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Posted in: General

Coaching everyone to the level they need

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  • Coach_Browning

    Often in amateur sports we get a wide range of players. We get those that are there to just be part of something all the way through to those that want to excel and take it to as high a level as possible.

    It can be easy to zero in on one type rather than give everyone what they wish from the sessions. 


    1) What tips woudl people give to other coaches in such a situation to ensure that the full range of players were fuly catered for

    2) Can we learn from other areas - such as education - and if so does anyone have anything they could share in terms of reading/advice/etc...

  • David_T

    Hi Simon,

    I had a similar conversation the other day when I was discussing what an expert coach would do when faced with a wide mix of abilities.

    I dont have a definitive list but I started to come up with a few ideas...

    With less able participants

    • Ask people what they want and can and cannot do and indeed what their priorities are...if it's just getting more active it may not matter too much to them if they don't benefit from more traditional coaching - i.e. the skill aquisition side of things.
    • If for example you do have people who just want to be active then running around chasing a ball they may never catch may not be the issue it would be to me as a person and a coach!!
    • Know how active people should look to be to gain health benefits and focus on that more than technical development perhaps?
    • Have a basic idea of how you can adapt tasks and activties within a session...the STEPS model is well know, but the basic principle is just making things easier or harder within reason and without detracting from the quality of a session.

    The greater challenge I feel is then continuing to stretch the more experienced or able...



  • henrydorling

    Hi Simon

    I would say it is a complex and difficult thing where there is no right or wrong answer as in education we have been trying to master 'differentiation' for years without a really defninitive answer as to exactly how we can achieve it. In practical terms I would always design lessons and practices to ensure everyone is able to participate at their level which for me in the classroom is problem based learning and discovery tasks and flipped learning (bring ideas and reserach to the class) with plenty of flexibility, extension and challenge and on the training pitch it has to be a games based approach. With those approaches it is initially more holisitc in nature but you are then able to adapt certain parts to cater for differing needs eg conditioned games and certain rules to challenge at the appropriate levels without the detriment of others. I would always advocate a Teaching Games for understanding approach (TGfU)  as it so much more flexible. With a drill based approach the levels of ability are too starkly shown and it is often shown on extreme ends of the spectrum ie you can either do the drill or you can't which exaggerates the differing skill levels whereas TGfU would advocate a learning environment where everyone is making decisions, working at their own level yet still working togther and getting the benefits from a challenging yet constructive environment. You are also able to target the appropriate levels of questioning at participants so they are able to feel a sense of achievement be that from a low or high ability. Evidence suggests that learners feel more confident in this environment and there is more domain specific knowledge which can then lead to learning and understanding. On TGfU I would read Stolz and Pill, Bunker and Thorpe, Kirk, Harvey for a starting point. Education wise I would try and advocate similar concepts but adapted for the classroom.  Hope that helps and happy to start a conversation around it as there are many discussion points that crop up as I am not saying one way is necessarily better than another for certain people in certain environments.

  • MatteJHart

    In gymnastics training we see this a lot. Gymnasts want to get to the finished skill and want to be able to do it fast, particularly if they are working alongside someone who is already performing it.

    We break the skill down into the various components and promote mastery at each stage before progressing on. There may be several exercises related to one stage of the skill acquisition that can be repeated to prevent boredom.

    As coaches we have to be sure each gymnast is mentally and physically prepared to progress towards the final skill. Logging progress and achievements works well at our club as some gymnasts need to look back at how far they have already come when they feel like they are stuck on a long road towards a new skill.

    In a session where abilities are mixed we try to vary the difficulty and intensity to meet everyone's requirements and abilities. A second coach to facilitate this helps but I appreciate that is not always an option.

  • This is common in figure skating - we do get a wide range of participants from those who are competing at high and low levels, to those that just want to learn and enjoy the process. 

    When teaching in a group environment I make sure that the skills we do can be progressed - so the more advanced skaters can complete a difficult task with the less able to complete a simpler version with the option of trying the more difficult one. This ensures that everyone feels involved, they are doing the same element and can see the progressions which happen when they improve. One size certainly doesnt fit all, so I have found being flexible in my methods yields better resullts. 

    This is the easiest way I have found to dealing with group sessions. I also make sure that they all have goals - whether it is competition based or practice based - as it helps focus their efforts and take ownership of their practice time

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