Answer these questions everyday to work toward great coaching.
1. Are my athletes spending a high % of time on the task?
This is relevant for a 5 year old soccer practice as much as it is for a professional athletes practice. If you want your sessions to be efficient and enjoyed, let them play. Talk less and get them active.
What’s the perfect ratio? A lot more movement than you think.
There is rarely a coach that isn’t shocked by the stop watch if we keep tabs on this statistic. Have someone put a stop watch on your athlete/s time in movement today and see how you do.
2. Are my athletes learning specifics?
Many coaches spend their time cheering, motivating, consoling, and energizing when they could be analyzing, evaluating, molding, strategizing and implementing.
I’m not saying cheering for your athlete isn’t a part of a coaches job, it is. I just don’t believe it should be necessary every minute.
If you have to coach effort, your athletes are undervaluing your time and expertise. They bring effort (always), and together you direct it.
3. Am I using a variety of communication methods?
Talking isn’t always the most effective way to get the desired outcome. In fact, studies show your message will be lost if you do not use the right communication tool at the right time.
Face to face, phone, text, email, messaging, social media, posters, articles, books, charts, records, videos, quotes, demonstration, peer teaching, hand signals, whistles - the list goes on.
We’ve all completed and administered the VARK (ironically a written test), but who has explored all of the avenues above?
Whether you want a quick response or to promote deeper thought, understanding your choice of communication methods and timing is crucial.
4. Am I asking enough questions?
Ask more questions than you give answers. Resist trying to demonstrate your intelligence and skills by answering for the athlete.
Leave those questions unanswered and let athletes ponder their response. Clarify, show curiosity, and be silent.
Asking smart questions is productive, positive, and creative, and when combined with effective listening, it can make a massive difference to your coaching relationships.
By using questions you can gather information, examine, persuade, plant your own ideas, be solution oriented, defuse, negotiate, and hold athletes accountable.
Keep questions open ended and refrain from leading them to the answer, unless you're planting a new idea. Try using a lot more "what" and "how" questions rather than "why" questions and suspend any judgement you may have to avoid defensiveness.
5. Am I allowing my athlete/s to drive their own learning?
What happens when you don't direct the practice or you're away? Does a player or a group of players take charge? Perfect.
We should all be working toward redundancy in certain aspects so you must consistently gauge how much your athlete/s know. This will challenge them but also alert them to being engaged at all times.
Choose a practice to secretly watch from a distance without notifying anyone. If you have other coaches, bring them with you. Who takes charge? What is done? Is it efficient, effective, energetic? By the end of the session you'll certainly have enough notes to drive your learning outcomes for a while.
6. Am I coaching with positive optimism?
What is positive optimism? It's framing your feedback in a positive, optimistic manner. For example, if a practice session was poorly executed you can choose how to respond.
At one end of the spectrum a coach may say "that sucked, you suck, we suck, everyone was awful, why do we bother, we won't win"
Using positive optimism a coach may say things like, "Let's overcome these challenges".
"Who believes we can do better?" "How can we improve that session?"
"Let's work toward executing those skills really well for our next competition"
It takes time to learn this skill and you may have to bite your tongue occasionally but studies show framing your feedback in this manner increases your odds of getting the desired result.
MORE: Dear Coach Educator
7. Do my athletes finish their session wanting more?
Leave them wanting more. Finish the practice just before you think they've "had enough".
Allow them to walk away wishing they could stay and wanting to return. Do everything you can to keep the fire burning.
David Hodge asks a lot of questions of himself and others in his roles as a mentor, coach, volunteer and business director. Follow him on twitter @CoachDavidHodge or email him directly Dave@propelperform.com