Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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Exploring sport coaching and psychology

2 Richard Bailey’s ‘coaching commandments’

Richard Bailey is an academic focusing on learning and education in sport and has developed five coaching commandments, which he describes as the appliance of science in teaching and learning. By science he means:

thinking coaching through, and using a genuine critical attitude about what we do, there has to be evidence, there has to be science and reasons for doing things; coaching is dominated by tradition, sometimes this is harmless but sometimes it does harm and holds athletes and coaches back.

(Bailey, 2015)

Activity 2 Richard Bailey’s first two coaching commandments

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch the following video in which Richard Bailey describes his five coaching commandments.

Download this video clip.Video player: Richard Bailey’s five coaching commandments
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Transcript: Richard Bailey’s five coaching commandments

I’m Richard Bailey, and here are my five coaching commandments.
You learn to play the game by playing the game. Whether it’s golf, gymnastics, judo, or ice dance, the closer the practise is to the competitive environment and the main event, the more likely it is that you’ll develop the skills, the knowledge, the understanding to be properly prepared for that activity.
It’s quality, not quantity, of practise that matters most. Mindless repetition contributes almost nothing to improve performance. What’s needed is highly focused, highly concentrated practise, and that’s the way to improve performance.
Praise and criticism should be used wisely. There’s a common view among coaches at the moment that children require a lot of praise and that criticism should either be kept to a minimum or completely banned. The idea is that praise builds up self-esteem, and criticism knocks it down.
There’s absolutely no evidence that this is true. On the contrary, there is evidence that meaningless, empty praise damages children’s self-esteem because it damages the relationship with the coach. Praise and criticism should be used rarely. Think of it like salt in a meal. A little bit of salt can make the meal special. Too much can ruin the meal. Keep it to a minimum, and keep it special.
The way you coach is as important as what you coach. We all know great athletes are creative, and innovative, and surprising. Think of Ali or the Williams sisters or Messi. Their whole performance is unpredictable, but your coaching needs to be unpredictable as well. If you’re expecting your players to be creative and innovative, you need to coach in a creative and innovative way.
It is impossible to tell the future. Nobody in the history of humanity has been able to predict the future. That seems obvious, but every day, coaches try to act as if they can see what’s happening in the future. They identify talented children. They put them on talent pathways. They put them under enormous pressure.
The simple reality is you cannot predict what will happen with that player. If children are of primary age, it is literally impossible to predict the future sporting success of that player.
What you can do is keep children playing, keep creating positive sporting environments, and keep them coming back, and that is probably the best recipe for a talent development pathway.
End transcript: Richard Bailey’s five coaching commandments
Richard Bailey’s five coaching commandments
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Identify the main point of the first two of his commandments:

  1. You learn to play the game by playing the game.
  2. It’s quality, not quantity, of practice that matters most.


The main point in his first commandment is that practices are most effective if designed to resemble the competitive environment as closely as possible. This makes it more likely that the skills and understanding will be developed to properly prepare athletes for their activity. In his second commandment, he focuses on attempts to stimulate full mind and body concentration in practices, rather than concentrating on ‘mindless repetitive drills’. You will explore examples of these principles in the sections that follow.


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