There has been a lot of research regarding attention span and it is generally accepted that humans have a limited amount of stimuli they can interpret at any given time. The reason this is important for coaches to understand is because sometimes, despite our best intentions, we are providing athletes with too much information and it may be literally impossible for them to understand and interpret all the information they are being given at one time.
For example, many times in sport I have seen and continue to see coaches barking instructions to athletes from the bench/sideline during the course of a game. Now, I understand time is of the essence during competition and sometimes coaches are able to see things differently from their perspective and with their knowledge and understanding of the sport. However, it may not be the best option to give orders to athletes during the heat of competition despite your possession of knowledge that might improve the athlete’s chances of successful completion of a task.
Instead- I think it would be important to coach athletes on the bench, use the real time action on the playing surface as an opportunity to teach things so athletes on the bench are getting useful information and learning during the game instead of being a brain dead spectator.
Not surprisingly, you will probably find a group of athletes eager to learn, and what do you know, they will have much more capacity for taking in information than the athletes on the field! Make them think by asking questions and and using visualization.
Of course the learning will ultimately transfer more smoothly if they have a chance for hands-on learning, simulation, or video, but watching the game is also a big opportunity for learning. The biggest point to be made is do not distract athletes currently competing and don’t waste valuable learning opportunities for individuals who are not currently seeing action- there may be a time when they are faced with the same scenario and need to be well equipped for success.
Thank you for reading!
This week’s trick of the trade is something I have not been too strict about in the past, but have used more frequently this summer to promote better attention, learning, and execution- the idea of having athletes take a knee when you are talking. Additionally, if the athletes are young you too can take a knee with them to explain things when possible (i.e. if a demonstration is not part of your conversation).
I think there are a lot of positive outcomes that come with taking a knee and not a whole lot of possible negative outcomes so if you are struggling with attention or execution it seems like a no brainer. Here is a list of a few things I can think of and I would like to hear anymore that come to your mind.
Attention- When athletes are kneeling it seems to focus their attention a little bit more because it is harder to move since they are not on their feet, so no more happy feet while you are explaining something. Keeping them focused on you will be key to execution just remember to stay concise or you may lose them regardless!
Respect- Taking a knee together around a coach can be used, in sort of an old-school fashion way, as a sign of respect toward your coaches. If you are coaching somewhere respect is lacking this could be one way to help show respect.
Eye-contact- When young athletes take a knee and you are down with them it is much easier for them to make eye-contact which is a key component to promote effective listening. By understanding what you are saying athletes should be more able to comprehend your words which make them better learners.
I have wondered if always taking a knee can ever be too much and actually work against you in all of these categories. This Summer I have had a great response with athletes being on a knee, but I am sure like anything else, too much can be overkill. Also, just because athletes are on a knee does not mean we can ignore other rules of communicating with them like staying clear, consistent, and concise.
I hope this helps and as always thank you for reading this week’s trick of the trade!
This month's best resources from around the internet on coaching. In addition to this list, there are also new Blogs and Discussion posts on this website for you to explore, have a look, and thank you for reading!
NCAA Resource full of Articles, this is one to reduce Heat Stress on athletes competing outside this Summer http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/NCAA/Resources/Latest+News/2010+news+stories/August+latest+news/NCAA+resources+help+student-athletes+beat+the+heat
Advice for Assistant Coaches from Doc Rivers courtesy of Bob Starkey http://hoopthoughts.blogspot.com/2012/06/doc-rivers-advice-for-assistant-coaches.html
8 Questions to Ask in Your Next Team Meeting from Thought Leaders, LLC (Highly Recommended)
Some Tips on Coaching Communication
Honoring Questions from Players from Dan Clemens http://coachclemens.com/2012/06/18/youth-baseball-coaches-must-honor-player-questions-about-playing-time/
Top Ten Tips for Coaching Youth (Highly Recommended)
Making Smart Mistakes
10 Kick Ass Lessons from Albert Einstein (Highly Recommended)
“If you don’t spend time reflecting on decisions, you might end up spending time regretting your consequences” Thomas McDaniels
“Never mistake activity for achievement” John Wooden
“If you go up and down with every call you are going to lose your team” Jerry York
“An essential to being an effective leader is to know that to lead people you do not need their approval” David McDaniels
“If there is any major misconception about coaching it is that we are not as engaged if we do not scream at referees and pace the sidelines” Phil Jackson
“What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of life for it” Jeronne Maymon
“Coaches, it is not whether or not you will influence someone, but how you use your influence” John Maxwell
“Being positive in a negative situation is not naïve, it’s leadership”
In 1993, Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson completed a study aimed to delve into the lives of expert performers and uncover something about what made them successful and ultimately reach the pinnacle of their respective fields. Ericsson looked at musicians, athletes, and professionals across various fields and found some commonalities regarding their systematic approach to improvement and one of the main findings, certainly the most publicized and recognizable in the publication, was that many of these expert performers reached an expert level of performance after roughly 10 years or 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in skills related to expertise in their field.
Another main point of the study analyzed the practice methods adopted by these professionals, however, as time has passed, this study has been exclusively remembered as the “10 years/10,000 Hours study”. Although this is a very important outcome of the study, it is problematic because individuals removed from the study who are involved in youth sport have confused Ericsson’s message and it is starving youth athletics. Those who are mixing the message believe the following:
After reading the results it is explicit the study is geared toward practice methods rather than the amount of time to achieve expertise. In fact, Ericsson even says “practice was the single most important aspect” of development in expert violinists. He also alludes to things like Long-Term development, sustained practice, the importance of coaching and feedback, and the gradual increase in time spent over years of practice toward expertise.
Now, to use this research to improve sport, we need to stop thinking about the idea of 10 years and 10,000 hours, but rather the ideas around creating solid practices. Here are a few GUIDELINES FOR EFFECTIVE PRACTICE:
1.) Small Coach:Athlete Ratios- The more individual attention an athlete receives ideally the more their performance will improve. Smaller groups usually improves engagement and attainment. Find more qualified coaches and get them involved.
2.) Increased Repetitions (especially under supervision)- Ericsson found individual performance to be an extremely important factor in performance so allowing ample time for athletes to practice alone, with peers, or especially under a coach’s keen supervision will improve performance dramatically. This can even be expanded through critical thinking about mistakes/failed performances.
3.) Improved Teaching Methods- Simple: The better you can teach, the more athletes will learn, but do not forget #2… Less can be more, be succinct!
4.) Flow and Progression- Ericsson touched on the idea of competency within practice tasks and being in a state of flow (where the demands of the activity are neither too difficult or too simple). Allowing for success, but also occasional mistakes that can be learned from are key to improvement. Additionally, progressing these practice activities with athlete improvement to continuously maintain a flow state is important. Make sure you monitor progression and always have a couple ideas of how something can be manipulated to be harder or easier.
Like I do every month, I have compiled what I have found to be some of the best resources for sport coaches throughout the past 31 days and centralized this material in one location! I hope everyone is doing well and has a great weekend, enjoy the reading material.
Institute for Sport Coaching Blog (Highly Recommended)
5 Ways for Parents to Support Your Child in Sport
General Lynch’s 3 C’s of Leadership
Are our Coaching Interactions Helpful? (Highly Recommended)
Dealing with Irate Parents (Highly Recommended)
Leadership Lessons from Steve Jobs
Every Child is Unique
Discussions- Discussion Board Tab on top of this page
6 Leadership Styles
Balancing Coach/Athlete Interests
What Would You Do: Youth Baseball
Team Building Strategies
Who is Your Favorite Coach and Why?
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
“Life is like photography, we develop from the negatives”
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and we miss it, but we aim too low and reach it.”
“If you can’t do great things, do small things in a great way”
“Just as good carpenters measure twice and cut once, good leaders think twice and speak once”
Dr. Kneeland C. Brown (@dr_kcbrown)
“If you do not have the time to do it right when will you have the time to do it over?” John Wooden
“A leader’s most powerful ally is their own example”
“You can’t win every day, but you can succeed in fulfilling your potential as an individual and a team member”
“No written word, nor spoken plea can teach our youth what they should be,
nor all the books on all the shelves, but what the teachers are themselves”
Poem recited by John Wooden
“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions and listen”
“A life of frustration is inevitable for any coach whose main enjoyment is winning”
“We are all role models to youth, are you a positive role model?”
David Kittner (@YouthFitnessGuy)
“Don’t be so deep in teaching that you drown athletes, keep it simple. Know everything, but only teach what needs to be known”
Twitter from @PureSweat
As a coach there are many times you may feel like a jack of all trades. Coaching entails so much from organizatioin, communication, psychology, physiology, etc. Many teams enlist a parent or two as a team manager to help things run smoothly during all of these jobs you may encounter throughout the season. One tip I found helpful this season was a Team Contact List.
The Team Contact List is such an easy tool that will make your life much easier when that one catastrophic event occurs during the year (as many of you know one catastrophy would be considered a good season). For me this year, this event was a snowstorm and a cancelled game. I found out about the cancellation only an hour or two before game time, so I found our Team Contact List that was given to me by our team manager very helpful in this situation. I simply called the manager to inform him first and we both got out the contact list and split up the list to more efficiently call every team member.
Of course some families will already be friends with one another, but providing a Team Contact List for everyone at the beginning of the season could be very helpful and minimize stress during these situations. Simply use Microsoft Excel or similar program and insert all the data you would like for each team member and their family.
Again, this is a quick and easy tool every team will benefit from. Thank you for reading today!
Let me take you back to the day you were a young athlete- You had just made a good play on the athletic field and your coach and teammates all came over for a big high five. After about ten high fives how did you feel about your performance and what did that do to your self-confidence?
The high five has become a staple in athletics as a way to say good job, but it can also be helpful in situations where things are not as rosy. Of course carrying a slightly different meaning, high fives also serve as a very uplifting action when athletes are down and their emotions need to be brought back to their baseline.
The amazing thing about high fives is they are timeless and the high five has never been forgotten over generations of athletes and people in general, all for the same reason.
Of course this is not a “secret” trick, I assume everyone has given a high five sometime in their life, but maybe this is a reminder to go back to the high five more often as a tool to stay positive with athletes. Last night I was watching a youth baseball game and the coach was giving out high fives left and right after every inning. I remembered how I used to give high fives everyday when athletes came off the ice after practice and the emotion they used to show with each one. I also remembered how I had gotten away from that recently.
The high five is so simple and has such a great effect on athletes it may not be a secret trick, but is certainly an essential one. Bring back the High Five (you know I will)! Thank you for reading!
Two weeks ago I was in Naples, FL for the annual American Hockey Coaches Convention. I gained a lot from the various presentations as always, but every year one of the most memorable hours of the Convention is the “Championship Coaches Panel” This is where the Head Coaches from the 4 NCAA Ice Hockey Divisions (M/W Division-1 & M/W Division-3) who won a National Championship that year all get on stage together and field questions from attendees for an hour.
I enjoy this panel first of all because there is no real structure and as a result you hear about many different coaching topics in a single hour as opposed to only one. Secondly, there are technically four presenters (the panel of 4 Coaches) so you get a better idea of how coaches at this level do things by getting four opinions as opposed to only one.
In this year’s panel a few questions all orbited one idea- Team Building. Now, although team chemistry is one of those phenomenon that seem to be elusive to define unanimously, however, it is always evident which teams have it and which don’t. So, what did some of these coaches to do improve their team chemistry over the year that eventually led to a functional team that won a National Championship?:
Assigning Roommates for road trips so that each athlete had a different roommate each trip.
Using partnership opportunities to mix upperclassmen with underclassmen.
Creating a culture of expectation around everything the team does.
Setting up team activities throughout the year.
“Creating” adversity at times during the season for the group to resolve together.
Allowing more free time in the daily schedule for unstructured interaction.
It is this last one that really stuck with me most because it went against the grain. See part of the Psychology of Coaching is the feeling that we need to fix everything ourselves and ADD Team Building (whatever that may entail) Activities to everything else we are trying to do which is not always the case. In this example, LESS IS MORE.
This is TEAM BUILDING:
Of course sometimes decreased structure can lead to increased chaos/decreased safety. For example, last week I gave a little less than 10 minutes of free time at the end of practice for the team (15-18 year olds) and a couple of the guys organized something I had never seen before, but would be very hard to describe in words, bottom line I had to set some parameters once I saw things crossing the line. I think this is where the Coach comes in and still has the role of mediator, but don’t always expect kids to go haywire when given some free time. I think the boys all enjoyed themselves and that was the primary goal of giving them this free time, which was covert team building time.
I hope you are successful in creating positive team chemistry throughout your season , for more ideas on team building and to discuss Team Building Activities visit our Discussion Board at the top of this page. Thank you for reading!
April was an eventful month as I started reading Tony Dungy’s Quiet Strength (almost finished), saw one of my favorite Coaches (Jerry York at Boston College Men’s Ice Hockey) win another National Championship, Pat Summit announced her retirement from coaching, and I finished the month with a week in Naples, FL for the American Hockey Coaches Association’s annual Convention. As time was flying on those fabulous 30 days, there was a LOT of great content that I saw related to sport coaching, so without wasting your reading time, here are April’s Best:
Ideas for Developing a Coaching Philosophy
The Impact of Sub-Concussive Hits and This Growing Concern (Highly Recommended)
Why Coaches Should Have a Parents Meeting
5 Coaching Tips for Youth Sports
The Learning Pyramid
Tuesday’s Trick of the Trade: “The Wooden”
Becoming a Process-Oriented Coach
Great Coaching is like Driving in the Snow
Post a reply to give your opinion in our discussion section about Pat Summit’s Legacy, Bobby Petrino, What Good Coaches Need to Know, and What they Need to Know How to Do.
“My responsibility is Leadership, and the minute I get negative, that is going to have an impact on my team” Don Shula
“The Greatest Investment is Time Given to Others” On Twitter from @ThomasMcDaniels
“Everyone wants to harvest, but nobody wants to plow” On Twitter from @Coachdeforest
“A Leader who will not go the extra mile will eventually be passed by someone who will” On Twitter @ThomasMcDaniels
“No two kids are alike, so don’t expect them to be” On Twitter @YouthFitnessGuy
“The Strength of the Group is the Strength of the Leaders” Vince Lombardi
“Four traits an athlete looks for in a Coach are Confidence, Reliability, Trustworthiness, and Sincerity” Jeff Van Gundy
Last month I came across a great educational tool from the National Training Laboratories called “The Learning Pyramid”. The tool can be found in detail below, and has been adopted to break down various methods of teaching and the corresponding percent of information retained from each method.
As you can see the breakdown is as follows:
Lecture- 5 %
Reading- 10 %
Group Discussion- 50%
Teaching Others- 90%
From this information obviously it is important to incorporate methods that are associated with higher retention rates. Among the benefits: Athletes learn more, you save time teaching less, and you have more time to teach new material or provide feedback.
Although this may be self-explanatory, here is how you incorporate the following examples for higher retention rates in your practices:
Demonstration- Provide demonstrations for everything you are talking about! The power of visual learning and modeling is immense and needs to be utilized!
Group Discussion- Sometimes at the halfway point of a drill I bring athletes together and talk about what is going well/poor and let them dictate the conversation with each other. I do it halfway through because they have had some time to try it themselves, but primarily because this allows time to practice what we talk about in the practice time after discussion!
Practice- Practice time and expert performance is all about correct repetitions. A higher percentage of correct repetitions are performed when experienced coaches are present to provide feedback, that is your job, but athletes also need ample time for practice!
Teaching Others- This provides the greatest retention rate and can easily be used by pairing athletes together and allowing them to teach each other. Provide time for this and do not dominate the instruction yourself.
I hope you enjoy reading and are able to implement these actions in practice this week!