Saturday, 25 January 2014

Coaching styles - pros and cons

The development of young people in sport is directly related with the behaviours of their significant others - namely teachers, coaches, parents and peers.
   But what behaviour aids the best development? Is it simply enough to ‘be a good role model’ or just be knowledgeable of the sport in which they coach?
   I have witnessed lots of training sessions in football with many different coaches, and I have found that there are generally two different types of coaches – the Facilitator, and the Teacher.    
   The Facilitator merely sets up the drill, and lets the game be the teacher – whereby the participants learn from their own mistakes with minimal coach intervention. The common phrase thrown about to support this style, is that you learn from your mistakes. That may be true, but if you don’t know you are making a mistake, then how can you learn from it?
   The Teacher on the other hand sets up the drill and then starts the coaching. They step in regularly with correct coaching points, offering demonstrations and asking questions to help their players understand. In my own experience, this method is far more successful than the Facilitator as the players are being corrected by somebody who knows best, rather than letting an inexperienced performer try to correct the mistakes themselves.
   Using myself as an example, when I first started coaching in 2010 I was very much a Facilitator, a session leader, if you will. I called myself a coach, as many of you do, however the amount of actual coaching I undertook in my sessions was actually very little. I am strong enough to look back at myself and admit that what I did then wasn’t what was best for my players, but under the persona we all adopt when coaching, I made it look like I was correct. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I know that the experience I have gained through a number of things I have done since I started coaching, has made me a much better coach. I have become more immersed in the game, and in sport development as a whole, and being able to put my knowledge back into my coaching will have a positive effect on the players I work with.
   The most popular style in sports coaching is the Facilitator. Because of this, players are being expected to improve by making mistakes themselves, and thus correcting them. But how can they correct them, if they don’t know what the right way to perform the task is? This is when a good coach will step in and demonstrate the correct technique and offer coaching points, sometimes using question and answer, to aid understanding. However, this can be time consuming – stopping each group to deliver the coaching points, and a lot of coaches get bored of saying the same thing again and again to players, so don’t do it. But surely that is what coaching is – getting your knowledge over to somebody else in a way that they understand it, and can use it, in order to improve their performance?
   It is a well known fact that some coaches are better than others. However, the better coaches aren’t always the ones with the best teams. I had a brilliant team when I first started coaching, however most of them were part of a soccer school and had been coached by somebody else before joining my team, so in a way, I hid behind the success of my team and basked in their glory, although my input was largely ineffective. That is something I have figured out myself, nobody has come up and said this to me. I feel that if I had adopted the Teacher coaching style, then my team could have improved even further and the players developed at a much faster rate. In a way, I feel like I let them down.
   The Teacher method of coaching (the method you will use when doing your FA coaching badges) demands a lot of time and effort by the coach, which is why many coaches don’t use it. This style requires the coach to set up the drill, and then start to coach. The coaching style is as follows.
·         Observe
·         See fault
·         Coach and correct
·         Recreate
·         Play
What this means is, the coach will observe one group at a time doing the drill, and when he sees a fault, such as a poor shot, or a bad pass, he will step in and coach the player. He will offer coaching points, and even a demonstration if needed, so that the player can see what he did wrong. The coach will then recreate the scenario, for example by playing the ball back to the player who made the bad pass, so that he can play a different pass or make a run. Once it has been recreated, the coach will let them play until another mistake is made, or he goes and observes another group.
   This is best practice, because the coach is maximising playing time for the players as well as stepping in there and offering coaching points – which are the basis for which improvement is made. If a builder builds a house but lays the bricks wrong, the house may collapse. If nobody tells him what he did wrong and the correct way to lay the bricks, he will repeat the mistake and the next house will collapse.
   Sport needs more coaches, fact. But not any old coach. It needs somebody who is willing to put the time and effort in outside of the training session to become educated in the sport in which the work, by learning what the key factors for each skill is, learning the correct coaching points and knowing when to use them, figuring out what type of coach you are and which style is best suited to you etc. Without that time and effort, the future of sport is on a downwards facing slope.

   How can a coach expect their players to put in the effort, if they don’t put in the effort themselves?