Ripples on a pond — what is coaching, really?

Initial coach training concentrates on developing coaches who can run a “successful” session, where “success” might be defined as “fun” or “purposeful” or “safe” or “active”.

But, all too often, the players can leave a “successful” session having practiced a new skill or tactical formation, but not knowing how or when to use it.  And, in a week, or a month, how much of the learning will actually be retained?

Clearly, then, coaching has to be about much more than just Purposeful, Active, Safe & Enjoyable sessions, more than simply “telling”, “ showing” or even “teaching”.

Phil Race’s “Ripples on a Pond” model of how students learn suggests that some “coaching” is merely delivery of an activity.

Ripples on a pond

I encountered Race’s Ripples… model on the iCoachKids MOOC Coaching Children: Planning, Doing and Reviewing. Once again, a great resource for any coach who seriously wants to improve their own coaching.

Race’s model describes how students learn. What motivates them to study, and the processes that help to embed their learning, in memory and behaviours.

And, by extension, how the coach can facilitate learning.

Phil Race, How Students Really Learn: Ripples on a Pond model

Students learn best when they Want to learn about something, or when they Need to learn.

The role of the coach is to understand (or possibly influence) Wants & Needs. By using a games-led approach, or Whole-Part-Whole sessions, I might inadvertently be following this approach — “here’s a game; now, what do you need to do/learn to win the game?”

There is a lot more for me to work on, here, especially around understanding player motivations, both generically and individually.

Students learn best by actually Doing

The coach needs to give the participants the chance to Do, to try, fail, and try again. Lots of “Repetition without repetition”. More games, more gamified drills, maybe, even, more Blocked and Variable drills.

Effective learning often involves Making Sense

Knowledge requires context — a learnt fact is just a statement, a data point, a movement, until it has contextual meaning.

The role of the coach, therefore, is to help the learner to develop understanding beyond what has been learnt at a factual or technical level, and setting learning in context.

At its simplest, this might mean allowing a player to try out their newly practiced technique in a game-like setting.

But it also requires the coach to deploy questioning and listening skills — good questions encourage sense making, but only if the coach doesn’t take the first answer he hears and moves on to the next activity. Maybe I could use more “take this home and think about your answer” activities at the end of sessions.

Learning is driven by Feedback

Feedback received from the coach, but also by formulating and giving feedback to others.

I did try this, once (back in 2015!), with “You are the analyst!” — really need to reinstate this, somehow.

Actually Teaching others can reinforce learning.

This certainly matches my own experience — I only really began to understand my own game after I started coaching others.

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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