The old school is most definitely not the new school when it comes to coaching. At least not in my opinion! I believe a whole heap of beliefs, protocols, approaches and “old school” methods do not have an expiry date. However, there are a couple of approaches I feel should now underpin all coaching, especially when it comes to youth athletes. How a person goes about learning a new skill can massively impact how long it satays with them.


Explicit Learning

External information is king! at least according to early research. It was originally believed that an external source (coach), proving knowledge of results after every practice was best for learning. Why? Because it lead to immediate improvements in performance. If I was to stand next to you whilst you were squatting and point out every little flaw, every single rep, you’d definitely improve!

But what happens when I’m not there, realistically would it be possible to head home and repeat your squats the next day with perfect technique? Most probably not. So whilst dictating a session may make you feel like your’e seeing improvements, it may actually be harming the learning process.


Intrinsic Learning

Information from within, how something feels, could you see the result, did you feel like you swung the cricket bat to slowly?

Self learning has been shown to show much better results when it comes to learning a skill. By learning I mean being able to repeat it successfully after a period away from initial practice. This type of learning allows performers to build an understanding and relationship with the task at hand.


So, I shouldn’t really coach at all?

Well no, this isn’t what I’m saying. Its a fine balance, an art if you wish. I believe the job of the coach should be to guide and gently steer performers towards the answer. Allowing them to discover without directly telling them will have much better carry over to performance.

A number of methods can be used to guide performers to the answers:

  • Ask questions
  • Manipulate games, promoting certain skills
  • Use analogies
  • Start with a little external information then gradually fade it out
  • Create a bandwidth of success – if a skill is way off then you provide feedback, if it’s nearly right, allow the performer to try and correct the error themselves.

Team sports are a great place to put this into place. You can have complete control of small sided games, manipulate the size, number of players or even the size of the ball! For example, I was in Richmond Park, London , and saw a group of kids playing football but with a massive pitch. This resulted in every other pass being a lob or a long through ball. By simply squeezing in the corners the type of pass could be manipulated to promote short sharp movement.

Guide don’t dictate.