Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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2.2 Coaching and creativity

Danny Kerry is the Head Coach of the England and Great Britain’s Women’s Hockey team, and is responsible for coaching them at the Olympics. He describes his design of practices moving beyond drills and repetition.

Box 2 Danny Kerry talks about his session design

Danny is an advocate of … challenging his athletes to find solutions to problems themselves rather than [them] hang on his every word.

‘I’m a massive believer in continually creating the problems for the athletes to self-organise solutions to,’ he says.

‘I’m constantly thinking about session design with the other coaches and with some of the other practitioners … thinking creatively about how we can create problems [emphasis added] in the environment and discuss what a really great outcome might be. Then tell the athletes to work towards achieving that outcome.’

There tends to be more of a reluctance among the older players to strike out on their own, preferring an approach of repetitive drilling.

‘They’ve grown up in an environment where they have had a lot of this type of coaching and perceive it as good coaching. I try to challenge back and tell them that the hockey environment is changing half second by half second, and you have to [continually] decide which method or skill to use ...’

(Richardson, 2015)

Activity 4 Danny Kerry's creative session design

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Read the contents of Box 2 and consider why athletes and parents in your sport or gym environment might prefer repetitive drills to this more creative approach.


Danny Kerry is an advocate of decision-rich practices in which athletes solve problems. The ‘norm’ for older athletes, and some parents, was for the coach to be the centre of all activities and their knowledge was seen as one of the most important facets of good coaching. The problem is, increasing amounts of research shows that you don’t retain skills as effectively if they are just practised using repetition (Patterson and Lee, 2013; Schmidt and Lee, 2011).

Alex Danson backs up Danny Kerry’s approach to session design.

Alex says …

As a young athlete, I spent many hours training and practising on my own. On one level, this was an excellent use of my time and meant that technically I became very good. However, as I have progressed in my career I have realised the art of ‘skill’ is to be able to apply it in the right situation, which is forever changing in hockey. In our world, I could be the most technically gifted player at reverse stick shooting, but if I am unable to choose the appropriate time to use this skill in a game, then my technical excellence is cancelled out. We spend ninety per cent of our training week in training drills that ensure we have to make decisions. We do not use cones or play many small-sided games, but use game-related drills to make sure that we learn to make the correct decisions under the pressure of a changing game environment.

Perhaps athletes and parents need to appreciate why a shift in coaching style to something similar to Alex’s experience helps people to learn. The second of Richard Bailey’s coaching commandments explores this shift in style further.

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