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Coaching Successful Performance to Develop Decision Making | Coaching Youth (age 13-18) | ConnectedCoaches

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Home » Groups » Coaching Youth (age 13-18) » blogs » Ceri Bowley » Coaching Successful Performance to Develop Decision Making
Coaching Youth (age 13-18)

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Coaching Successful Performance to Develop Decision Making

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The coaching process has long since been recognised as a model for intervening in order to correct unsuccessful performance across sport. Indeed, many coaching courses in football are advocates for the use of such processes.  Whilst many schools of thought exist, the coaching process in its simplest form follows a five step process consisting of:

  1. Observation - The coach observes player's performing in training and/or competition.
  2. Analysis - The coach breaks down their thoughts on the performance based on their observation.
  3. Evaluation - The coach identifies whether performance was successful or not leading to possible intervention. 
  4. Feedback/intervention - The coach provides feedback to the player.  This may involve a combination of verbal and non-verbal communication, and demonstration/modelling of the practice. 
  5. Clarifying - player is asked to reproduce what was modelled (often unopposed), before sessions go live again.

Whilst utilising such process can improve performance in certain scenarios in a given session, does it really develop a player's ability to make decisions?  I would argue not, because very rarely does the exact scenario repeat itself in a game, something will be different:  the position on the pitch; the position and distance of opponents; the position and distance of team mates; the weight and type of pass being received and so on…. 

I'm sure you are all familiar with the saying "the best players make the best decisions, most of the time".   Indeed, research focusing on the differences between elite and non-elite players suggests that elite players are able to make sense of the environment quicker.  This means that elite players are able to recognise and process cues, identify familiar patterns, predict what their opponent will do, and react accordingly using the correct technique to perform the required movement/skill.  If this is true, how do young players become good decision makers?

Granted some players may naturally be better at reading and understanding the game.  However, I believe that as coaches we can play a significant role in developing our players' decision making ability. Personally, I think how a coach responds to successful performance is more important than how he intervenes following a mistake or unsuccessful execution of a skill.    

I was watching an under 14 game recently and one player instantly caught my eye.  He was playing in the no.10 position and clearly the creative player in his team.  10 minutes into the game the ball was played into him with the defender marking him tight, and he performed a drag back and Cruyff turn, nut-megging the defender before playing a pass through for a team mate to shoot at goal.  His coach clearly enjoyed the moment shouting "Great skill son, well done".  In the second half, a similar situation presented itself and the same player attempted the same skill.  However, on this occasion the ball struck the defenders leg, bounced away to another opposing player, and the opposition broke.  The coach responded with "Stop flicking the ball, pass it and keep it".  My immediate thought was to question how a player can be praised so heavily in the first half, and shouted at for trying the same thing again?  The reason why the skill didn't come off on the second occasion reinforces a point made above, very rarely does the exact scenario repeat itself in a game - the defender was further from the ball in the second attempt!!  Did the player understand why it didn't work second time around?  I don't think he did.

This brings me back to my point that coaching successful performance is crucial if we are to promote the development of decision makers.  What exactly does this mean?  For me, the best time to intervene is when a player has performed well.  Start with praise for what he has just achieved, before asking how and more importantly why he did it.  Try and understand yourself while helping the player understand why he/she made that decision, what did they see?  In a recent conversation with a former professional footballer I asked how he felt his playing career had helped prepare him to coach.  His response, "not much, I've had to learn again really.  When I played I never thought about what I was doing, now I have to break everything down to teach it and I've found that really difficult".   

Helping the player break the skill down and recognise what influenced his thinking is crucial.  Without this reflection, very few players fully understand why they did what they did.  Once players are able to break down the decision making process they will better be able to understand the environment, recognise cues (e.g. position of opposition; position of team mates; area on the field), identify familiar patterns (between performing a skill in two different scenarios), and use this information to:

1) Make the correct decision more consistently;

2) Correct their own mistakes through providing a structure to revert to under pressure.

Allowing the player freedom to try new things is important as is the coach's ability to facilitate the process (e.g. encourage players to revert back to breaking the process down after unsuccessful performance).  Without this, young players will continue to perform as requested because the coach has told him/her its right, with little or no understanding of why the decision to pass instead of dribble is the better option.  

Help player's understand making good decisions!!

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Comments (8)

   
CatherineBaker
Excellent. Really agree with this. Human nature often to focus on what isn't working but looking to the 'bright spots', analysing why they worked, and distilling that down and replicating is a very effective process.
16/05/16
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CeriBowley
Thanks Catherine. Would like to think this approach also encourages more reflective athletes who are 'thinkers' rather than being over reliant on their coach being a 'fixer'
16/05/16
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garyfowler
Great post Ceri. This is something I have noticed more and more recently when assessing younger coaches. They have normally gone through a grassroots or L1 award that has a huge focus on how to correct rather than how to praise success. Often this comes from assessors needing to see that the candidate can identify a coachable moment, intervene, correct, rehearse etc as you laid out. However highlighting good practice is as important to team mates as it is to the individual. Asking the player why they made the choice to perform the move they did can help them become more aware of the cues (great pt of player moving to coach) that allowed for success, hence allowing a level of consciousness leading to improved repetition. The other advantage to highlighting success means a coach can question team mates on what they saw this player do, leading to a good kind of copying. As you say, no 2 situations are the same, and 2 players can make entirely different decisions, so I often ask another player, would they have done something differently than player A did, or could they show us an alternative the next time they find themselves in a similar (not identical) situation. I definitely find celebrating a successful process and outcome is a great type of peer learning too, one and helps things stick is a young players mind too.
17/05/16
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Sharon
As a level 1 archery coach we praise a good shot and ask the novice to remember how it felt, as it is crucial to have your muscles/skeleton in the correct position for you. Being able to repeat the action every time is archery. As a coach I concentrate on the grouping of the majority of arrows shot rather than the stray, often the novice will click that the stray arrow was the one which they twisted their hand out of alignment. It's very easy for a novice archer to become discouraged. So as a club we have our own badge awards which recognise small steps of personal achievement/improvement.
18/05/16
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sgreen
You make some great points, and I think all sports and all coaches have these issues. I have spent quite along time looking at ways of developing players, and sessions designed to get the players to firstly make the decisions, secondly make mistakes, and thirdly to operate in an environment where its ok to " try something " in training.

The best tool I have found is Ecological dynamics, using the constraints led approach, its along the lines of adaptive games but with constraints, in order to achieve the desired outcome. The most important thing is me as a coach changing my coaching philosophy, not the players doing what I " teach" them, its about letting the players take the lead and really make decisions under pressure.

Most of the coaching is in small sided games but can be done in medium and full size scenarios, but with a technical development area running along side the games area where we pull out 4 -6 players to look at a technical issues related to the main game, where they spend max 5 mins in the area focussing on the skill but still under some pressure.

This keeps all the coaches occupied and you can rotate round if you have several coaches, but continually rotating players for a short time allows you to hone techniques and put them back into the game so they then use them in the game and the transfer and retention of information is much better.

The main game is just playing at a tempo but with constraints on things like individual players, sub groups, the attack the defence, the pitch size the type of equipment being used, naturally the ground conditions, and weather can become natural constraints themselves depending when your training, all these mirror real game conditions. The most important thing is its player led you ask questions, let them make some of the rules, constrain the game where you lead them to try or do certain actions in the game or position on the pitch, you may alter the scoring system to encourage certain behaviour in certain areas etc. The key lies in encouragement to make mistakes, don't intervene as much, they will learn which behaviour, skill, tactic works best in certain areas against different styles of play, attack, defence numbers. counter attack etc you merely ask guided questions and help them decide which risk gets most reward and they learn to think on the pitch where you cannot be.

In my humble opinion, and im still developing new constraints and learning myself, coaches tend to often feel they have to tell the player the best way, and drill it so both can see improvement in the session, also an outside constraint could be watching parents, however the retention by the player going forward I would suggest is often limited and they just do it because they learn this delivery style at school and club. when you run game sense with constraints you say less but players ownership and invention is better, they retain the information, and begin to develop a series of pictures of understanding, and are able to recognise whats is required when as they now scan more and adapt quicker.
There is a lot more to this its only a snapshot, but I encourage people to self reflect, I thought the joharis window article was spot on, we need to look at ourselves as coaches to change if we want to get the players to change, our governing bodies can produce all the technical systems etc they want but its the grass root coaches that ultimately develop the youth and the talent pool we build, put in at 12 what we currently develop at 18 and we have different players, who are engaged more rounded, accountable, and more comfortable and valued individuals, with greater self esteem, will you still be the same coach ? take the journey on !!
22/05/16
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GMEvans

Good and interesting read Ceri.

Would you suggest that the way in which coaching process is utilised (Welsh way) should be looked at? You mention within here in regards to the individual and praising through the game, should this be done a lot more during training sessions too? Whether gaining an understanding of the why they did something to praise or to learn from unsuccessful situations. A lot of sessions within courses are aimed at stopping the whole practice and going through the coaching process for all players to see and hear even if were not involved in the moment.

From personal experience a more individual approach has worked better for myself as a coach and the player within the sessions and games. Gaining more understanding of the players thought processes, current knowledge and understanding and therefore can aid the individual better for the present and future planning for him.

For me a lot more individual focus within your team structure is needed to develop players?

08/02/17
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AndreaCJ

Great post. I am a Netball coach and we are trying to move away from hand holding and instead get our players in the club to be more reactive on court and take more ownership of the decision making in order to be able to adjust to all the different scenarios they come up against from opposition. We always have team tactics and game plans ready to take into each game and sometimes these plans are worked out by the opposition but the team continue to try and execute the same thing despite it no longer being effective. We are trying to get them to have the confidence to change it up. I can see the players look to the bench for answers, but we can't be on court doing it for them, they need to be able to find the answers for themselves quickly and under pressure as the game is very fast paced. So much work to do in this area but when they get it right it will massively improve their game.
Something else that's helping us is video game analysis and getting the players to self evaluate. They watch the video of each match and do self evaluation and they often see where they could have made a better decision, both individually and as a team. It gives them clear visuals of the different scenarios too and they are definitely starting to react to this in a positive way.

15/02/17
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GeoffWood

We have a standing instruction, 'Catch them doing something right'.
After each swim race we ask every athlete to tell us how the race went. Not just 'Good or bad' but what worked and what didn't, from the moment they race for the first time aged 9. They need help to come up with some answers to start with but over time come prepared after warm down to discuss. It is their race, after all not the coach's.
We also say, and I have said it before on here, the only poor race is the one you don't learn from

16/03/18
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