A few months ago, coach Chris Oliver turned me onto the Tharpe and Gilmore study in which the feedback and teaching of John Wooden was tracked and categorized. Coach Oliver advised me to record myself when coaching and then listen to it back as a means of evaluating myself and improving. Since our conversation, I have repeated this process numerous times. Although I am occasionally disgusted with myself, this evaluation method can be a great means to improve your teaching skills.
After reading the study on Wooden, I created my own criteria that I would evaluate my coaching upon. My criteria is posted below:
- Giving directions (explaining the drill or where to go)
- Giving instruction (providing teaching tips or cues to the athlete)
- Questioning (asking guided questions so the athlete comes to a solution for themselves)
- Specific praise (praise statements in which I am very specific as to what was good and why it was good)
- Scolds ( letting the athlete know that they are out of line in terms of effort or engagement)
- General praise (terrible statements such as “nice” and “good”)
As you go back and watch/listen to your session, simply track the number of times you talk, and then also tally what category that talk fits under. You then can simply divide the category by the total statements and get a percentage total for each category.
For example, if you talked a total of 245 times in a practice, tally how many of those statements were instructional. If 77 out of 245 statements were instructional, your percentage would be 31.4%.
Here were my results from the first time I completed this exercise:
- Giving directions: 18%
- Instruction: 37%
- Questioning: 6%
- Specific praise: 16%
- Scolds: 2%
- General praise: 21%
Obviously, I was less than impressed with myself after calculating these numbers. Here are some changes I knew I needed to make as a result of this study:
- I needed to spend less time explaining drills and more time teaching and questioning (now I rarely use drills or simply use the same format to teach skills so that I do not waste time explaining patterns).
- My use of questioning was far too low. I want this number to be in the high 30% area. Prior to doing this study, I thought I questioned often. I was wrong, but never would have known if I did not take up this exercise.
- The session was too easy for the athlete. I am not a yeller, but I am passionate about holding the athlete accountable to doing things the right way. The fact that my praise to scold ratio was 37:2 is pitiful, it shows that the session was much too easy, and I am sure little learning occured as a result. When I scold, it is not a cutting remark designed to humilaite the athlete, and I rarely raise my voice, but I know that if I am only correcting or scolding 2% of the time, the session is far too easy. I need to add a “correction” catagory in addition to “scolds”. A correction should be re-explaining or demonstrating a teaching point, where as a scold should only deal with attitude or effort issues.
- Way too much general praise. This is the greatest sin in coaching. The first action step I took after this way to quickly eliminate useless talking and non-specific praise.
Below is a video that explains how you can record yourself coaching using technology that you already have. If you are not already doing this on a regular basis, I implore you to take up the practice. Self analysis and evaluation can be painful at times, but it is a fantastic way to learn and grow. Take the plunge!
*one added benefit is that the players work harder when they know I am evaluating myself as well. Through the coach modeling a desire to learn, grow, and get better, the player buys in as well. Great leaders model rather than beg.