What is the role of the coach?

I have just completed a fascinating online course from the Open University, hosted by Future Learn — Sports Performance: Different Approaches to Sports Coaching. Highly recommended for all coaches.

As part of the course, we were asked: What is the role of the coach?

  • Do you think coaches should never give instructions or should they be encouraged to reflect on just how much instruction they provide?

I have seen the former proposition formulated as “Every time you give an instruction, you steal a decision.”

But sometimes there might only be one right answer, and instruction is the most efficient and effective route to that solution.

So I much prefer “a brave coach intervenes when he has to” — I don’t see it as a brave option to withhold knowledge in pursuit of a non-interventionist ideology.

Yes, we could allow a young bowler to continue with a seriously flawed bowling action, wait until injury intervenes, then rehab, then attempt to re-build a safer, more robust action. Or we could tell them, early on, what the likely outcomes will be if they don’t do the re-modelling now.

And I say that as a firm believer in ecological dynamics and CLA — that athletes learn best when they interact with their environment (learn by playing), less well when they try to impose a solution (externally provided, often by the coach) on that environment.

In “the old days”, before the introduction of “industrialised” coaching, players learnt to play by playing. It was the only option.

I recall seeing an interview with Alan Hansen, of Liverpool FC & Scotland, where he said that he had never received any (technical) coaching at any point in his career. And Hansen was technically sound and tactically astute. The lack of coaching (his self coaching) was highly effective.

But Hansen told how he spent many, many hours finding his own solutions. And many others, in the same environment, will have failed to reach the same levels.

Nowadays, coaches & athletes do not have unlimited practice time. The numbers of athletes willing or able to invest the long hours in learning-through-playing has declined.

Player development can’t be left entirely to self discovery.

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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