Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Knowledge coaching and players

Here's a great quote: "what a coach knows but his players don't is irrelevant when it comes to winning games". This I interpret, as a coach, is your goal is to convey information about the game, the situation, and the skill to your players. This passing of information is done at practice and in games.

Pictured Above: Some Goaltimate action in Hyde park.

Seems simple, but there's the classic communication channel that makes it hard. Any message is never completely received and internalized. Even a simplified communication model with a sender and receiver is never perfect, and all of a sudden, we as coaches are faced with communicating with groups of 10 or more. Each receiver has its' own bias, learning methods, and previous state of mind. In other words, it's not simple.

I won't say that I have all the answers, but here are some techniques that I've felt had positive results. I'm basing the quality of my results by observing the changes in player and team adjustment.

  • Repeat - Repeating the message and repeating the drill is a classic technique that we've all been exposed to. The challenge is how much repetition before people get bored and block out the learning. One secret is the next point...
  • Incremental - Teach concepts by incrementing the amount of information. The challenge here is the imbalances of preexisting knowlegde, and time constraints on your team.
  • Blackboard it - I like to talk theory (obviously) and draw theory and then practice it. We blackboard with release of documents that specify theory, we illustrate plays with the classic hat X and O work, and we review practices on a blog trying to reemphasize the major points.
  • Be transparent - There's no why/because. Everything that you do and your plans need to be open to the team. In a few cases, surprises can be kept back to test out your team's reaction to a simulated situation, but in general, if they know the plan, then they can prepare themselves for it. I find this one is challenging for practices since the plan evolves, and I don't always have tonnes of time to prepare. At least, I tell the team what we're doing at the start of a practice.
  • Take questions - This one is always tricky since questions can dominate time. Also, try to stay away from the whatif questions.
  • Don't bore them - We need to communicate, but doing and adjusting people while drilling is just as valuable. Studies have shown that we don't have great attention spans, so keep the messages short and sweet.