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UKA Coach Building A Better Coaching Environment


Coaching using an involving style

  • Posted: 19.02.2013
  • Author: Alan Richardson (uCoach)
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Dear Coaches,

As a coach, an important question is always “how can I maximise an athlete’s potential to perform when it counts?” The more I explore this question, the more it becomes clear that although planning and preparation of the physical and technical elements are critical, there is much more to it. At every level of the sport I have been involved in from club to international level I believe that athletes who perform well have a greater degree of independence and a sense of empowerment. They do not need someone to tell them which decision to make or what happened during the performance. That said, it does not mean the coach is not there to support them or provide feedback, but simply that the feedback and relationship is different.  The coaching process does not generate a dependence on the coach but aims to create an athlete who has an independence that allows them to understand and make decisions.

Within Pole Vault, an event that I coach, an example of this is when the athlete fails a height by landing on the bar. The feedback of the coach does not need to provide facts of what happened, but simply must help the athlete understand why it happened. Is an adjustment to the approach run or the stand placement needed, or is it that focus is needed on a technical detail? I don’t believe that we can switch this coaching style on and off and to achieve this, a coaching style that involves the athlete in decision making is a process must happen daily.

There are 2 main ways to see the coaching process

1. Coach centred.

The coach tells, instructs and attempts to motivate the athlete, but all of the feedback comes from the coach’s perspective. I liken this to the coach attempting to programme the athlete like a robot who has little or no individual thought or understanding. This athlete will learn skills in the coaches manor but will most likely revert to type and/or perform poorly under the pressure of competition or other external stress such as having to cope with demanding weather conditions.

 2. Athlete Centred.

The coach questions, listens and engages with the athlete. This approach I believe allows the athlete to grow and understand the process.  With greater ability to make their own decisions will come greater motivation and ownership of the process. An athlete who can take ownership will also take greater responsibility for the outcome and as a result, change will come in their performance. Here David Hemery explains the power of the question

 A very simple example of questioning and understanding is an athlete missing their mid mark on an approach run by being too far away. If the athlete has this information and has an internal awareness of performance, they can make the decision that the coach cannot alone. Do they move their start mark or do they concentrate on a certain element of the approach run?

If, as coaches, we want to go from ‘Good to Great’, both of these styles need to be involved in the longer term process but we should always be striving to develop independent athletes who take responsibility for their performance and who understand their events.

So how exactly might we change or adapt our coaching style to develop this kind of athlete? David Hemery takes the coach through a short video in coaching using an involving style that i believe can help to get develop to a higher level and at a faster rate.

I hope you all enjoy the video and it promotes some thought as to how we all coach in training and competition

Best Regards

Alan Richardson


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