Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Coaching Tips from the Rugby pitch

Those who know me will be aware that my great passion away from work is rugby. In this posting I want to cross fertilise from rugby to management development. (It probably went the other way first, to be honest.) I picked up the following from a rugby coaching website. I had intended to rewrite it, but it needs little translation - just substitute learners for players etc.:

* The Magnificent Seven *

How great questioning can lead to great learning

By Peter Tann, qualified rugby coach and sports psychologist

By getting your players to answer key questions, you will help them to learn from training sessions. You may also find willing and able sources of help and innovative ideas.

1. Plan
Plan meaningful questions for the training session ahead. You should:
  • Consider the nature of the task and the players' willingness to contribute to it.
  • Write your questions down.
  • Make sure your questions are appropriate for your players' levels of knowledge and understanding

2. Don't Give the Answer

Avoid giving your players the answer. This takes ownership of the problem-solving and decision-making process away from them.
There will be times when you have to intervene - but that's why you are the coach!
In which case, try to quickly revert back to encouraging the players to come to their own conclusions.

3. Draw-out a Response

Give your players time to think about a problem. You will find they will tend to respond more frequently and with more meaningful and valid responses.
This can be a difficult technique for coaches to learn, however. To give the players time to answer a question, you can:
Listen to a response without repeating it.
Give players time to think in silence.
Avoid demanding an answer from a specific player immediately after asking a question. Note that once you've identified a player to answer, the others may tend to "relax" and stop thinking.
Avoid "Yes, but..." reactions to a player's answer. These can indicate a rejection of the player's ideas and may make them less likely to contribute in the future.

4. Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is far more likely to motivate players to respond enthusiastically and appropriately to future questions.
So praise players for their contributions, even if you think they still have a long way to go.
To effectively reinforce an answer you can: Praise the answer. For instance, "That's a really interesting idea. Well done! Can you tell us how you came up with it?"
Be honest and sincere with praise.
Also use non-verbal praise, such as smiles, eye contact, thumbs up, etc.
Avoid lots of "Uh-huh", "Yep/Yeah" or "Okay" comments. These can indicate disinterest in the answer being given.

5. Prompts

Use prompts to remind players about previous learning. For example, a coach might ask a player a question about their mental coping strategies, whilst asking them about how they have been dealing with errors.
You might say, "How did you react after you gave away that penalty for hands in the ruck? Think about the mental skills we discussed last week."

6. Question Evenly

Consciously direct questions so all your players have the opportunity to contribute.
Even if a player is initially reluctant, considerate questioning by the coach can enable them to grow in confidence and participate.

7. Independent Observation

Ask someone to observe and evaluate your use of questions.

That last one takes some courage, but is a useful tip.

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