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Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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3 What about coaching individual-based sports?

Next, you will hear from Teri McKeever, who has been a swimming coach at the University of California for almost 25 years. She is one of the most successful coaches in the world and is known for her innovation. For instance, her idea of swimming training is one that also uses yoga, skipping and dancing to hip hop music. It was with these types of methods that led to her becoming the first ever female coach of the 2012 US Olympic women’s team (they won 14 medals).

Activity 4 Coaching connections or contrasts?

Timing: Allow about 25 minutes

Listen to the interview with Teri McKeever below. As you listen, think about the comparisons between her approach to personal coaching and those of Pia Sundhage and Jurgen Klinsmann. As a reminder, both Pia and Jurgen talked about players taking responsibility and making their own decisions in competition. Note down some of the key terms that she uses to describe her approach. To what extent are there connections or contrasts between the approaches of these three coaches?

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Interview with Teri McKeever
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The list of terms that we noted were: ‘environment’, ‘athlete problem-solving’, ‘empowered’, ‘learning’, ‘training quality’, ‘mind–body connection’, ‘partnership’ and ‘different training being fun’. The first four of these terms were points of connection and similarity to themes mentioned by Pia Sundhage and Jurgen Klinsmann. Perhaps all three coaches have a view of a coaching model where ‘I have information, the athlete has information and we’re partnering in that’ (The Documentary, 2014). The research evidence on effective coaching mirrors these views.

One of the striking contrasts (differences) with Teri McKeever was her willingness to be creative and try out different physical training methods. She observed how an athlete’s mindset to approaching new tasks could often be revealing. She talked about a characteristic of quality training being how she asks athletes to use their imagination to connect emotionally, physically and mentally to ‘race time’ in their sessions. This is all part of her view of the interconnection between mind and body. She concludes ‘there’s more than one way to be successful at the highest level’ (The Documentary, 2014).

These interviews and research evidence reinforce a view of coaching not being formulaic, but something that is incredibly diverse, with one of the main attributes being that coach’s respond to the individual, while also shaping the environment and the task.