Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Teach Like that Famous Greek Guy

When you’re teaching fundamental skills to your players or otherwise trying to emphasize an important point to your team, consider using elements of the Socratic Method.

Instead of declaratively describing how to perform a skill, direct focused questions to your players that lead them to an understanding of the keys to successfully executing the skill. This technique will draw your players directly into the subject matter and help them better remember the point you are teaching. As they reply, formulate and ask additional questions that help funnel their thought process toward the correct answer or conclusion. Couple this process with demonstrations as you go along. You may also find this approach useful when reviewing mistakes that were made during a game or practice.

In teaching a group of beginners how to properly shoot a basketball, part of the instructional dialogue might go as follows:

COACH: Who can tell me what the most important elements are in shooting the
PLAYER 1: Your arm!
COACH: What about your arm?
PLAYER 2: You should always keep your elbow in!
COACH: Right! What else about the arm?
GROUP: (no response)
COACH: What letter of the alphabet does my arm look like?
PLAYER 3: An “L.”
COACH: Right! You want to form an “L” with your arm, keeping it perpendicular to
the floor, elbow in.
COACH: Where does the force come from to shoot our shot?
PLAYER 2: Your arms and shoulders?
COACH: No. Anyone else?
PLAYER 4: Your legs!
COACH: Exactly! You use your legs to “push” the “L.”

After going through the instructional dialogue shown above, you would then demonstrate the portion of the shooting motion that you and the players have described. Upon completing the instructional dialog in its entirety, you would reinforce the lesson with a full demonstration of the technique and then follow this up with individual instruction for each of your players.

As you become more familiar with the skills or game situations you are teaching, questions will quickly and easily pop into your mind. You may benefit from scripting out the major points you would like to cover and jotting down a couple of questions. Relax and let your mind flow with the teaching moment.

Remember that the attention span of younger players is short and it’s often a battle to keep their attention. The Socratic Method can provide you with an effective teaching tool—engaging your players in a “game” that helps them to focus more intently on your instruction.

Do you have any effective coaching techniques or examples that you would like to share?

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

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