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Some readers may (or may not!) have read my previous blog on this forum around the importance of promoting games-based coaching and whether or not coaches are actually implementing these coaching methods in their practice.
My games-based education continues within my role as a Senior Lecturer in Sport Development and Coaching in delivering a Games-Based Coaching unit of study to a group of third year undergraduates.
The students have been very receptive to the underpinning concepts and ideas around using the games-based approach in their coaching. The majority are already highly active coaches, having taken advantage of the many opportunities afforded them on the BA Sport Coaching and Development degree course at Southampton Solent University.
This has really helped them to contextualise and apply the concepts and ideas that we have been discussing and utilising in the unit.
Coaching experiences such as after school clubs, school teams, FE College recreational sports, female football teams, youth football clubs, community rugby clubs and private members tennis clubs have all brought a different flavour to the unit at one time or another.
In particular it has helped to actualise some of their experiences around the difficulties of bringing game-centred approaches to less forward-thinking organisations and environments and the clear benefits some more open-minded modern and innovative thinking could bring. Equally, I have also been reflective and considered that we can also be critical of games-based approaches and that it is not a panacea to cure all coaching ills!
There have been many interesting discussions around whether or not a games-centred strategy could work best in different scenarios, be that elite level, the older age groups or even certain less traditional activities such as archery or kayaking.
However, I remain a true advocate of games-based approaches and so I have been constantly reiterating the main pillars of the active, participant-centred, games-based approach underpinned and reinforced via questioning, and reminding the students about how important it is to try and remain true to these principles.
In particular I have been using the feedback they receive from their practical coaching sessions to reinforce these areas as well as giving them new ideas on session plans, delivery style and how a session should flow to show some cohesion and adaptability, aiming to be receptive to the group you have and their specific and sometimes challenging needs.
During this reflective process I have also been refining my own ideas and trying to condense what I have been saying to the students into an easy to follow, relevant and adaptable model. I am presenting this model below with some brief explanation of each section to hopefully gather some feedback and opinions from others on the ConnectedCoaches community to gauge its potential usefulness or relevance in a variety of coaching environments.
The whole model is underpinned by the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) principles of coaching – games juxtaposed with questioning to check and progress learning, creating the basic framework for this model to be applied to.
I have named it the E-Q Games-Based Coaching Model, but even that could be up for discussion!
The following sections are explanations and reasons for each area of the model.
I am always telling coaches to interact and engage with participants as soon as they come into their session. We refer to this as 'social coaching' which is based on the idea of coaching the person first and the sport or physical activity second. If this happens then the participants generally feel happier and more confident and are more likely to engage with the activities. There is also some evidence to show that, if they feel more part of the group and that the coach is taking some interest in them, then they are more likely to feel that they can try things and have fun and enjoy themselves.
For me this is the bedrock of the games-based approach, in that participants feel as though they can try things, make more decisions and ultimately start to learn more, even if this means making some mistakes first.
This environment is of course achieved through questions, as all areas of the model are, and can sometimes bring out some unexpected answers, perhaps of a personal nature or related to their areas of strength or interest, which can then be used to re-engage participants if they start to fatigue or lose concentration.
As a coach you will have to explain what the session is about and what you expect from your participants, but for some this turns into a lecture on how they want skills and techniques performed.
Coaches I have observed tend to revert to the ‘tell and sell’ approach when explaining what the session will be about or what the next game, drill or activity will be. That way they can ensure all the information is given and they can feel comfortable that participants understand.
However, most of what is said probably does not register – most definitely not in the long term. I would always advocate your explanation through questions: asking how participants feel about your ideas, what they would like to do and how they might like to approach things. Yes, there will be some ‘telling’, especially if it is health and safety related or if you feel a point is so important it needs to be reiterated clearly by you, but if you moderate this with some questions about how and why these areas are important or can be addressed then it still involves the group and again makes them think more about it.
Examples might be some interactive discussions around the importance of head position in rugby tackling, awareness of requirements and expectations throughout the session and to demonstrate whether participants are clear and understand what the session objectives are.
One of my coaching bugbears is, once a coach has spent ages telling a group what they are about to do and how they want to do it, and the group is totally lacking focus, is them then saying: ‘does everyone understand?’. I always encourage my Student Coaches to ask certain people to repeat aspects of the objectives or game rules as they go along to check they are listening and to create an environment of shared explanations.
In every session, keep the opening to a minimum and get them moving early, especially with children. Get active and stay active! For the very young children there is no need for a structured warm up. I get so annoyed when you see a group of 7 year olds doing a dynamic flex warm up… with no ball… arrgh!
Just get them playing some kind of game. They never warm up when they run around at school so why should they in a session? I always advise thinking of simple playground games; stuck in the mud, tag, chase, plus if you can introduce a themed game, for example the bean game, pirates or cars then it gives the group more interest.
The sustained activity can be done through keeping games and activities varied and inclusive, making sure you always have a purpose and again using your questions to keep that interest and keenness going.
Make sure you don’t lose the momentum when asking questions. Observe the activity and engagement level of the group and make a call as to how long you will spend asking them questions and what type of questions they will be. Would it be a rule change, a technical aspect, tactical areas or behaviour? Overall, quite simply an enthusiastic delivery style can help very much with this.
Coaches who are outgoing, passionate, and switched on to what is happening can make all the difference. Encouragement, praise and a sense of humour go a long way too in keeping the energy levels up, both for the coach and the participants.
Empowerment can be a difficult thing to achieve, as sometimes we believe we have achieved it but in actual fact we have done no more than just tell participants to complete something and they did it without our help. That is not really true empowerment, although at its basic level if we can get participants making their own decisions and working together to solve problems then you have the makings of it.
This can be problematic, however, because as coaches we instinctively want to take over and show or tell participants how things are done. It is much harder to sit back and allow a group to work it out; it takes more time, possibly involves making mistakes and could potentially end up with participants doing things the wrong way in your eyes.
However, imagine how powerful it would be to see a group of young people in a Cricket batting session work out that they need to use a pull shot and then demonstrate how to play the pull shot without any guidance or ideas from the coach; or to see young football players actually work out themselves when and how to pass into space because the coach has let them play games to empower them to make those decisions themselves.
Using these empowerment methods can allow much more authenticity to the experience for your participants, which in turn can embed and develop these areas in a much more meaningful way.
Allowing participants to make decisions and to change rules and conditions will also allow you time to sit back a little and ask important questions that can also help to support and align their ideas and decisions.
Always leave the session with some understanding of how well the participants have understood or achieved your objectives.
Evaluate not only their performance but how they have worked together with peers, answered questions, how they have behaved and of course your own personal reflections on your performance as a coach.
Have you been too coach centred and been too demanding and restrictive in what you expect from their skills and techniques? Have you encouraged and praised your participants enough? Have you managed to adapt your session to their level of ability or have you blindly followed your plan? All of these areas can be looked at not only once the session has finished but also as it is progressing.
One of the best things to see is a coach reacting to what is happening in their session and changing and varying the way in which they are doing things. Equally, as Coaches we want to make sure that participants are understanding and developing their knowledge and awareness of the game and activities we are coaching. To do that we need to evaluate throughout the session, and that is where, once again, your questions play an important role.
The idea of evaluating the levels of understanding is known as Assessment for Learning, which is more of a classroom teaching method. This also provides you with feedback on how areas of your session is going to ensure your evaluations are meaningful, useful and can have a positive effect on your coaching in subsequent sessions.
Of course, your recap at the end of your session is also an essential evaluative tool top gauge levels of awareness and knowledge development and gives you a chance to thank your participants for their fantastic level of effort!
Overarching all sections of the model is the importance of questioning. This should be done as much as possible in every part of the session to ascertain understanding, develop relationships with participants, help to keep focus and concentration but, above all, to make them think.
If they are answering questions that means they have to think about the answer and apply it to specific situations. In terms of a constructivist approach, these questions should help participants to form their own meanings about areas and ideas and, as a result, that information should then be retained much more effectively.
They are then more used to thinking about the game-based situations and, when they go out and play it, they become more independent decision-makers and understand the game in a more holistic way, being influential and hopefully enjoying it, which is ultimately what we as coaches are trying to create and develop.
So in summary, this model has been born out of my interactions and engagement with my student coaches in the Games-Based Coaching Unit. It may therefore be a little limited in its application and it is by no means perfect.
I would therefore be very grateful if other coaches would give open and honest feedback on whether this is something that is helpful (or just something that really has no meaning whatsoever), and how it might be applied to a variety of coaching areas. I welcome your comments below and look forward to hearing from you.
If you enjoyed this you can find all my other ConnectedCoaches blogs here.
Hi HenryThanks for the very interesting read. I think you have managed to capture a wide range of coaching "best practice", and highilighted the connections betwwen each stage. The centrality of questioning is also illuminated.But for a freelance coach "in the field", I fear this might be a little too over-engineered for day-to-day use. I recall the ideal 1:1:1 ratio of planning:delivery:review, but in practice I would struggle with only 33% coaching - I only get paid when I am actively coaching.The E-Q Games Based Coaching Model is a great framework, and an ideal to aspire to, but I'm afraid that I shall probably stick to "coach the player(s) in front of you" and "review & revise".
Hi Andrew many thanks for the comment. Yes I think you are right that it is a little contrived as it is based on a nice comfortable University student/Lecturer style environment. I think the art of the grassroots coach is still about adaptability and thinking and reviewing 'on the hoof' although I may argue that perhaps elements of this model could be taken and used in that type of context eg the engage and explain concepts although it is dependent on many other factors which I accept. It was aimed at being a fluid model but perhaps it is a bit rigid although I think some elements could be deconstructed and adapted for certain coaching situations. Cheers
Hi HenryI wish that I had been presented with the E-Q model when I started coaching, as it captures so much good practice. And I shall definitely use it as a guide for delivery and review in future...just not all of it, every time.
A great model, with so much good practice, i'm very impressed. I have two questions about this. 1. How does it include differentiation (it seems to assume that all participants are of a similar ability level) , is the model all a bit to much "one size fits all", I appreciate the model allows for practice in a game situation and discovery learning. 2. Where in this model can we check for learning? In the questioning sections would be a logical place, and simply through observation.
Thanks for your comment Matthew. I think differentiation could be captured in the questioning techniques used within the model. If I could develop it in any section I think questioning techniques and also levels of questions would help it. I guess you could also use differentiated ability groupings which would then influence each of the 'E's in terms of how you effectively achieve it. I think the checks on learning would appear through questioning too as well as observation techniques although I have not captured that really and assumed it within the model. I appreciate it is a bit of an idealist model so would probably be more of a starting point than a completed and applied model for every session. Thanks for your thoughts.
I am new to this forum so I might have not understood this model. I am an angling coach and for many years I was a coach educator for the Angling Trust and before that for the Angling Developement Board and National Federation of Anglers. The model you show appears to be the same as we have been tutoring for years using the bugs and other models. Could someone tell me the difference.
Hi Peter Thanks for your comment. I would be really interested to find out more about how you have used a similar model in your angling coaching. I have zero experience of Angling so I would be keen to see how these principles apply within the coaching of it and in the coach education aspect as I think that is key. When you say it is the same as you have been tutoring for years do you mean the specific parts of the model or just a games based approach more generally? As I say I would love to widen my knowledge and understanding of how other sports may or may not use this type of concept so would love to hear more details from you. Cheers.
A very interesting system of coaching that fits under the the TGFU banner. What is particularly useful for me as a HE lecturer in sport is that applies the concepts of TGFU via a straight forward model that breaks through the theoretical concepts and gets down to the practical application in a real,life situation. Very interesting and very usefulThanksMark Royal. Bridgend College
Hi Mark, many thanks for your positive comments. I am really glad it could be of use to you. I would be interested to know if you think it is applicable enough for you to use and in what situations you might use it? Would it be with your students to try and influence their coaching or if you coach yourself would you use it in your own situations? Cheers
Hi HenryI would use this as a practical example of a coaching application theory. It would be outlined in the classroom and then delivered live in the sports hall, field etc. It would provide the students with a logical link of theory driven concept with a legitimate stepping stone to a useful practical application, it will also allow them to question and compare their own beliefs and coaching styles with another coaching concept, the more they compare, the more they evaluate and eventually take a step towards forming their own beliefs about coaching and not follow others. The breakdown of the concept into the E steps make a logical choice as a mid point between theory and practical. Cheers Mark
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