Do You “Coach too Much”?

Posted on Feb 24 2022

“Many players believe coaches coach too much,” – this quote  from respected high performance leader Michael Poulton at a conference presentation some years ago continues to resonate and be a friendly reminder for coaches at all levels.

Efficiency of language, the balance between “talk and task” and the ability to create a positive learning environment are all part of the modern coach’s challenge.

How can we improve our teaching and communication habits on the practice floor? Here are thoughts on improving your “on deck” efficiency.

Check your “talk to task” ratio –

Have a friend or mentor watch a session and provide some feedback on the balance between you talking, teaching and demonstrating and the time players are in motion.

Put a mental limit on the duration of your instruction or drill “set-up”. Detail is great and important, but the players “doing” is more important once they have the macro of the drill or concept.

To Poulton’s point, you might be surprised on just how much you “coach” as opposed to players “doing”.

“I repeat, don’t repeat” –

Have that same trusted friend or mentor count how many times you repeat the most basic instruction in practice.

Repeating is a common trait of many coaches and it is often driven by a desire to provide clarity and detail.

But is it necessary? Do we repeat ourselves in general conversation? Why do we need to repeat the most basic of instruction?

Use Coach Dunlap’s “praise, prompt, leave” method to ensure you are efficient in the teaching.

Stop the stop –

By way of basic methodology, outline the drill and it’s purpose and let them play. Be comfortable with the mess, resist the temptation to stop the drill in the first two minutes.

If you need to intervene, add one or two points of elements of detail, then let them play again.

Don’t mistake an intervention with an interruption! Detail, correction and instruction are still important of course, but the key word is balance.

Don’t wing it –

You wouldn’t go into a session without a practice plan, why would you go into a session without a plan around your language and communication.

Make some notes on your practice plan for yourself and your staff as reminders for your language, communication and your interventions.

Develop some “yes’s” and “no’s” on what you and the staff are going to “tolerate” in the session. For example, if a player turns it over on the break attempt to kick the ball ahead, you may not intervene because the intent was there. Conversely, a player giving up a straight line drive may be a solid “no” and require intervention.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

This Maslow quote in a coaching sphere relates to the need to vary your approach and use the appropriate “tool” at the appropriate time. Be it instruction, correction, demonstration or motivation, use the appropriate tone, inflection or duration to make your point.

Your players will respond to tone and body language as much as message, so ensure your are balancing how you approach interventions and player engagement in general.



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