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When all else fails - lower your standards | Coaching Adults

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Posted in: All other topics on coaching adults

When all else fails - lower your standards

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  • anfy

    I was musing over the meaning of this quote and realised it is very relevant to  a current coaching situation I have.

    I am currently running a level 1 course for new bowls coaches. They are all experienced bowlers. but most have done no coaching, or even assisted/watched another coach.

    They were each set a trial exercise with a (genuine) new bowler as guinea pig : to coach one of the basic areas - grip/stance/delivery/line/length.

    It soon became evident that all of them had the same problem - in their eagerness to show how good a coach they could be, they soon forgot the purpose and focus of the session as they attempted to "correct" the new bowler in everything at once! As a result, the poor guinea pigs were so overwhelmed they got very confused and started to freeze. The response of the new coaches was to increase their input - the last thing I wanted them to do! Hence the quote.

    Even though I had introduced the concept of using "fun" games to focus on only one aspect, the new coaches kept reverting to their own comfort zone. For example: they were to ask the new bowler to bowl through different low hurdles to score points (this encourages him/her to get down to deliver without realising what they are learning). The "coaches" all promptly put a jack on the green, because that was what they were used to, and moved the hurdles to achieve drawing to the jack. They had difficulty grasping that the inclusion of a jack completely altered the exercise by introducing line and length to someone who was still learning to get the delivery right!

    Before anyone says that I should have explained more clearly what the purpose of the exercise(s) were, I did. But this was their first attempt at coaching and everyone was so eager to show their potential and abilities, I suspect very little went in! By letting them get it wrong, I hope they learnt more than they would have done if they had just performed by rote. (By the way, the guinea pigs ended the session very happy with their progress and will be coming back for more tomorrow)

    I will be using the above quote to try and get the message across and get them to concentrate on one aspect at a time, rather than hit the new bowler with too many objectives at once. Maybe it will be more effective than the old standby of how to eat an elephant ...

  • andrewb62

    Hi Anthea

    I do recognise the coaching challenge, but I might have used different language to describe it.

    "Keep it simple", "back to basics", or maybe "one step at a time" rather than "lower your standards"?

    Because, for the new player, the practice is all about raising standards - perhaps that should be the coaches' guiding mantra?

  • anfy

    I wasn't meaning it literally! But I was referring to the "new" coach, not the new player. The problem is they try and fix/instruct/teach everything at once, rather than take each step slowly and ensure the new player is not being made to feel a failure by the number of things they are apparently getting wrong ... and don't even get me started on the trying to stop their constant need to instruct rather than coach ...

    I did an experiment last year with a group of coaches (some of whom were very experienced but very "old school") and some 50+ new players. I set up a lot of games and asked the coaches to avoid the temptation to coach for an hour, just let people get on with the games and be supportive. It was very revealing - even dyed-in-the-wool coaches came up and said they wouldn't have done it that way, but they had to concede it worked!

  • BillB

    Hi Andrea

    I guessed you didn't mean it literally.

    The problem i see is that more and more of the so called "old school" coaching is being criticised. The very nature of constant assessment drives the new coaches to try and fix/instruct/teach everything at once.

    They do not have the time during the courses to take each step slowly and that is why they constantly feel the need to instruct rather than coach. They need to be given the time to develop their own style, and if that is to coach/instruct then that is what works for them, the trick is getting them to recognise that it is often a mixture of instruction, discovery and asking questions, that enables them to grow as a coach. (Don't ditch the "old school"completely)

    in your experiment did you explain why you did not want them to coach? I am also eager to know what constitutes being "supportive". I am not surprised to see the "dyed-in-the-wool" coaches saying they wouldn't have done it that way, but i am sure they agreed that it is one new area that could work for them, along with their tried and trusted technique. 

  • BillB

    Sorry Anthea, (predictive typing) preferred the old school typingwink

  • Coach_Browning
    On 30/10/16 11:12 AM, Anthea Dore said:

    The problem is they try and fix/instruct/teach everything at once, rather than take each step slowly and ensure the new player is not being made to feel a failure by the number of things they are apparently getting wrong

    Not correcting everything that you see can be extremely difficult - especially for those who are just setting off on the path to coaching, and even more so for those that have played the game. You can see all those things there and the temptation is high to just tweak this and alter that.

    You mention the games approach with a fixed purpose. It is one of the things that I try to do in my coaching. I will usually break down the overall skill into various component parts and do something for each one specifically. The idea - similar to yours - is that you are looking at a particular thing each time and so can focus on that. If you see something else then mentally store that for when you move to the appropriate session/drill/section and deal with it then. As you say, I think that it really helps newer players to get to grips with things in bite size chunks and to process what they are doing.

    The other element to this is constantly jumping in to correct someone within a group of new players. Again, the temptation can be to correct each player as they go along. My personal preference is to wait a while and let more players go through the activity. That way I can see if it was just something that one player got wrong or a wider issue. Is everyone doing the same thing? Do I need to relook at how I explained the activity? If isolated I can deal with that player individually. If a group issue then I can stop the activity and address it as a whole - but again, in the context of what that activity was supposed to be about.

  • bobblington

    I had a similar issue when I was running a workshop a few weeks back.  The group were 6 very good club coaches and they have excellent technical knowledge.  They were being trained to deliver activity to a group of women (who are not sporty or particularly active) over an 8 week period.  The challenge is that the group will be explaining their reason for attending each week as one of the following motivations.

    To feel good

    To look good

    To achieve goals

    To develop skills

    To have fun

    To be with friends

    AND the same women will not be coming week in week out because it's a drop-in.

    The coaches really struggled to grasp the concept of not teaching technical development (unless they picked the develop skills motivation) but instead getting the group started and leaving them to play, or socialise.  Now watching them deliver I can see that some of them really struggle to not teach their sport as a progression to being better at it (even when the group openly say 'I just want to play'.

    They always try to finish with a competition even through some of the women groan at the idea.

    I am delivering the training again next week and I've decided to start by putting the coaches in the same situation.  I'm doing this by getting them to imagine they are attending a cocktail making class.  I'm going to get them to think of all the reasons they might be there and how that effects what they want to get out of the class.

    I'm not sure this will work either, but I wanted to try something else and if it fails or raises a new issue it's just another thing to test.

    I see your problem and think it's a similar issue, but you need the coaches to learn to see and assess their failure themselves (I'm unsure if I want to do this or not).  So maybe the secret isn't you telling them to coach differently, maybe it's asking the questions that make them come to the conclusion "I overloaded my player with information."

  • anfy

    You don't say what sport?

    I like the idea of making them approach a new subject themselves. It has to be fairly complicated with lots of rules that have to be obeyed. I am trying to think of an obscure board game where it seems impossible to make a move without doing something wrong. (Settlers of Catan springs to mind - I never grasped the rules of that!) I have a friend who teaches TEFL students (English as a Foreign Language) and he starts his classes by speaking to them only in Fijian, to make them appreciate how difficult it is to follow when the teacher is speaking a foreign language from the outset... You don't speak Fijian?

    Update on my progress : At the second session, some had already slimmed down their expectations, but one still had not. She was so obsessed by throwing every gimic on the green that she could, to prove she was using "fun" equipment, she got completely carried away! I introduced the "lower your standards" idea and "bingo" she finally got it!

    They take their Level 1 exam in a week, so fingers crossed for them.

  • bobblington

    The course was attending by Squash, Zumba, Football, Basketball & Table Tennis coaches.  The Table Tennis and Squash coaches have struggled the most with the concept.  The Zumba instructor the least.

    So far the women have been mostly for developing their skills, having fun or feeling good.

  • KateO

    Interesting post. I am a triathlon coach and am mentoring a group of new coaches. In swimming the risks are the same - new coaches want to share everything they know and change everything at once. 

    With swimming participants have an even more challenging learning environment -- they are in water, it is cold, some are a little frightened, it is noisy, they have water in their ears etc. 

    The coach demonstration becomes key, and I really encourage coaches to give one simple teaching point at a time. I don't object to the 'lower your standards' phrase, but really it is about crystalising what is important, cutting through the 'noise'. The old 'keep it simple, stupid, (KISS) is kind of my mantra. 

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