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Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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2.1 You learn to play by playing the game

Richard Bailey’s (2014a) first coaching commandment is not universally used, despite seeming obvious. In the next activity, you will hear Olympic coaching advisor Simon Timson (at the time from UK Sport) talking with Matthew Syed (journalist and former elite athlete) about the absence of stimulating and stretching sessions in some coaching they have watched.

Activity 3 Stimulating and stretching sessions

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Listen to the discussion and consider the four recommendations about practice sessions that emerge.

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Simon Timson and Matthew Syed
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A summary of the recommendations made were for coaches to make use of:

  • highly contextual ‘decision-rich environments’
  • competitive practices
  • feedback including allowing a trial and error approach
  • coaches and athletes reviewing their training afterwards.

This throws more light on Bailey’s commandment ‘you learn to play by playing the game’.

A highly contextual environment refers to skills being developed in the context of the competitive situation, rather than in isolation, for example, in repetitive drills. Would you teach someone to play golf solely on a golf driving range or teach netball unopposed? These ideas are similar to a model called Teaching Games for Understanding [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (Kirk and MacPhail, 2002).

One of the aims of this section is to draw attention to coaching creativity, but you may wonder ‘what is creative about game-like practice sessions?’ Alex Danson’s hockey coach explains his innovation in the next section.