Coach Bill Howe continues to delve deeper into the groundbreaking insights of Tom Byers’ paradigm-shifting article, ‘Why Coaching the Coaches Isn’t the Solution,‘
In Sports and Education, I see a belief that adult control is fundamental to learning. I politely disagree. In that scenario, children are assessed on outcomes. This short-term vision is not sustained for the long haul. I would say that by the time a child is 35 (lol), they should be weaned off the need for coaches and instructors. Tactical play at high levels is different. My philosophy is one where I believe, and my experience has taught me that when we coach or train, we also rob the child of their ability to learn. They are not learning; they are mimicking and following.
What is critical is not the next skill to master; but the development of ‘thinking skills.’ I have a simple process that relies on knowing what outcomes I wish to see.
The process is as follows:
1. Know the limitations of what players are capable of understanding & learning.
2. Make the practice outline one where demands are at those limits.
3. Allow time for experimentation, mistakes, and repetition. No Rote!
4. Create the conditions which will bring about the outcomes that I want and They need.
5. The conditions focus on four main principles. Adjusting each one can vary the options available to children. They don’t know it, but they are being coached.
6. These four conditions or constraints are; Space – Time – Numbers – Pressure.
7. Varying these four in the proper sequence will allow the coach to control the session without interceding.
This takes longer to develop and see results. Still, it is sustainable and produces thinking individual players capable of operating in team environments. Every time I watch a coach yelling from the sidelines, I cringe. Children are not chess pieces to be manipulated; their approach should be more like checkers. Anticipate and move. As they mature, then it becomes more of a chess game.
When difficulty sets in, as it most definitely will, players are brought together and/or individually and asked to identify what they believe is the challenge and what they might do to improve outcomes. This gives them engagement and a sense of control. It also engages their thinking skills (problem-solving, critical thinking, deconstruction, reconstruction, analysis, and coming up with their solutions.
Moreover, we allow them to take ownership, take responsibility and ensure they develop their unique learning skills. It is a win-win scenario. The early stages can be difficult, but the long-term rewards are worth the effort. Skills are great; fitness is important and tactical understanding in older age groups helps. However, if a child cannot ‘think’ on the spot, learn to anticipate and plan two steps ahead; none of the other matters. The great thing about this passive approach to coaching is that we can develop all of the above by using one model.
Guide development and frustration through lack of success or boredom due to low levels of challenge. If players are Grouped in Terms of Ability, this approach can prevent boredom and frustration. If we give them the reins, they hold them. It is a matter of trust in children and a willingness on our part to let go. If society is to advance, we must evolve and allow children to learn on their own.
P.S. Enabling children to “think” is one of the best gifts we can give them!