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Total Recall

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Article from Coaching Edge Issue 32

As learning coaches, we are encouraged to reflect and review on our delivery, but how well do we remember?

Picture the scene: a windswept and rainy evening, 90 minutes’ worth of coaching, including some technical input and small-sided game play – a busy session for you as the coach, plenty of questioning and feedback, interaction with the players, discussions and decisions. You wrap up with a summary and review then leave to reflect at a later stage, maybe on the journey home, maybe later that evening, perhaps the next day.

At any of these points, the important question would be: how accurate and detailed would your recall of events be? Could you remember what questions you asked, when, to whom and what the answers were? What specific feedback did you give to which players, what was their response? Or what were your (and their) reactions to each success or failure, problem solved or challenge raised?

Research suggests that most coaches can generally only accurately recall 30–50% of key performance events of their athletes/players so might this figure be similar with their own behaviours and actions? Might you focus on what went wrong because it stuck in your mind? Possibly remember your own thoughts but not necessarily how the players responded and adapted their behaviour? Or maybe recall the interactions with certain individuals rather than a feel for how the entire group responded?

Recall from memory, or even from an observer noting elements down on a checklist, tends to be relatively one dimensional and sequential in nature – very much ‘this happened, then something else’ without capturing the complex interplay of a number of factors we know are happening all the time when we coach.

This is why the use of video can significantly enhance the reflection process. It helps address the issue of memory recall, as all the action is available to view and can be replayed and rewound, slowed down or stopped.

Using video or video apps to help match/training performance review, analysis

and feedback is becoming much more prevalent in modern coaching as the technology becomes more readily available and accessible (apps such as Dartfish Express, Coach’s Eye, Ubersense and CoachMyVideo).


If the video camera, tablet or smartphone was turned on you as the coach, how insightful might this be in helping your own review – not just of how the session went but how you behaved as the coach?

This is the key area of discussion – do our self-reflections ever really focus on some of the crucial aspects of coaching practice? How well structured were the questions? What type of feedback was given and when? How engaged were the athletes/players? Did the coaching style or delivery alter during different sections of the session?

The interplay of these questions is also an important factor – were the players more engaged during a particular part of the session, when the coach was asking them to solve some problems, and prompting their involvement with questions from time to time?

For example: a coaching session moves into a small-sided game, with limited touches and a focus on off-the-ball movement to help the player in possession. The coach wants the players to explore some of the challenges themselves and lets them discuss these in their teams during short breaks, but goes to listen to one group. At this point, the coach’s awareness of the whole group will be diminished. Are they still ‘on task’ or messing about? Or have they started doing something else that they think is more relevant or fun? While the coach’s reflection would likely focus on the discussion they were directly involved with, filming can provide a picture of the whole session and of all the participants, enabling observation and analysis to focus on the connections between what is being coached, how it is being coached and how engaged the players/athletes are.

The challenge for you as the coach is to be willing to take this opportunity and really see yourself as the players do, getting over the cringe worthy first five minutes when all you are thinking is ‘Do I really look and sound like that?’

Once you get beyond that and start to explore some of the areas mentioned above, you should find that a video camera pointed at you from time to time can provide you with a unique insight to help you improve your coaching.

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