“Reproductive” Approach to Coaching

The reproductive approach to coaching is where the coach adopts an “authoritarian” style, specifically directing the athletes and requiring them to make few decisions in the learning process.  This approach is most suited to the early stages of skill learning and even then should be used sparingly.

Examples of this approach are:

  • Command - a skill is demonstrated and athletes perform that skill receiving direct feedback from the coach.
  • Reciprocal - players work in pairs. Whilst one performs the designated skill their partner provides feedback. The coach gives specific criteria for the partner to provide feedback.
  • Self-Check - players work independently on a task, comparing their execution with a “checklist” prepared by the coach (which may include diagrams or photos). This may be most effective if it is filmed.
  • Inclusion - the coach designs a task that has several levels of difficulty, catering for varying levels of ability, and athletes choose to work at the level at which they feel challenged.

A coach may use a reproductive approach in parts of a training session, particularly if dividing athletes into “skill stations”, where different activities are performed in different areas of the court.

“Skill stations” can be particularly effective (and necessary) if there is a relatively large number of athletes on one court.

“Productive Approach” to Coaching

The productive approach to coaching is designed to engage the athletes in the learning process and is the one that coaches are recommended to utilize most often, even with young athletes.

Examples of a productive approach are:

  • Guided Discovery - the coach guides athletes toward identifying the appropriate “solution” through using structured questions (e.g. for concepts of play) or focusing on an outcome but allowing the player to discover how to best achieve that (e.g. skill learning – make the ball spin backwards as you shoot).
  • Problem Solving - similar to guided discovery, in this approach there might be a number of potential solutions and athletes either work by themselves or as a group.  This is most suited to complex tasks, such as improving the defensive pattern in a particular situation.

With guided discovery, it may be helpful if the coach explains why the outcome they have asked for is preferred.

For example:

- make the ball spin backwards when you shoot so that if it hits the ring it will bounce upwards and may still go in;

- shoot the ball with a high arc because it increases the mathematical chance of the ball going in,

- pass the ball in front of a moving player so they can run onto it (the player experiments with how far in front it needs to be);

Questioning the athletes is an important aspect of the productive approach to coaching, such as:

  • What are three ways your opponent may guard your cut off a down screen? What do you do in response to each method?
  • We discussed some key offensive concepts to beat a “man to man” defence.  As a defender, how would you respond to those strategies?
Mosston, M, 1966, Teaching Physical Education: from command to discovery, Charles E Merrill Books, Columbus, Ohio