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Thinking Allowed

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Article from Coaching Edge Summer 2013: Earn Your Stripes

On the first day of training, the would-be coach is filled with enthusiasm for his course of study. They are full of ideas about communication, passion, the ability to engage athletes and sports specific technical skill.

If we were to ask this enthusiastic student where creativity features in their grand plan they would more than likely point in the direction of the arts faculty. Creativity has no place in sports coaching, or does it?

A simple definition of creativity is the use of imagination and original ideas to create something. The ‘something’ created can be an idea, a new game or a tactical solution. Creative coaches have good imaginations, original ideas and are inventive in their approach to solution finding. Original ideas are rarely original. They are often a composition of other ideas with a new problem in mind.

Psychologist Edward de Bono defines creativity as: ‘breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. ‘Every coach can help their participants become more creative by adapting some of their existing and basic physical, technical, tactical and mental activities. It requires a refocusing of the objective of the activity away from physical outputs to develop creativity. The sports coach UK participation Coaching Curriculum looks at developing creativity through physical, technical, tactical and mental capabilities.

Physical - Run physical challenges in a problem solving environment

Technical - Provide room for individual approaches to technical skill development

Tactical Support - participants as they create their own tactical solutions to problems Mental - Set appropriate open tasks that encourage independent thought

The types of creative capabilities that would be expected differ slightly depending on individual participants.

An older person will have slightly different creative challenges to a young participant or a person returning to sport after a period of lapsed participation.

The capabilities in common to all participants include:

  • The ability to suggest ideas and adaptations for playing and improving

  • Being able to tackle challenges and solve problems

  • Be innovative while playing and showing divergent thinking

  • Devising creative and engaging activities that maintain interest, motivation and achievement of goals.

Adults who are already involved in sport will need to adopt new practices and activities to suit their changing bodies and lives. Changes in life circumstances provide the greatest opportunity for participants and coaches to find creative solutions to continuing sports participation. Being a creative coach isn’t always about new games or tactical solutions.

Sometimes participants will require a creative approach from their coach to supporting their personal goals and ambitions. Participants returning to sport may need support in transferring their learning from one sport to another version of the game or a different sport entirely. They will also want to develop new inspiring ideas and solutions to how they can achieve wider health, lifestyle, personal and social objectives.

Consider these questions to see if you are thinking creatively about your own coaching.

The coach

  • What does creativity mean to you and what’s your creative philosophy?

  • How do you develop creativity in your sessions?

  • Are your participants and players creative? and how do you know this?

  • Do you share ideas with other coaches?

  • Who inspires you to be creative?

The participants

  • Are your participants curious?

  • Do they try new things?

  • Can they solve problems?

  • Do they like to be challenged with problems?

  • Can they adapt previous learning to solve new problems?

  • What kind of creative challenges do they enjoy?

  • Can they solve problems while staying within the rules?

You can also be creative with the equipment you use in your coaching. Think about the things you bring along to coaching sessions... do you bring new things such as balloons, yoyos, frisbees, kites, decks of cards and oversized equipment... or do you use existing equipment in different ways? How are you creative when you have no equipment?

New ideas are often sparked through creative processes. Coaches and participants learn better when they have the chance to make a creative decision. Take the time in your next session to identify an issue. This could be as diverse as a scoreline problem, a mental block, or a much-needed funding application. Gather lots of ideas. Take some time out and go and do something else.

Play hopscotch. Dance. Use ideas to spark better ideas. Don’t dismiss any suggestions and allow seemingly silly ideas to grow and develop. Refine ideas into action plans. Have a go at some of your ideas. What did trying something new teach you? Be brave, be bold and allow creativity to become a natural part of your coaching practice.

Enjoy. There are no limits.

Liz Burkinshaw is Development Lead Officer for Participation at sports coach UK and is passionate about getting people involved in sport.

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