Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Random Observations on Coaches…

I’ve had the privilege of observing countless coaches in action over the course of my 40-year coaching career. Through this experience, I’ve come to some interesting insights that I believe are worth considering. Let’s take a closer look at these observations:

Coaches and Their Communication Style

Coaches have a tendency to dominate the conversation on the court. They talk and talk, sometimes even taking up more than 50% of the total training time. Unfortunately, this excessive talking can be a significant waste of time for the athletes who are trying to learn the game. I often ask players what they’ve learned after these lengthy practices, and they can usually only recall one or two things, if anything at all. It’s important to remember that humans have a limited capacity to process information, and coaches often overlook this crucial motor learning principle.

Guiding Players Towards Answers

Instead of simply telling their players what to do, coaches should strive to ask questions and guide them towards finding the answers themselves. It’s easy to say that we follow this approach, but in reality, many coaches fail to ask their players a single question during their presentations. It’s crucial for coaches to practice what they preach and foster an environment of active learning.

The Misuse of Terms

Coaches often throw around terms like “gamelike” and “motor learning” without fully understanding their true implications. For example, some coaches may consider a drill where hitters passively wait for a ball to be tossed to them as “gamelike.” Another coach may think that standing off the court and spiking balls at players is an effective way to teach digging. In reality, these methods fail to capture the essence of true gamelike training. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of these concepts before incorporating them into practice.

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Balancing Technical Perfection

Coaches sometimes become fixated on making players technically “perfect.” However, this obsession with perfection often overshadows the fact that good players are not always technically flawless. In my years of experience, I’ve taken countless pictures of players at various levels of competition, from Olympic and Paralympic athletes to youth players. Interestingly, the vast majority of these moments in time capture players who exhibit technical imperfections, around 80% of them to be precise. These players understand the right technique but adapt their skills based on their positioning and timing within the game.

The Power of Team Language

Coaches often fall into the habit of using “I” instead of emphasizing the collective power of the team. By using “we” and “us” when addressing the players, coaches foster stronger team bonds and instill the confidence that teammates will support each other even when mistakes happen. Remember, there’s no “I” in team, but there is in “win.”

Embracing Simplicity

Coaches sometimes overcomplicate things, particularly when it comes to teaching techniques. Keeping it simple is key. For example, using the phrase “the ball knows angles” in serve reception simplifies the concept and helps players understand the fundamentals. The famous “KISS” principle, or “Keep It Simple Silly,” holds true in coaching and playing techniques. As Hugh McCutcheon wisely says, “less is more.” Albert Einstein’s quote, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler,” also applies to the coaching realm.

In conclusion, these are just a few thoughts to consider on your journey to becoming the best coach you can be. Remember, it’s not only about imparting knowledge but also about fostering a love for the game and helping athletes reach their full potential.

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Citius, Altius, Fortius,


How can coaches enhance the learning experience for athletes?

Coaches can enhance the learning experience for athletes by incorporating active learning techniques. Instead of simply telling players what to do, coaches should ask thought-provoking questions and guide them towards finding the answers themselves. This approach allows athletes to develop critical thinking skills and a deeper understanding of the game.

What is gamelike training?

Gamelike training refers to practice sessions that closely mimic real-game situations. It involves creating drills and exercises that replicate the challenges faced during competitions. By incorporating gamelike training, coaches can better prepare athletes for the complexities of their respective sports.


Being an effective coach requires more than just knowledge of the game. It requires the ability to communicate effectively, ask the right questions, and provide a learning environment that fosters growth. Coaches should strive to simplify complex concepts, emphasize teamwork, and focus on the holistic development of their athletes. By adhering to these principles, coaches can become invaluable mentors who inspire their players to reach new heights in their chosen sports.

Remember, coaching is a journey, and every step you take towards becoming a better coach is a step closer to unlocking the true potential of your athletes. So embrace the challenge, continue learning, and make a lasting impact on the lives of those you coach.