This post from the Drowning in the Shallow blog effectively outlines the direction I am trying to move as a coach, and the direction I want all of our youth coaches to move in long-term:
Ok, so why is this way better than another? I recently started implementing this in our McKinney Silver and Gold 1 swim practices with incredible results - parents who have been there have probably observed that I have moved to a heavily whiteboard-based instruction technique. At the end of every set, I am completely silent until the kids have one hand on the wall, heads above water and eyes on me, and I won't show them the next set until this happens. I honestly didn't know what to expect the first week I did this - would they just horse around for 20 minutes until I finally gave up and yelled in despair? Would we get in and out of the pool 15 times until everyone got the discipline part right and we didn't do any actual triathlon practice?
However, the actual results were awesome - the first couple of times kids were a bit confused, but instead of just telling them why we were doing it, I asked them to tell me why. A few got it right away, and then started explaining it to their teammates. By the end of the first practice, the ones who got it were marshaling the others at the end of every set so that whenever it was time for instruction I had a row of eyes quietly waiting to be told the next set. The last two weeks have been some of the most productive swim practices I have ever coached.
But this still doesn't answer why this method is effective - to answer that question, I have to fall back on an article from Sports Coach UK about self-determination theory that explains the three key components to a quality youth sport experience that this method provides:
- Autonomy - Athletes feel like they have "control over their own actions," which let's them take ownership of the experience.
- Competence - Athletes feel like they "possess adequate ability," and that as the coach I trust them to play an active role in the process of training.
- Relatedness - Athletes "feel like they belong," and are an important component of the group, because we don't start a set until everyone is ready to listen and cooperate.
More on self-determination theory another day. I think it is key to creating a team culture that creates and sustains great athletes and people!
For now, I think we can all try out the "Silent Coach" method to help our kids own their sport experience and have the ability to make mistakes and learn from them.
Have a great Monday,