Topic 5 – Provide instruction

Provide Instruction

Before providing instruction, two concepts must be thought through.  Coaches must think before they speak, and gain the attention of the students before they speak.  

Thinking before speaking is a very helpful strategy in general, not just for coaching.  This strategy is especially helpful for coaches because coaches fill many different roles for their students such as role model, instructor, mentor, trainer, etc.  When students look to coaches for advice and instruction in so many different aspects, it is especially important for coaches to have precision of language.  Precision of language is matching words and their meaning correctly along with the message the coach is trying to send, a crucial part to thinking before speaking.  Other aspects of thinking before speaking would be considering the tone of the language, as well as the timing.  A message could be misinterpreted because of a negative tone, which a coach would not want when advising players.  Timing for a coach would also be important.  For example, a coach could decide between correcting a player during a game, or after the game.  When the message is delivered could also affect the way in which the message is interpreted.  All three of these must be done to ensure the message is delivered exactly as the coach intended it to be delivered.

The other aspect of thinking before speaking, gaining the attention of players, is crucial.  If players are not listening attentively, the message could also be misinterpreted or not interpreted at all.  There are many ways a coach could gather the attention of players, similar to a teacher.  The most commonly used method is a whistle, it is loud, sharp, and quick.  Players are trained through the sport of basketball to stop whatever they are doing when they hear a whistle.  Other methods such as counting backwards loudly, or clapping, are also used, but are not as common.  Some coaches simply use the voice to gain players’ attention.  This strategy is best if the coach has a deep, booming voice.  There are strategies that have not been listed that are also effective.

The next step of providing instruction is actually conveying the message.  When giving advice, instruction, or just speaking in general coaches should keep it simple.  To keep speaking, simple coaches should be structured, repetitive and exact.  A structured, repetitive  system for practice allows for players to know when they need to be listening.  For example, if for the first fifteen minutes of practice players go through a light conditioning drill, then at the end of those fifteen minutes players know they need to listen.  They will know this everyday and form the habit of listening at the end of the fifteen minutes.  Being exact will help coaches give instructions in the most simple, but effective way possible.   Using exact language is generally decided during the preliminary stages of speaking, mentioned above. Instructions should also focus on the favorable outcome, rather than the undesirable outcome.  For example, a player asked to not dribble the ball too high, would focus on not dribbling too high, rather than correct dribbling form.  Keeping instruction simple allows for increased understanding from players, it also increases the number of players who will understand the first delivery of the message.  

Finally it is important to check that the players understood the instruction that was delivered.  The first step to this is asking if there are any questions, which gives an opportunity for those who did not understand to speak up.  If someone does have a question, a physical demonstration of the movement necessary for the instruction could be helpful.  Once students start the drill, their understanding of the instructions will unfold.  If most students are doing the drill incorrectly there was an error in the delivery of the instructions.  Sometimes, only one or two players will be doing the drill incorrectly.  This inaccuracy could be due to differences in learning styles.  A good way to increase the overall understanding, and decrease the need to check for understanding, would be to have both a visual and audible explanation of the drill.  Other ways to increase understanding would be asking questions relevant to the drill.  If players can answer these questions they understand the instructions.  

When coaching skills, providing instruction is a crucial part, and it is important that it is done correctly.  Incorrectly delivered instruction can set back practice and eat up time, over a season, this can add up.  Poor instruction can also decrease skill retention and progression of players.

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