Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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Exploring sport coaching and psychology

4 Richard Bailey’s other commandments – how to coach

You now revisit the coaching commandments video to focus on Richard Bailey’s final three commandments.

Activity 5 Richard Bailey’s final three coaching commandments

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

You will now go back to think about Richard Bailey’s five coaching commandments. You may like to watch the video again.

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 each of the final three coaching commandments:

  • Praise and criticism should be used wisely.
  • The way you coach is as important as what you coach.
  • It is impossible to tell the future.


For his third commandment, Richard uses the analogy of praise and criticism being a bit like salt on a meal: used sparingly it can enhance the experience, but too much can ruin it. He suggests that there is a tendency for those coaching young people to use praise too much, which can damage self-esteem by harming the coach–athlete relationship.

In his fourth commandment, he is talking about encouraging creative, innovative athletes who are often unpredictable in their performances. For example, Lionel Messi was deemed too small to succeed in football but compensated by becoming an exceptional dribbler of the ball; or consider Michael Johnson who used an unorthodox upright running style. To encourage alternative approaches, he suggests coaches need to coach imaginatively and concentrate on the outcome of any techniques, not how it looks compared to the coaching manual. Fewer coaching robots: more flair, finesse and thinking outside the box.

Finally, in his fifth commandment, Richard considers the impossibility of predicting, especially in primary-aged school children, who might have sporting talent. His plea is for coaches and sporting organisations to keep as many young people engaged with positive sporting environments for as long as possible, out of which the best players will emerge. By keeping the selection open for more people, the net is cast wider, which benefits all.

All of these coaching commandments are supported by research. If you want to find out more about his final three coaching commandments, you can read the articles below. This is optional and not a requirement.


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