A collection of 2018 ramblings.
Due to starting a new job in football at the end of December i wasn’t quite able to publish all of the work i had planned to write..
I still have to publish An Approach To Coaching Football Part 2, hopefully before this months end. After a recent laptop issue, i was cataloging a few unfinished pieces i started over 2018, and decided to post them together into this piece, hopefully to stir some thinking whilst i head towards publishing new pieces in the coming months. This piece contains a few ramblings about Coach Efficacy, Pedagogy and a few questions from mailbags that i left off, enjoy!
It is probably best to distinguish early on that usually efficacy is used to describe oneself, whereas effectiveness is used to describe others perceptions of a coach, this will become clearer throughout the piece.
What is Coach Efficacy?
Feltz, Chase, Moritz and Sullivan (1999) describe coach efficacy as the extent to which coaches believe they have the capacity to affect the learning and performance of their athletes. Bandura (1997) goes further and says that efficacy could be defined as a person’s belief in their own capabilities to organise and execute an action.
What is Coaching Effectivness?
Horn (2008) states that effective coaching results in either successful performance outcomes, measured either in terms of win-loss percentages, individual player development, or success at the national or international level or positive psychological responses on the part of the athletes (e.g. high perceived ability, high self-esteem, intrinsic motivational orientation, or high level of sport enjoyment and satisfaction.)
A Problem! Can we define effective coaching using athlete outcomes?
Going back to Horn (2008), it’s believed that effective coaching usually results in successful sporting performance outcomes or psychological responses on the part of the athlete. Due to many factors these are often not the only guidelines for assessing whether or not you are an effective coach. It may be better to assess coaches still against the criteria of performance outcomes, and psychological responses, but also alongside a few others, such as, an athletes overall competence in the sport through various Key Performance Indicators, the ability of the coach to influence personal growth in their athletes, the ability of the athlete to establish a connection to the coaching process, for the athlete to become autonomous in their decision making, and to be aware of how this decision making affects the context and environment, and finally, if sport has become a medium for the athlete to develop as a person.
Describing an Effective coach:
Effective coaches in any context integrate 3 forms of knowledge: professional, interpersonal, intrapersonal.
Effective coaches in any context develop athletes capacities in the areas of competence, confidence, connection and character tailored to specific athlete needs.
The composition of effective coaches professional, interpersonal and intrapersonal knowledge varies on the basis of the coaching environment.
Expert coaches are able to demonstrate effective coaching on a consistent basis.
Sport Pedagogy, what is that?
Pedagogy is the practice of developing “potentialities”, in the context of this piece, through sport. The word ‘Pedagogy’ itself has roots in Ancient Greece, referring to the holistic development of children. Alexander (2008) simply describes pedagogy’s purpose as mediating, knowledge, learning culture and identity, all four things vital for coaches to understand in their working environments.
Sport pedagogy is simply about supporting an athlete’s ability to learn sport specific skills, and, how this learning can be structured to ensure the participant gains wider social, personal and health benefits whilst learning. For a coach like myself who believes education throughout the holistic coaching process is vital to the athlete’s development both as an athlete and as a person, understanding pedagogy is vital. Are you as a coach simply focusing on the sporting aspects of our roles, in terms of training, or are we doing enough to educate our players in a wider context?
Kathleen Armour (2011) believes Sport Pedagogy is conceptualized into three distinct areas, Knowledge in Context (viewed as appropriate knowledge to be taught regarding the sport and how this looks in practice), Learners & Learning (how can we encourage diversity in learning, individualize learning and support the learners process) and Teachers/Teaching & Coaches/Coaching ( A key aspect of pedagogy is to grasp the interaction between the teacher/coach and the learner). A key part of understanding Sport Pedagogy is having a concise understanding of Learning Theories.
Why Sport Pedagogy and an understanding of Learning Theories can lead to better coaching:
Research in the early 2000’s (Gilbert, 2002) into coaching science concluded that there was not a single article focusing on the athletes learning process, or the athlete as a learner. Obviously, coaching has become far more professionalized and academic in the 16 years since this research was conducted, but it is still telling that not a single research piece was conducted into athlete learning before 2002. After seeing this, it’s clear to see how “Folk Pedagogies” have entered the coaching world, Bruner (1999) describes these as strong implicit beliefs about how people learn and what is good for them. We can see this still in coaching with approaches of coaches doing things “because this is the way I was taught”, and maybe not altering their practices with newer approaches, because the tried and tested method worked for them. A commitment to the pedagogical process would ensure the coach has a lifelong relationship with learning and would show commitment to constant learning, and adaptation in their practice, rather than sticking with tried and trusted and potentially archaic methods.
Having a clear understanding of prominent learning theories and how these relate your practice as a coach will provide you with a conceptual framework and vocabulary for interpreting practices and how and why they specifically facilitate learning. Having understood these approaches hopefully they will open you as coach up to thinking about your practice in different ways and ever further exploration!
What is a game based approach?
Coaches and Academics when starting to read around the idea of a game based approach (GBA) may begin to find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of different approaches to GBA, with approaches like, Teaching Games For Understanding, Game Sense, Zone of Proximal Development, Complex Learning theory and A Constraints Led-approach, while all of these approaches do differ in their pedagogical application, (and an article ten times the size of this would be needed to discuss the merits and nuances of each approach) we will used the umbrella term of GBA to discuss any approach which teachers through the use of the context of “the game”.
After discussing with @Feyre9251 what makes up the umbrella term GBA, we decided on the following points:
– Game forms as the main learning context.
– Modification of the Configuration of the Games as a means of focusing on different aspects of the training.
– Understanding or game intelligence focus through explicit teaching and game design.
– Know-how through modification of the game configuration.
A game based approach is understood as a problem based approach to teaching games, where a skill is learnt within the context of the game according to Hopper and Krussielbank (2002). Ellis (1986) believes that the method allows the coach to reduce the tactical complexity of the session, which allows more decision making, and then the coach can increase the tactical complexity of the session through Space, Time/Task, Equipment and Participant constraints. Although research such as Asquith (1989) and Laws (1994) argues that in practice games based approaches haven’t allowed the coach to stand back and react to the tactical problems they wish to appear in their practice. There could be many reasons for this, the most prominent one being a coach planning a session with a specific outcome to arise, and it not arising though the complex nature of coaching team sports, so after putting on a poorly designed practice that doesn’t lead to towards the planned outcome, the coach will either just “let the players play” or focus on something else they had not planned for, thus not reacting to tactical problems.
Whilst this is a good counter argument, it must be noted that in a constraint based approach (Newell, 1991), it is down to the coach to guide and constrain the practice towards the desired outcome, so this may be more of an issue with the coaches’ delivery, practice or understanding than the approach. Griffin, Dodds & Rovengo (1996) agree that the delivery is solely down to the coach, and that the coach must be able to progress their practice through both skill progressions and tactical progressions, without these the practice won’t constrain the players, and the desired outcome will not be achieved. If the coach can progress the practice successfully, tactically and skill wise, the content knowledge will become more adaptive due the variations of the learning environment.
The main reason that practitioners decide to adopt the Games Based Approach model is that athletes are taught that the WHY comes before the HOW (Bunker & Thorpe, 1986), and that a key focus is that learners must make decisions about “what to do” within the game, and then “how to do it” (Griffin, et al 1997). This leads to greater tactical understanding of the game, according to Solana-Sánchez, Lara-Bercial & Solana-Sánchez (2016) in comparison to the “closed drill” approach of learning skills in isolation, Abernethy (1987) states that environmental cues are essential for athletes to select and attended to, to adopt the correct skill execution in the tactical context of the game, and these environmental cues simply do not appear in isolated training, and if they do, they are often unrealistic.
As well as “technique based” training often being unrealistic Strean & Holt’s (2002) research highlights that participants & parents find games based training sessions were often more fun than technically orientated drills. It is important to note at this point that Griffin et al (1997) believes that effective teaching and coaching from a Games Based Approach perspective Is about the marriage of skill development with tactical understanding, not just focusing on one aspect or the other.
When we begin to break down what the Games Based Approach is, Griffin, Mitchell & Oslin (1997) and Werner (1989) state that practices using this methodology are solely game based, it will always teach students tactical understanding before emphasising skill performance due to the nature of delivery. Because effective performance is understood as tactical awareness, which leads to the selection of the correct skill and then execution, this approach works well for team sports.
This is backed up by Kirk and MacPhail (2002) who highlight that to improve skill usage in a game situation, a player needs tactical awareness to execute the right skill at the right moment, and this understanding comes from an emerging understanding of playing the game. Kirk and Macphail’s (2002) works also tries to shift this approach into a more situated learning perspective, moving towards a constructivist style of learning where learning is based on prior knowledge, examples given are coaches focusing on examples athletes may have seen on tv, already in their knowledge base. This is interesting as it was the first piece of research to marry learning theories, sport pedagogy and motor skill development.
Raymond Verhijen, a world class coach educator and founder of the World Football Academy, raises a very valid and interesting point, that football is not akin to gymnastics where you are marked on “how well” you execute a certain technique, i.e, a half volley into the top corner is worth two goals, opposed to a toe poke only being worth one. Much of the discourse in football coaching Is about creating “perfect” technique, obviously to be considered an elite player, you must have a solid technical base, but it is time we move away from using words like, “good, bad, excellent, awful” when describing technique and begin to use Football Action Language, to effectively describe what we as coaches see, for example, I would use the terms, functional technique v unfunctional technique. It is better to teach players concepts and let them adapt them in situations as they see fit, this kind of autonomy creates better decision makers, rather than teach them a biomechanically one-size fits all “perfect technique”, a game based approach will certainly help create functional technique.
Seen in Harvey’s (2006) study, football especially, coaches can coach both on the ball and off the ball tactical aspects through a TGfU approach in a single practice, opposed to having an isolated practice which only focuses on one aspect of possession this is echoed by Solana-Sánchez, Lara-Bercial & Solana-Sánchez (2016) who say, “In every training task, in every exercise, in every match, the phases of the game and the individual and collective behaviours are intertwined and are impossible to dissociate.”
A case for the benefits of Isolated and Opposed training?
Without wanting to wage into the war of Opposed practice v Unopposed practice, I believe there is a space in a coaches training methodology for both. I would suggest unopposed technique training as a supplement to training with a team, as additional work and potentially not in place of team training. I would also advocate unopposed practices for things like regeneration practice the day after a game. The final time I would train without an opponent is to create a tactical reference point for the players, this kind of training can still be made realistic if stimuli are provided such as, when to do things, how to do things, perception and orientation cues, but it is of the utmost importance that all these stimuli are game-realistic to provided building learning blocks, this kind of practice works very well hand in hand with video analysis.
Opposition to the approach:
It is important to note that Rink, French & Graham (1996) have commented that a key problem of Games Based Research is that a lot of studies struggle to identify explicitly where technique based training stops and games based training begins. Obviously, effective games based training is a combination of both, but is not clear in studies where the line between technique and game based training is firmly drawn. And lastly, more recent research has been conducted to blur the lines between what is a game based approach and what is a constraint based approach (Renshaw, Araujo, Chow, Davids, and Moy, 2016),
I would also expect coaches will probably still prefer to teach tactics though unopposed and isolated practice, this is probably down to what Bruner (1999) describes as “folk-pedagogies”, a reluctance to accept “new ideas” because things have “always been this way” and this is the way the coaches were coached as players, Pierson (2000) described this as “path dependence”, in which because something worked for the coach, it must work for everyone that they coach. The phenomenon of path dependence, captures the notion that often “something that seems normal today began with a choice that made sense at a particular time in the past, and survived despite the eclipse of the justification for that choice. I’m hopeful that a coach will come to this conclusion, because the rationale behind this proposed study is to discover why coaches would choose to not adopt the TGfU model and the causality between a coaches’ rationale and training with an unopposed/isolated game model.
Coaches effectiveness and efficacy on the methodology –
Another argument to consider is based around a coaches’ effectiveness and efficacy in terms of delivering a game based practice, the argument is as follows, does the coach understand complex systems theory and Non-linear pedagogy? (Sumara & Davis, 2008). Having an understanding of Complex Systems and NLP will allow the coach in theory to, explain, describe and predict how their athletes learning system (Chow, 2008) adapts and changes to the stimulus provided by the games based approach. This is in clear contrast to the typical behaviourist approach of isolated and skill based training, where the athlete only has a single stimulus they need to react to and get a learning response from. If a coach is not adept at understanding what they are delivering and are delivering games based approach sessions, these often look like poorly managed matches where there no constraints leading towards stimulation for the athletes.
It’s also important to note that high levels of verbal instruction are the norm in traditional coaching (William and Hodges, 2005), whereas the games based approach moves away from this reliance on verbal instruction throughout the practice, allowing the athletes more autonomy to make decisions for themselves. If the coach isn’t comfortable designing practice to lead to specific outcomes, with little verbal guidance, the approach maybe poorly delivered. Dr Ed Coughlan recently spoke about how adapting a game based approach can often look as if the coach has adopted a “laissez-faire” approach.
Best way for getting kids (8-10) to pass instead of going 1v1? I don’t want to discourage kids from attacking 1v1, quite the opposite. But a couple of them haven’t quite learned when taking on multiple defenders in tight spaces, it’s probably better to pass to an open teammate.
Simple questions to consider, are they playing with their heads up? Are they aware of their surroundings? Are they taking in the information they are seeing? Are your players doing any underloaded work, 1v2, 2v3 to gain an understanding of these situations?
It’s important to note that at this stage of Child Development, these ages are still very ego-oriented, very much in the mindset of learning to play with the ball, whilst learning to play with others, players are expected to want to dribble more with the ball due to their cognitive development. Two things I would suggest trying in training would be two constrained games. One being a first touch finish game, as players are literally being constrained to pass the ball to be able to score, allowing the game to implicitly teach and the coach to educate when to give the ball and how to give it for it to arrive in the best possible situation, without taking away too much of the dribbling conditions.
Another thing you could try is (I don’t really like this rule, but could be fun for younger ages) the amount of passes you make = the amount a goal is worth, this way at least you are encouraging the passing action, although I would say the coach would need to guide this, because you may have players accruing 8-10 passes in the defensive third, then one player dribbling the whole team and scoring. Young children are imaginative problem solvers in this way. Essentially, just maintain the right environment, be patient and teach your players how to understand football.
What do you think about when you are planning for a season?
When planning for a season I tend to imagine how I would like the aspects of team to look on the final match day. So, we look at my principles and work backwards from them. We also must take into account each player’s individual development and how this will look over the course of the season. The biggest thing to remember when planning anything, is that planning is a dynamic process and should always be open to change.
What are your best tips for implementing a style of play to a new team?
My advice would be to determine first what you believe is fundamental to your style of play, assess the players that you have, and then begin to design training exercises working back from these fundamental aspects. You also must think about how these fundamental points interact with each other, i.e, if you want to have a high pressing team who are stable in possession, do you train the positional game first or the pressing? I would argue that should train the positional game first, because If you work on pressing first, the pressing team will easily win the ball against the team building without a clear idea of how to build up. On the other hand, if you work on positional play first, then the pressing team will learn to press well against a team who can build properly.
What tools do you use when planning and documenting training and match?
Simple paper notation for ideas, notebook after notebook of session designs. For actual documentation and reflection, I keep everything online, this includes, session plans and evaluation and reflections upon these sessions.
What to do with disrespectful players (U17) which already said sorry multiple times and bullied other players?
There is no overarching and final answer to this question, obviously it all depends on the context. In regard to bullying, in my eyes there is no room in team sports for bullying and this player should probably be removed (without knowing the full context), but only after attempts have been made to educate this player into understanding how their actions are wrong. Normally, when we try to punish somebody, it’s an attempt to teach them for doing something wrong, so often it is better to just teach them rather than punish.