Only 20% of coaches can accurately explain their own behaviour
Reflecting on the growing awareness of the importance of coaching behaviour, we pulled together this presentation extract by Professor Chris Cushion who has contributed significantly to this field of research and its application in coach education. He was joined by the Coach Analyst at Leicester City FC to share how the club are using coaching analysis to support coach development.
Why coach behaviour?
'We know it impacts performance but we’ve also got something social and emotional going on, particularly with younger players. Of all the things in the coaching process, we can’t control referees, the weather, the opposition, the mood of our players. In terms of coaching the one thing we can control is ourselves. If we can think about what comes out of our mouths, how we set up practice - all of that stuff is under our control.'
"What’s good about coach behaviour is that it's measurable and we can change it."
'As coaches, the relationship that we have with our athletes will go some way to defining how effective our coaching is.'
There’s no right way to coach, but athletes learn.
"As coaches how we organise training sessions, the types of things we do in training sessions and how our behaviour accompanies that will affect that learning. It can affect that learning positively or negatively - so how we behave as coaches can either facilitate or block athlete learning."
Coaching analysis is based on systematic observation, this provides a common space to how we define and look at coaching - that’s objective and valid. There is obviously more to coaching than just describable behaviour but it provides valid and reliable baseline data - what Prof. Chris Cushion calls “the front porch to the house" - so what we do with coaching analysis reflects a whole range of other things. We’re then able to start talking about reflection and cognitive processes, all those sort of things."
“In my experience, when I work with coaches the first conversation is - what do you do? Let’s talk about what you do with your athletes.”
'Coaches are notoriously poor at describing their own behaviour. Only 20% of coaches are able to accurately explain their own behaviour, regardless of level or experience or background, Coaches are generally unaware of what they do. What is interesting, is if we ask their athletes, that stat flips around.'
"If we get 10 athletes, 8 will accurately describe their coach's behaviour. So if I want to know about you as a coach, I’m not going to ask you, I’m going to ask your athletes."
'What the research says it that we have our practice environment, (the drills and skills that people do), the coach behaviour, and the athlete learning. But our understanding of how those things are connected isn’t as strong as it could be or should be. Coaching analysis has a core library of templates for analysing primary and secondary coaching behaviours, and to layer further detail below these in terms of practice type, recipient, content, silence, questioning and type of question - questions that make you think are good for learning!'
Should we change our coaching behaviours to account for age?
'Yes, because someone at 9 years of age versus someone at 18 are almost like different species.'
"Through the research we found that the coaches struggled to account for their behaviour according to the age and stage of development of their athletes. It's more about what they think is good coaching, regardless of the age of the athlete."
'The research indicates that there is a lack of silence being applied in coaching which is in keeping with the assumption that coaching is about telling people and not standing back and observing.'
Can we change coaching behaviour?
'Yes we can, but it takes time, context and follow up. If a coach changes a behaviour but then goes back into an environment that does not support that change, the change gets washed out. It’s something we need to consciously practice.'
"We expect our athletes to practice but how many coaches practice their own questioning in advance for example, rather than shooting from the hip."
It starts with the analysis - what do you do as a coach, can we organise it into a structure and give you some feedback to become a catalyst for changing coaching behaviour.
"Data and video is a really powerful reflective tool."
Leicester City FC's Coach Analyst, Sean Rooney added how he uses coaching analysis to support the coaches development in line with the club's philosophy which encompasses peer review and athlete input.
"First we talk with the coaches about what they do and their beliefs, then we share the stats and video of their coaching to see how both line up. The coach can identify things they’re happy or unhappy with and together we focus in on 2-3 areas to improve and how. The follow up is about a month later and is focused on those specific areas of development. We can then reassess to continue that development or perhaps we have found something else."