Coaching Methods: Learning Through Games and Use of Guided Discovery

May 14, 2020

by Scott Rimmer (MD / UEFA B)

In this article I provide some observations surrounding coaching styles, particularly the use of Guided Discovery.

Upon completion of coaching qualifications, very rarely do the course tutors prepare you for ‘method or intervention techniques. Whilst courses generically have improved enormously over the past 10 – 15 years, there is always naturally a strong emphasis with technique and teaching within a game. How you communicate to individual learners, how you motivate, how you challenge, how to managed mix ability cohorts, and preferred coaching styles are rarely covered.

The tasks/activities that children & learners are set must be carefully designed to draw out key areas that are meaningful to the individuals. The activities should be challenging but must not seem unachievable whilst children/learners must be able to relate to the challenges, and the diversity offered by the activity/game.

Ideally the learners should be able to experiment with different approaches without fear of criticism – freedom to ‘play’. As coaches or teaching staff we should resist the temptation to give too much advice, too many rules and restrictions. On the other hand, as coaches we cannot misuse the method and get lazy! There has been a danger in past particularly with less experienced younger coaches will get into games too soon without any purpose or structure.

Guided discovery & learning through Games works best when the activity is less rigid and there is a flow and freedom. Coaching method works well with education and the delivery of Invasion games. Different games, rules, restrictions, number of targets, number of players etc.

If inappropriately designed and facilitated, discovery based learning will seem pointless to the child; well managed and the result can be much deeper & enriched learning opportunity. Sports are traditionally and historically coached using ‘drills’ with a skill focus. Techniques are sectioned and then taught.

Over recent years NGB’s including the FA have invested heavily into education and ‘how’ children should be coached. This ‘age appropriate’ approach has proven to be less rigid and proven to be extremely useful to young coaches coming through The more traditional method 10 – 15 years ago largely assumed there was only one right way. As coaches we know this is far from the truth.

Having a strong technical focus can limit the problem-solving capabilities of the practice or environment and the risk taking. This approach can potentially compromise the learning experience of the child or learner. Technique becomes too isolated and detached from the desired outcomes of the exercise.

As experienced coaches we should recognize and understand the needs of the children. We should appreciate that the simplicity of play is paramount, and to have freedom in play is immensely rewarding for a child and keeps them engaged. Quite often coaches ‘over teach’, apply excessive emphasis on skill and ‘drills’. There is a danger the child or learner can become increasingly demotivated, disengaged, and even disappointed. Experience teaches us the importance of planning and maintaining a balance!

The Learning Through Games approach puts an emphasis on problem solving and decision making. When using this approach to teaching & coaching it is essential that tutors use specific questioning techniques to stimulate the thought processes for children & learners. Questioning will allow the individual to think about the game, or scenarios differently.

 The development of skill is built through discovery in a fun, free environment. Children are taught how to perform, think, problem solve and self reflect! Games should be set up to develop understanding and game intelligence. Experienced coaches will also have an emphasis in the game, an outcome that needs to be achieved.

 

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