying to formulate your own philosophy. They are:

  • Is my approach educationally sound? (Do my drills serve a purpose?)
  • Is my approach appropriate for my players? (Does the level of the team match the drills being used?)
  • Is my philosophy ethical? (Is it being carried out in a way that sets a good example to the players?)
  • Can you explain the reasons as to why you do something? (You need to be able to justify what you do to be able to motivate athletes)
  • Is your coaching philosophy compatible with your personality? (If you are not a patient coach then why would you use a non-linear approach as you don’t see the benefits straight away, it’s a longer process)

Therefore before identifying or formulating a philosophy it is crucial to answer questions regarding your own coach experiences, values, opinions and beliefs so that the correct philosophy is identified which suits you as a coach.

The lecture I attended regarding philosophies got me thinking, what is my philosophy or even as a start, what do I want from my players and how do I do this? Formulating a philosophy reminds me why I am actually coaching therefore knowing it is a crucial part of reflection too. When developing a philosophy you must determine the roles of the coach, the skills of the coach, the needs of the performer and finally the needs of the coach. All of these points link together so for example the skills of the coach will go hand in hand with the needs of the performer. The performer may need lots of coaching but the coach can only use the skills he has to meet the performers needs therefore creating a link.

In terms of my coaching, meeting the performers needs is one of the most important aspects. Without this the players may not be challenged and therefore the learning they actually achieve will be minimal.But how can I maximize the chances of learning while meeting the players needs. In my own opinion game based approaches/TGFU provides the best environment for learning and this is something that I strive to do as it will benefit me significantly as a coach and help to improve my skill set too. Hopper and Kruisselbrink (2002) suggests that Teaching Games For Understanding(TGFU) can be defined as “a problem-based approach to games teaching where the play of a game is taught to situate skill development”. Not only does it teach skills in the context of the game but it is also allows them to learn the concepts of the game. In the table below (American Sport Education Program, 2011) drills and activities are compared with the drills being a linear type practice and the activities being game based:

Drills Activities
Static Dynamic
Rigid Structure Flexible Structure
Lines Free Movement
Boring Fun
No Thought Decision making
Age Inappropriate Age Appropriate

As you can see in the table above a drill and an activity are two completely different aspects within coaching. Activities give participants much more freedom and place emphasis on decision making while having fun. If the participants are in an environment that is fun and allows freedom then they are more likely to try new things and learn within a game scenario. However on the contrast drills are boring to kids and don’t give kids the chance to make decisions for themselves which they can learn from. Also, during activities questions can be asked which will test the participants to see if they understand the reason why they are doing what they are.

To conclude this blog teaching games for understanding is something which will not only help me to meet the players needs but it will aid in the development of the players as a whole. Game based approaches provide environments that participants can learn in and as a result what they learn can be transferred into a game situation. The decisions they have to make in a game are going to be similar to those which they have made through game based activities. Therefore by implementing this approach I am not only working on the players decision making but I am providing them with the best possible environment to learn in.


 

References:

Hopper, T. and Kruisselbrink, D. (2002) ‘Teaching Games for Understanding: What does it look like and how does it influence student skill learning and game performance?’.

Kidman, L. and Hanrahan, S. (1997) The coaching process: A practical guide to improving your effectiveness. Palmerston North, N.Z.: Dunmore Publishing.

Program, A.S.E. (2011) Coaching youth soccer-5th edition. 5th edn. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers.

Prudden, J. and Chancellor, V. (2005) Coaching girls’ basketball successfully: Customised basketball coaching. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers. 

InfoGraphic – Signs Of A Good Coach.

InfoGraphic - Signs Of A Good Coach

The above info-graphic displays the six characteristics needed to be a good grass roots coach in my opinion. I decided to pick a grass roots coach as it fits into my coaching context at Sir Tom Finney Football Club. Below I will expand on each point and explain why I believe they are important in relation to being a good grass roots coach…

 

Being a motivator is a extremely important characteristic when coaching and especially when coaching at grass roots. This is because it is the best way of getting the best out of players. If a coach does not motivate his/her players then the players may lose interest and mess around as they feel that the coach doesn’t really care. Sometimes motivation comes from inside (intrinsic) however extrinsic motivation (from coaches for example) can be much more beneficial. Cassidy, Jones and Potrac (2008) state that “There is an increased recognition that such an understanding of motivation is critical to the delivery of high quality coaching practice”. Therefore many more people are realising that motivation has a large impact on the quality of coaching that is being delivered and as a result has huge importance when coaching in my opinion.

Secondly a coach must have good time-management.But why is this? Well it is quite straight forward to be honest. A coach must ensure that they arrive to the training sessions and matches as well as any manager meetings on time. The coach must be the first person to arrive and then also the last person to leave at any match or training session. If the coach arrives early then they can set up and sort any issues out prior to the players arriving and as a result this will allow the session to run smoothly and for the full designated time.Robinson (2014) states that “Time management is one of the fundamental aspects of management and the coach must set a good example of arriving at practices, venues and meetings in plenty of time”. This backs up my opinion regarding the importance of time management. If the coaches don’t turn up on time then why should the participants bother turning up on time too?

Another crucial aspect of being a god coach is being organised.It is probably one of the most important aspects to coaching. This is because if you are not organised then your team will suffer. This could be anything from forgetting equipment to even not letting your players know where the match at the weekend is. The coaching session itself must be organised too so that the participants know what they are doing and what they are moving on to next so that it is beneficial to their learning. SportsCoachUK (2016) states that “Systematic planning is crucial to ensure progress and for performers to achieve their goals”. Therefore, if the coach isn’t organised then it can effect the performers chances of achieving their goals and as a result will affect morale within the team too.

The fourth sign of a good coach in my opinion is being development focused. The reason behind me picking this is because at grass roots it is not about winning, well in my opinion anyway. Yes, winning is nice but the players development is without a doubt more important than anything else. Sometimes players will get annoyed that they lose however at this level development of participants is the highest priority. Pressure shouldn’t be put on players at a young age as it is their time to develop. Dewsnip (2013). This is stated in the Essex FA’s “Their Game” document and it explains that the focus should be on the development and this is how I feel it should be too. Don’t get me wrong I like winning but at a young age especially at this level, playing the right way is crucial.

Being an approachable coach is massive in relation to communicating with your participants as well as other coaches and parents. If you don’t put yourself across as a someone who is approachable then the participants won’t feel comfortable coming up to you with any issues they  have. The participants should see the coach as their friend that they can speak to whenever. SportsCoachUK (2012) found that youth athletes wanted their coaches to be approachable, friendly and fun. If the coaches know the performers individually then the participants will find it much easier to talk to their coach about their issues. Similarly if the parents have any issues then they will want to speak to the coach and as long as they portray themselves as approachable then it will not be an issue.

The final sign of a good grass roots coach in my opinion is respect. This comes from everyone involved at the club. The coach must respect the players, parents, officials and opposition. The players must respect the coach, parents, officials and opposition. Finally the parents must respect the coach, players, officials and opposition too. Every player must be respected and treated like any other no matter what their background is. Respect has to be earned and being approachable as mentioned previously can significantly help. Hassan, Dowling and McConkey (2014) state that “All coaches must respect and champion the rights of every individual to participate in sport”. I completely agree with this statement and in my opinion it sums up how sport should be played – with respect.


 

Cassidy, T.G., Jones, R.L. and Potrac, P. (2008) Understanding sports coaching: The social, cultural and pedagogical foundations of coaching practice. New York: Routledge.

Dewsnip, N. (2013) THEIR GAME. [Online]. Available at: http://www.essexfa.com/~/media/countysites/essexfa/documents/miscellaneous/winning-v-development—grassroots-and-professional-views.ashx (Accessed: 19 March 2016).

Hassan, D., Dowling, S. and McConkey, R. (2014) Sport, coaching and intellectual disability. United Kingdom: Routledge.

Robinson, P.E. (2014) Foundations of sports coaching. United Kingdom: Routledge.

Sports Coach UK (2012) Identifying excellent coaching practice along the sporting pathway research briefing no.2: The youth coaching environment. [Online]. Available at: https://www.sportscoachuk.org/sites/default/files/Excellent-Coaching-Practice-Youth-Coaching-Environment.pdf (Accessed: 19 March 2016).

Sports Coach UK (2016) Top tips: Skills and qualities of a coach skills and qualities of a coach top tips. [Online]. Available at: https://www.sportscoachuk.org/sites/default/files/top-tips-skills-and-qualities.pdf (Accessed: 19 March 2016).

When Did I Last Change My Mind…?

After reading the article ‘When did you last change your mind?’ http://scottberkun.com/2014/when-did-you-last-change-your-mind/, it got me thinking about the noticeable changes that I have actually made in relation to my coaching. It allowed me to identify the methods I am now using compared to the methods that I used to use.

The main change that I have picked up on is the style of coaching which I use week in week out. When I started off coaching I did not really have much knowledge on the various methods that are used however If I were to give the style I used a heading, it would be a blocked kind of approach. My coaching mainly consisted of drills that I had previously done or new ones that I discovered. Sometimes the drills that I actually carried out were fairly simple drills so they didn’t actually challenge the participants within each session. However university and academic reading has led me to discover that in fact random practice generates a lot more learning than blocked practice (Ackland et al., 2008). Consequently when I was coaching I should have really have used blocked practice to develop the technique and then follow it up with random practice to test the technique in a game style situation to see if it can be implemented.

However I now use more of a game based approach if I’m being honest. This was because I believe that it gives players a lot more freedom which can benefit them significantly when playing in a match. In addition to this it gives players the chance to think for themselves a lot more as opposed to me telling them every 2 minutes of what to do. The United States Tennis Association state that game based approaches allow players to become more complete through continuous playing (UST Accociation, 2004). Consequently I believe that the change I made in relation to my style was the correct one as I have also seen the benefits for the team that I coach. The players within my team can play sensationally in training however when it comes to a game they seem like a totally different player. Therefore recreating a game like scenario each week will get the players used to performing skills under pressure on a match day and this will hopefully have a positive impact on their match results.

The benefits have actually been very noticeable by not only me and Alex but by the parents too. We coach a session each week for an hour and our main aim is to improve the player’s footwork as this is a weakness for many of the players. However as we have only had the team for around a month now it is obviously going to be difficult to turn the results round at the click of a finger. Even with this parents have complimented our coaching methods stating that they are a lot more structured and beneficial for the players and their motivation levels. As a result I believe that my new coaching style has had a significant impact on the players and their development too which is all good news for me.


 

Reference List

Ackland, T.R., Elliott, B.C., Bloomfield, J., Ackl, T. and Bloomfield, J. (2008) Applied anatomy and Biomechancis in sport – 2nd edition. 2nd edn. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers.

Association, U.S.T. (2004) Coaching tennis successfully – 2nd edition. 2nd edn. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers.

Reflective Coaching Session.

To be perfectly honest viewing my coaching sessions from an outside perspective is something that I don’t feel comfortable with purely because I hate looking at myself carrying a task out. However for this blog post I felt that looking back on a small session/drill that I carried out would be extremely beneficial to not only my learning but my development too. Through doing this I can discover strengths that I didn’t realise I had and also areas for improvement/bad habits that I have. Just before I get into the nitty gritty part of the reflection I have decided to break down the session into major strengths and weaknesses so that the improvements can clearly be seen for future sessions I take. The session can be seen below:

 

Strengths:

After watching the drill I noticed a variety of things that I believe to be key strengths of mine and some are new to me too. I started noting down strengths as I watched the video a few times and the first thing I realised was that I explained the drill clearly and in an easy to understand manner. I do understand that the drill was a very simple one but even with that as the drill progressed I had to explain the progressions and I do think that this was done clearly too enabling all the participants to understand. Nash, (2014) states “Set it up well (drill), clearly explain why we are doing it and what the benefits may be” therefore when I am coaching I need to ensure every time I take a session I must ensure that the benefits are discussed. When doing this I may not even need to give the benefits as I could ask the players what they think the benefits are going to be as it gets them thinking too. The session I took above was only a brief warmup therefore the benefits are straight forward (especially when coaching peers on my sports coaching course) however I still should have mentioned the benefits, even if only briefly.

An additional strength of mine was the small progressions that I added in the warm up. Sometimes warm ups lack progressions and therefore don’t really test the players much. Small games such as jailbreak, Robin Hood and traffic lights can all be progressed easily and consequently prepare the players for the session ahead. During my warm up I progressed traffic lights by adding two extra cones that became present mainly once the football was added. By adding a football the players had to think about the space they were in as well as keeping their head up to see what colour cone was being held up.

Questioning is a skill that is key when coaching as it helps to get the players thinking. Different questions can be used to get a range of answers. If a short answer was wanted then a closed question which gave a yes or no answer would be used. They can also be used to tie down a new insight into an action or a goal (Wilson, 2011). An example of a closed question would be ‘Is this the correct technique?’ as it is asking for a one word answer however if the coach went on to ask ‘Why?’ then it would become an open question because it encourages people (the players) to dig deeper and explore further (Wilson, 2011). During the brief session I ran I did use both open and closed questions. I used closed questions to ensure that everyone understood the drill however I then used open questions to discuss techniques that could be used.

Giving players the lead is not really something that I am used to however I now feel that it is beneficial from watching sessions as they feel like they have more of a responsibility which in turn can improve their motivation. For example in my session I asked a player to choose a turn and demo this so that all the players knew what turn to do. This allowed the players to also show their creative side which in my opinion should be done in a game too. Voight, (2014) states that “Giving players more control over decision making can truly empower them to commit and contribute more toward the collective effort on the field or court”. Consequently small things such as the choice of turn or the choice of drill could in fact lead to better performances/results due to the amount of effort being put in.

A final strength of mine from the brief session was that I used a competitive game to work on the skills that were tested in the warm up. This made the warm up a little bit more enjoyable too because they had to compete against their friends. This also tests the athletes to see if they can continue to use the skills in a competitive environment where they may be under pressure. Hopefully this has an impact when they go to use these skills in a game as they have already used them when they were under pressure.

 

Weaknesses:

The first weakness that I discovered upon watching the footage of the session I delivered was that the praise I gave was very similar. In all honesty I thought that I gave varied praise however on reflection this actually isn’t the case. This has led me to think that when I am coaching in the future I should actually praise individuals as well as the group as a whole too using a variety of different language. During the session I mainly said “That’s it” or “Good” but I need to comment more on technique. Even if the technique isn’t fully there questions can be used in order to improve it for the future. Huber (2012) mentions that it is easy to praise too often and it can become meaningless therefore in the future I am going to ensure that when I give praise it is only when necessary and when it would be beneficial too.

An additional weakness I identified was that sometimes maybe a laugh and a joke can be taken in the wrong way. During my brief warm up I did say to one of the performers “You can do better than that” however this was only because I knew the participants therefore I felt that I could do this with them. If it was with a younger group or a group that I did not know then I more than likely wouldn’t have done this as it could have been taken in the wrong way. I shouldn’t have said it as I now feel like I do this without noticing during other sessions consequently I will make sure that I do not do this as it could be taken in the wrong way.

Something else that I noticed was that I didn’t actually walk around the whole warm up as it was going on. Sometimes this may result in you (the coach) not seeing the whole picture therefore in future sessions I am going to ensure that I constantly move round so I can see each player individually to see how they are getting on. This will allow me to see if a player is finding the drill too easy or too hard meaning individual progressions/regressions can be made. The activity that I delivered in the above video only had four participants therefore was it really necessary to walk round the whole area? I don’t think so to be honest however I need to ensure that I do this when coaching lager groups otherwise I may miss crucial things.

A final weakness that I didn’t realise I had was the language I used while I coached. It was something that was new to me as I didn’t think I said it at all. However through the reflective video I noticed that I said “no” when a player demonstrated a turn. Instead of doing this I should have used constructive language in order to derive the correct information from the player. Again as I mentioned previously I could have used an open question to try and lead the player to the right answer. Saying “no” as I did, may demotivate players as they may feel like they have given the wrong answer. I have therefore made the decision that I am going to record another session which I deliver to see if I do it when coaching a younger age group. If this is the case then I will have to work on my feedback and ensure that it is put across in a constructive manner that will help the players learn too.

In conclusion I have discovered weaknesses that I didn’t think I had however on the other hand I have also discovered strength that are also new to me. I have noted down my weaknesses so that before any session I deliver I can look back at these and try my utmost to get these out of my coaching as they will help me significantly during my sessions!


References:

Huber, J.J. (2012) Applying educational psychology in coaching athletes. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers.

Nash, C. (2014) Practical sports coaching. United States: Routledge.

Voight, M. (2014) The sports leadership Playbook: Principles and techniques for coaches and captains. United States: McFarland.

Wilson, C. (2011) Best practice in performance coaching: A handbook for leaders, coaches, HR professionals and organizations. Philadelphia: Kogan Page.

 

Blocked, Variable & Random Practice.

A coaching technique that is new to me is the blocked, variable and random practice approach. This is something that I have heard of before and experienced slightly however it is not something that I am familiar with. Consequently discovering in depth what each technique is, is crucial as it could be used to further develop my coaching. A small discussion was had in the lecture last week regarding the best method. Therefore in this post I will discuss which method I think is the ‘best’ and which method will suit me most for my coaching.

So, blocked practice what is it? Well, blocked practice is simply a practice where one skill is practiced over and over again e.g. 10 minutes, then a second skills is practiced for ten minutes and then a third for 10 minutes too (Mohnsen, 2008). The first skill must be mastered before moving onto the next one too. This type of practice helps participants to learn the technique correctly in steps as they will be performing it over and over which will hopefully benefit their skill acquisition as well as themselves as a player too. The movement pattern will hopefully then be fixed into the participants memory which would therefore mean that the skill would be being performed correctly when used. Blocked practice focuses solely on the correct technique and how it is performed but it does not take into account contextual interference which is forever present in a game situation. An example of this was in the reflective coach lecture last Thursday where we were given the task of using a blocked practice approach in order to coach a specific skills from gymnastics. My group decided to focus on a forwards roll therefore the steps we decided on were as followed:

  • Kneel on the floor with the palms of your hands facing forwards by the side of your head.
  • Lean over and place your head on the mat with your hands planted on the mat (either side of your head).
  • Push off with your legs so that your body goes over and land in a seated position.

This allows the participant to master each stage so that when they put the whole technique together each stage should be near perfect and easy on the eye.

 

Again, variable practice what is it? This type of practice can be described as setting up the practice within conditions that change (Mohnsen, 2008). The conditions can change in a variety of ways such as: the speed of the drills, the distance, as well as the organisation (way the drill runs). This practice leads on from blocked approach but is also different too in the fact that it is not the same tasks over and over because they are changed slightly in one way or another. As McGowan (2012): another coaching blog states an example of variable coaching which could be in football. A simple passing drill may be altered so that the weaker foot is being used or so that the distance between the two players was altered. This drill is changing the conditions through the use of the distance and the actual foot being used to kick the ball. This could be used for a shooting drill in football too using the same principle. The blocked practice would have been applied previously so that the vital points were known such as foot placement, contact on the ball etc. before the variable practice involving weak foot shots and long range/close range shots were introduced. This in essence just varies the practice up essentially.

The final practice that is part of the three is random practice. This type of practice involves the performer combining different classes of movements within play and competition settings (Vickers, 2007). This would mean that the performer does not know what skill is coming up next because they are constantly being varied up. This leads to the performer having to think about how to execute the skill as it may happen in a game situation. In a match the performer will not know what is coming up therefore they will have to adapt and use the necessary skill by making the correct decision. An example of random practice would be a traffic lights kind of game. A cone would be held up to signify a certain skill (e.g. left foot – red, right foot – green etc.). The players would not know what skill is going to appear next therefore they would have to keep on their toes.

 

So, now that the three practices have been defined which is going to be the most beneficial in my eyes? Personally I believe that random practice is the most beneficial however only after blocked has been done first. The blocked technique allows the performers to ‘master’ the skill and perfect each stage of a technique. Once this has been done then random practice can begin as it will test the performers and how they would deal with the skill and perform it in a game/match setting. This would then help to prepare players for when they participate competitively in their match or game. In addition to this Shea and Zimmy (1983) state that “changing the task on every random-practice trial made the tasks more distinct from each other and more meaningful, resulting in more elaborate memory representations”. Therefore they believe that solely random practice is the best way to keep memory of skills that have been worked on. The more the practice is mixed up, the better the representation is, and consequently the better the skill will be performed!

 

 

 

Reference List

McGowan, C. (2012) Sports coaching experiences. [Online]. Available at: http://connormcgowan.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/blocked-v-variable-v-random-practice.html (Accessed: 18 January 2016).

Mohnsen, B. S. (2008) Teaching middle school physical education – 3rd edition: A standards-based approach for grades 5-8. 3rd edn. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers.

Schmidt, R. and Lee, T. (2014) Motor learning and performance 5th edition: In many, if not most, real-world settings, the learner’s goal is to acquire more than a single skill or task in a limited practice period, sometimes even in a single practice period. [Online]. Available at: http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/research-illuminates-the-benefits-of-random-practice-over-blocked-practice-in-motor-learning (Accessed: 18 January 2016).

Vickers, J. N. (2007) Perception, cognition, and decision training: The quiet eye in action. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers.

Constraints Led Coaching.

When coaching, it is essential to challenge the players no matter what their ability is. In a session you may have some players who have been playing football for years and some who may have only just started however being able to challenge both types of players is vital yet challenging. As sessions need to be inclusive, constraints must be added to keep everyone involved interested and challenged at the same time.

So, what actually is constraints led coaching? Well constraints led coaching mainly focuses on the fact that “coaches shape and guide rather than direct(William & Hughes, 2005). This statement by William and Hughes to me perfectly sums up constraints led coaching as the coach has to stand back as opposed to persistently explaining which can often bore the performers. If players are being directed then they don’t really have much freedom and consequently it will not help with their development. This is where constraints led coaching significantly helps to develop each athlete regardless of their ability. This is because constraints can be applied specifically which can push some players more than others dependent on whether they need it or not. However there are three main types of constraints that can be applied are task, performer and environmental.

Constraints Led Coaching

So first of all is a task constraints. This type of constraint relates to the activity in terms of the goal, the equipment or even the rules too (Devine, 2015). By doing this the players will have to alter the way that they play in order to follow the rules, score a goal or use the equipment that has been given to them. These type of constraints get the players thinking in terms of succeeding. If they cannot adapt to the task given then they are not going to do well within the drill. An example that could be used as a task constraint would be: Having to receive the ball in a certain area (coned off) in order to score extra points as opposed to simply scoring in a net as usual.

Another type of constraint that can be applied to a drill during a session is an environmental constraint. This type of constraint involves changing the area that is being used to play the game. Putting a constraint on the environment can be as simple as altering the space that is being used. The area can be made bigger in order to make the drill simpler or smaller to make the drill harder. However the only problem with this is that some players may find it too difficult if the area is made too small therefore other constraints can be added for individuals who may be at a better level to push them too. In my opinion this type of constraint is a simple yet effective way of challenging a player because a small alteration can hugely affect the difficulty of the game which could in turn aid with skill development. However on the contrary constraints can play a big part in street football too for example. Kids may only have a small alleyway to play football therefore they have to react to the environment they have. This therefore would work on skills such as control and dribbling at a very young age.

A final type of constraint that could be used is a performer constraint which involves characteristics of the player (Devine, 2015). If a player is very comfortable at dribbling for example then what real benefit is dribbling with their strong foot going to be. This is where a constraint would come in and I would ask them to use their weaker foot which is considerably harder. Thus the player has to think about the way he/she is dribbling a lot more which will aid their physical and psychological development too. A performer constraint means that as a coach you can make certain tasks more difficult if they are finding it too easy as it keeps the whole group included yet challenged too.

 

One main example that shows the effects of constraints is the Brazilian national football team. Brazil are known for having very skilful and talented players but what is the reason for this? Well, in my personal opinion I believe that playing in the favelas for example has a big part to play. The favelas are known for their small and narrow alleyways therefore this is what the players have to deal with. Consequently players will have to find new ways to beat players in order to score a goal and this is the reason why their players are so skilful. Look at Neymar for example, many of the skills he uses today will have come from when he was a kid and the constraints that he had to deal with!

 

Therefore to conclude I completely agree with this statement which states  that “the best way to learn something is by challenging yourself” (Beckwith, Warner & Wood, 2004). This is because it is a coach’s job to improve players and one major way of doing this is through the use of challenges or in this case constraints. Constraints allow drills to benefit the whole squad and help to challenge everyone involved within the session.

 


 

Reference List
Beckwith, W., Warner, S. and Wood, R. (2004) Light wave 3D 8: 1001 tips and tricks with CD Rom. United States: Jones & Barlett Learning.

Devine, T. (2015) Constraints-led coaching – WHY?!. [Online]. Available at: http://www.tdgolfcoach.com/learning/constraints-led-coaching-why/ (Accessed: 10 January 2016).

Williams, A.M. & Hodges, N.J. (2005).  Practice, instruction and skill acquisition: Challenging tradition.  Journal of Sport Sciences, 23(6), 637-650.