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The coaching process has long since been recognised as a model for intervening in order to correct unsuccessful performance across sport. Indeed, many coaching courses in football are advocates for the use of such processes. Whilst many schools of thought exist, the coaching process in its simplest form follows a five step process consisting of:
Whilst utilising such process can improve performance in certain scenarios in a given session, does it really develop a player's ability to make decisions? I would argue not, because very rarely does the exact scenario repeat itself in a game, something will be different: the position on the pitch; the position and distance of opponents; the position and distance of team mates; the weight and type of pass being received and so on….
I'm sure you are all familiar with the saying "the best players make the best decisions, most of the time". Indeed, research focusing on the differences between elite and non-elite players suggests that elite players are able to make sense of the environment quicker. This means that elite players are able to recognise and process cues, identify familiar patterns, predict what their opponent will do, and react accordingly using the correct technique to perform the required movement/skill. If this is true, how do young players become good decision makers?
Granted some players may naturally be better at reading and understanding the game. However, I believe that as coaches we can play a significant role in developing our players' decision making ability. Personally, I think how a coach responds to successful performance is more important than how he intervenes following a mistake or unsuccessful execution of a skill.
I was watching an under 14 game recently and one player instantly caught my eye. He was playing in the no.10 position and clearly the creative player in his team. 10 minutes into the game the ball was played into him with the defender marking him tight, and he performed a drag back and Cruyff turn, nut-megging the defender before playing a pass through for a team mate to shoot at goal. His coach clearly enjoyed the moment shouting "Great skill son, well done". In the second half, a similar situation presented itself and the same player attempted the same skill. However, on this occasion the ball struck the defenders leg, bounced away to another opposing player, and the opposition broke. The coach responded with "Stop flicking the ball, pass it and keep it". My immediate thought was to question how a player can be praised so heavily in the first half, and shouted at for trying the same thing again? The reason why the skill didn't come off on the second occasion reinforces a point made above, very rarely does the exact scenario repeat itself in a game - the defender was further from the ball in the second attempt!! Did the player understand why it didn't work second time around? I don't think he did.
This brings me back to my point that coaching successful performance is crucial if we are to promote the development of decision makers. What exactly does this mean? For me, the best time to intervene is when a player has performed well. Start with praise for what he has just achieved, before asking how and more importantly why he did it. Try and understand yourself while helping the player understand why he/she made that decision, what did they see? In a recent conversation with a former professional footballer I asked how he felt his playing career had helped prepare him to coach. His response, "not much, I've had to learn again really. When I played I never thought about what I was doing, now I have to break everything down to teach it and I've found that really difficult".
Helping the player break the skill down and recognise what influenced his thinking is crucial. Without this reflection, very few players fully understand why they did what they did. Once players are able to break down the decision making process they will better be able to understand the environment, recognise cues (e.g. position of opposition; position of team mates; area on the field), identify familiar patterns (between performing a skill in two different scenarios), and use this information to:
1) Make the correct decision more consistently;
2) Correct their own mistakes through providing a structure to revert to under pressure.
Allowing the player freedom to try new things is important as is the coach's ability to facilitate the process (e.g. encourage players to revert back to breaking the process down after unsuccessful performance). Without this, young players will continue to perform as requested because the coach has told him/her its right, with little or no understanding of why the decision to pass instead of dribble is the better option.
Help player's understand making good decisions!!
If you enjoyed this you can find all my other ConnectedCoaches blogs here.
Good and interesting read Ceri.Would you suggest that the way in which coaching process is utilised (Welsh way) should be looked at? You mention within here in regards to the individual and praising through the game, should this be done a lot more during training sessions too? Whether gaining an understanding of the why they did something to praise or to learn from unsuccessful situations. A lot of sessions within courses are aimed at stopping the whole practice and going through the coaching process for all players to see and hear even if were not involved in the moment.From personal experience a more individual approach has worked better for myself as a coach and the player within the sessions and games. Gaining more understanding of the players thought processes, current knowledge and understanding and therefore can aid the individual better for the present and future planning for him. For me a lot more individual focus within your team structure is needed to develop players?
Great post. I am a Netball coach and we are trying to move away from hand holding and instead get our players in the club to be more reactive on court and take more ownership of the decision making in order to be able to adjust to all the different scenarios they come up against from opposition. We always have team tactics and game plans ready to take into each game and sometimes these plans are worked out by the opposition but the team continue to try and execute the same thing despite it no longer being effective. We are trying to get them to have the confidence to change it up. I can see the players look to the bench for answers, but we can't be on court doing it for them, they need to be able to find the answers for themselves quickly and under pressure as the game is very fast paced. So much work to do in this area but when they get it right it will massively improve their game. Something else that's helping us is video game analysis and getting the players to self evaluate. They watch the video of each match and do self evaluation and they often see where they could have made a better decision, both individually and as a team. It gives them clear visuals of the different scenarios too and they are definitely starting to react to this in a positive way.
We have a standing instruction, 'Catch them doing something right'.After each swim race we ask every athlete to tell us how the race went. Not just 'Good or bad' but what worked and what didn't, from the moment they race for the first time aged 9. They need help to come up with some answers to start with but over time come prepared after warm down to discuss. It is their race, after all not the coach's.We also say, and I have said it before on here, the only poor race is the one you don't learn from
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