2.1.1 Review – evaluate practice sessions
Just like a team’s performance at games, some practice sessions will be better than others and the coach should review each session to determine what worked well (and do it again) and what was not as effective (and vary it for next time). This is part of a coach’s reflective cycle.
At the end of each practice session, coaches should make a brief evaluation of the session, which may include recording:
- performance in particular activities (e.g. number of lay-ups made in a certain time in an activity). This can be used from session to session to track improvement;
- any variations to an activity that the coach used, particularly if the activity had been too easy or too hard for the team;
- any particular areas that the coach believes need further work. It is very important in a training session to resist continuing with an activity until it is “perfect” – i.e. going for longer than planned. This will reduce the time available for other parts of the session. Instead, the coach can record what else needs to be done at the next practice session;
- where particular activities worked well, or did not work well;
- any observations regarding the performance of individual players and areas for continued work or progression of their skill learning;
- possible goals to emphasise at the next game;
- thoughts on particular activities or skills that need to be a focus in the next practice.
It can be very effective to film a practice session and to review the video. Obviously, this will help the coach to identify skill areas that may need to improve (individual and team); but more importantly, it can help the coach to identify:
- how well players were involved in the practice – were they standing around too long?
- how effective the coach was in giving instructions – could all players hear? Where all players listening?
- whether the players were given sufficient opportunity to practice – or did the coach talk for too long?
Many coaches will not have the luxury of being able to film practice sessions, but having a colleague watch a practice session, or asking players for feedback, can be just as beneficial. This person watching does not necessarily need to understand the specific basketball activities or skills as their observation as to how the session was conducted is not basketball-specific.
The coach should also keep a record of who attended the session and any injuries or restrictions on players being able to participate.
The coach may want to look specifically at their own performance rather than just the overall practice session and to do this it is very helpful to have video footage of the session, or have a colleague observe the session. The aim of this detailed analysis is to determine:
- what coaching task the coach is performing;
- what were their specific coaching actions?
- what is the context?
There are 3 main coaching tasks. The degree to which a coach will do each task in any given practice will depend upon the goals of that practice and the resources available.
This is the organisational side of coaching. It is all the practical things that a coach does to make sure the training session runs smoothly. Sometimes a coach may delegate tasks to an assistant or even the players.
Is what coaches do to develop the skills and strategic understanding of their athletes.
This refers to the human relations dimension of coaching. It is how the coach relates to the athletes and the type of social climate that the coach’s style of coaching fosters.
Coaching tasks often overlap. Teaching and managing are closely linked and communicating is a broader task, relating to almost everything that you do. Below are some examples of coaching tasks:
“ Give me 3 groups on the baseline, each group needs a ball.”
“ Chin the ball, never bring it below shoulder height when you are in the key”
“ Happy birthday Jaz, did you get some good presents?”
Coaching actions are all the observable things that a coach does when they are performing their role as a coach, whether those things they are verbal or non-verbal.
“This session we are going to work on our defensive footwork against a post player.”
“You need to straighten your arm as you shoot the ball.”
Patting a player on the back after a good performance.
“You need to pass to your left, with your left hand. If you use your right hand, the defender will be able to easily deflect the pass.”
“When you move toward the basket, which foot should you move first?”
The final factor that is relevant when evaluating a coach’s performance is the context, which is the background to the coach’s actions. The coaching context will often impact what the coaches want to do, how they do it and how effective it is.
Clearly, the same action taken in different contexts can lead to very different results. For example, the coach raising their voice and yelling may be OK when coaching an experienced team of older players but may have a very detrimental effect on very young players.
However, the coaching context for this purpose is more about the context that impacts upon the coach. For example:
What is happening?
Who are the participants?
When? What part of the season?
What part of the training session?
Where? Does the space/location and equipment affect your coaching?
Why? Are there any other factors to explain aspects of the coach’s behaviour?
In some practice sessions the coach may do very little teaching because the focus of the session may be on having players execute skills that they can already perform well in training and need to improve under “game-like” pressure.
Coach Evaluation Model
The following model maps out the relevant features of actions, tasks and context which are considered when evaluating coaching. The three coaching tasks are placed at the centre – with managing and teaching overlapping, and communicating being a broader function that includes the other two. Of the various coaching actions, listening is deliberately the largest and this reflects its critical importance.
The coach should try to be objective when analysing their coaching – this could simply be looking at what they are doing and not considering whether or not it is being done well. This will help the coach to ensure that they don’t overlook the various aspects of what they are doing.
In identifying what they were doing, a coach may identify that they did not undertake certain coaching actions. This is quite normal, as not every action will be involved in every session. And some actions (e.g. preparing) may be mostly done prior to the session.
However, subject to any particular context, the coach should expect to spend most of their time teaching, rather than managing. If they find that they are doing a lot of managing tasks then they may wish to identify if some tasks could:
- be delegated to someone else (e.g. assistant coach, team manager, players or parents);
- be done more effectively by conducting a smaller number of activities but varying the activities to increase complexity and to address different teaching points;
- allow more time before stopping an activity – observe and see if the players can figure out how to do the activity;
- use cue words more effectively;
- be planned differently – e.g. by designating which groups players will be in before training, or having a team rule that half the team must wear white and half a different colour shirt (to help dividing into groups);
- use similar activities from one training to another so that they are not constantly needing to explain how a new activity works.