Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Coach as an Educator

When riding the train through downtown Boston yesterday I witnessed an interesting series of events through parenting that related very closely to coaching, as many situations do. I thought I would share what I saw with you all here:

A young girl (3 years old) was on the train with her parents and acting a bit squeemish in her mother's arms when she was scolded to calm down and be quiet. After another mini outburst, the young girl was immediately put in "time out", where from what I gathered meant she could not speak for a given time period (in this case 2 minutes).

After seeing this situation, it struck me that her parents were using a Classical Conditioning method towards their parenting. By this I mean, they wanted their child to learn that this kind of behavior was unacceptable on the train through simple trial and error by adding a punishment (time out). In this situation, the parent was "teaching" her daughter how to act the right way, but there was no direct method of teaching, which leads me to believe that there was also a lack of learning. I would be very interested to see how many times this behavior would be repeated by the young girl when compared to other, more directive, methods of teaching.

What I saw is closely related to coaching because as coaches we are educators, and of the many titles we assume from time to time, I personally think this is one of our most important. However, I would not like to ever teach an athelte using this method because I think the learning curve is too slow and therefore inefficient. Sure, after about 20 "time outs" the little girl on the train will realize that she shouldn't act like that for her best interest, but do you as a coach have this kind of time? I know I don't.

In contrast, I prefer to actively teach athletes how to do things by using conventional teaching methods and keeping in mind all learning styles. This would include breaking down behaviors and analyzing them for better understanding. In the above example, I would rather explain the behaviors that I did not like, the effects it has on her and others, and the consequences associated with following these behaviors. If the behavior continued extensively, then I may add a punishment, but not before I had outlined the cause for action.

This may seem like a lot, especially for a 3 year old, but I think in the long run, this is a much more efficient way to teach and should be used when coaching athletes of all levels. I prefer a more interactive method of coaching and will continue to teach in this manner. I advise you to try this method of teaching if you think if would work in your situation. Ultimately, efficiency is about doing what works for you and your system. Thank you for reading.

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