Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Recognize Teaching Moments and Use Them

   When coaching youth sports, you should always look for “teaching moments”—situations in practice or games that provide you with an opportunity to reinforce your instruction. Your ability to recognize and use these teaching moments is an essential coaching skill.

So let's take a closer look at how you can leverage teaching moments to improve your coaching effectiveness.

Teaching Moments During Practice

During a practice scrimmage, you may see one of your players make an excellent play or decision. You may also see a player make an error. As you recognize these moments, shout words of encouragement or short commands (e.g., “John, cut to the basket”) to your players. Your goal is to help your players better recognize game situations and opportunities as they present themselves, and to then take the appropriate action.

When you see a player commit a critical error of judgment, or several players making mistakes, blow your whistle to stop the action and address the problem. Use a teaching technique appropriate to the situation and player. For example you could either ask your player(s) a leading question or declaratively state the point that you quickly want to make. Where possible (and especially with younger or less experienced players), use positive language to “sandwich” criticism. First, encourage the player on what he or she was doing right; next, state the problem; and finally, indicate what action or behavior the player should have taken. Pick your moments carefully and try not to ruin the flow of the scrimmage.

Teaching Moments During Games

To the extent that you can interactively communicate with your players during games, game situations also provide many teaching moments.

If you can freely substitute players, consider immediately replacing a player who has committed a significant mental mistake. Sit the player down next to you and calmly review his or her mistake and what action they should have instead taken. Focus on positive comments that describe correct technique and behaviors. Substitute the player quickly back into the game—you don't want your players looking over their shoulder every time they make an aggressive play and possibly a mistake.

Also use these types of moments to teach players on the bench. Voice the problem and what a player should have done in that situation. You may want to address the problem to a specific bench player who plays the same position. Other players will also likely listen and learn.

Where multiple players are at fault for a situational mistake, consider calling a timeout to communicate the problem and state your expectations. If the mental mistake is a serious one made by players who should know better, this is the time to raise your voice and inject emotion. Most players, even the younger ones, will respond to your criticism and give you their best effort.

Depending on the nature of your players and your coaching style, consider yelling out constructive comments during the game action each time you observe a significant positive action. If possible, get the attention of your player and make sure that they understand the moment.

Especially help your beginners make the connection between a game situation and their positive action. For example, if a beginning basketball player sets a screen and his teammate scores, I would yell words of congratulations to the player setting the screen, not necessarily the one who scored. The same is true for a player who makes the pass that leads to an easy layup. Connect positive player behavior to game situations. Reinforce the connections whenever possible, acknowledge teamwork, and praise the players who set up an opportunity to score.

Teaching Moments after a Game

Also understand that both winning and losing a game provide you with teaching moments. Reinforce positive behaviors and analyze negative ones. Discuss what actions the players and team could have taken to achieve a better result. (Possibly give a short recap after the game and then a more in-depth review at the following practice.) Although no one likes losing, a loss will likely mean that you now have the undivided attention of your players—use it.

Do you have any personal examples of how you leverage "teaching moments" when coaching kids?

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

(Kindle Edition $2.99)

Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


Post a Comment