Ignore the status - ask the question!

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times ofchallenge and controversy."

Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the most enjoyable aspects about coaching is the challenging debates that come with them. There is no right or wrong way to coach or to accomplish outcomes as it is all very subjective. However what coaches should understand is the following:

Coaching is not a ladder… more a sliding spectrum.

People & coaches often believe that the better their coaching is the higher up the player performance pathway they should go. However, the best coaches find an area in the player performance pathway where they can become most effective & impact. Just because a coach coaches at the top level of the game doesn’t make them a better coach than some who coaches further down the player performance pathway. Just like a top sales person does not always make a good manager, or a top level player means that they can coach at the top level. Some people are better suited at certain levels for the player performance pathway due to these factors and many more:

- Ability to connect with people

- Humanistic tendencies

- Characteristic

- Emotional Intelligence Levels

- Pedagogical understanding

- Delivery & presentation skills

- Tactical & Technical understanding & knowledge

- Ability to motivate

Coaches should not be intimidated, or afraid to challenge coaches on their philosophies or understanding of pedagogy due to their coaching status. If coaches were not challenged, then coaches would never learn and reflect on their practice therefore increasing their quality of coaching.


Coaching is a learning journey and should be treated like one. There is not an and end learning point, there is no destination. There is always knowledge to be gained #AlwaysGaining. As mentioned challenging debates around ones practice can be enjoyable and should be welcomed. Being challenged makes you think about your philosophies as a coach in much more depth and detail so there is a clear understanding of what it is you think your philosophies are.

Your philosophies and theory should also match your practice. Which can be changed and adjusted over time and as you learn more about the sport, about coaching and about yourself. Some of the best things to challenge coaches on is their pedagogical strategy. We are all teaching the same content in a 'X's & 'O's, how we deliver it differs and this is where we as coaches need the most growth.

Sir Clive Woodward said that ‘the best coaches are good teachers’. This is true. Knowledge is not power in the coaching space, but the delivery of knowledge is power. How you deliver the knowledge you have is what makes a good teacher. Coaching & teaching is about creating a ‘learning environment’ to ‘grow players’ and help their ‘development and understanding of something’. Therefore, there are certain pedagogical practices that can allow you to become a better teacher & therefore a better coach.

There are theories like Behaviourist Learning where you shape an individual learning through manipulating stimulus & responses in certain ways and then connecting the outcomes. If there is an act that is followed by a satisfying change then its likely to be a repeated outcome in similar outcomes.

This clip explains in a very basic fun level what this may look like: - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mt4N9GSBoMI

There are other theories knows as cognitive - constructionist learning theories that have four main principles:

1. Development – where students can have the freedom to raise their own questions, generate hypothesis, and make mistakes. This is important as research states that an overly descriptive approach can negatively impact learning.

2. Open ended investigations – The purpose here is to challenge the learning and disturb their way of thinking or preconceptions of the world. The challenge leads them to new realms of learning and how they learn.

3. Reflective practice – to achieve mindfulness by paying attention to the environment around you, being fully engaged in the moment. Reflecting In and on action and the finally for action will allow you as the practitioner to learn in a great way.

4. Development of new ideas – This can be done with shaping an environment where students learn though different concepts or ways that a game is taught to them.

A big focus in the social - constructionist approach is that it is learning is a social concept. Again with 4 main principles:

1. Social Interaction - Students learn though social interaction, thought cooperative learning where they are exposed to many minds, and ways of thinking.

2. Zones - Students learn best in their ‘zone of proximal development’

3. The Cognitive Apprentice – where you learn from someone who is more knowledgeable

4. Scaffolding - where the teacher provides support in the beginning and gradually reduces the structure as time goes on and learning develops.

With these constructivist approaches they align and match with the coaching concepts of Game Sense and TGfU. Especially regarding the discovery and challenging of opened ended questions playing games. The game is the best learning tool.

Coaches then also must recognize that if they are going to be teaching and coaching in these ways or using these theories then their coaching style must suit what, why and to who it is they are delivering the content to. Moston and Ashworth teaching styles. These styles are not a one style suits all. There are many styles that coaches can tap into. Coaching styles is a spectrum that we can move up and down, left and right.

To summaries effective coaches are ones that have their philosophies but understand that there are other techniques and ideas out there and should not be afraid to step out of their comfort zone. Do some action research, challenge your practice. Challenge others, be challenged, you never know what it can do for your learning, it will be positive if you approach it with an open mind.

There is no such thing as failure, there is only learning. Put yourself out there. Say what you are going to do, have your practice there to be examined, ask for feedback, ask for challenges!


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