Critically evaluate the coaching programmes delivered by your group in the four selected sports.  This should include astute analytical observations of the sports delivered by your individual team.



Students from the college of St Mark and St John were split into four groups each group delivering one coaching session as part of the Advanced Coaching module.  Each session had individual video analysis and augmented feedback available from an established coach, Kelvin Kirk, as well as their peers. All groups had approximately 15 students of mixed abilities with the duration of the session lasting approximately 60 minutes.  This essay will examine the sessions delivered; in a chronological order; over a four-week period encompassing netball, badminton, football and rugby.



The first coaching programme was netball delivered indoors with all the equipment waiting to be used.  However, because the students arrived prior to the start time they started to play with the equipment, many students were kicking and throwing the netballs. The equipment could have been moved out of the reach of the awaiting students or clear instructions given which may have alleviated this problem.  The phrase ‘first impressions count’ left this group looking quite unprofessional. The warm up incorporated three netballs to be thrown at random; by the students; to each other whilst running.  This was better than line drills or just fitness but the coaches failed to control the group enough.  Many students were walking rather then running and after a short time all students seemed to congregate in one half of the playing area.  Consequently many students may not have been totally warmed up to safely negotiate the session, although it should be noted that the session was indoors with the heating on.  The start was good in terms of getting individuals to communicate early in the session by calling for the ball and players attention which is vitally important in team games. Credit should also be given for the novel question and answer style used during the stretching, giving the students physiological reason for such stretches. 


The session moved on to various passes on a 1v1 basis however as the group soon picked up the skills, it could have been moved on much quicker.  After a time the passing was made more difficult with the introduction of a defender in a ‘piggy in the middle’ style game.  This was much too easy for the passers and much too hard for the defender who grew tired and uninterested very quickly. It may be suggested that 3v2 would have increased the pressure on the passers and alleviated the difficulty on the defenders whilst allowing for co-operation between the two. All throughout his part of the session very little 1 to 1 or personal coaching took place and compounded with the difficulty of the ‘piggy in the middle’ this part of the session soon became boring.  By stark contrast the small-sided (4v4) game worked very well and included the introduction of limited rules.  Adding the element of competition re-ignited the session however once again very little personal coaching was observed.


The warm down was effective but dull and no recap meant the session fizzled out. Despite the problems observed, on the whole most students learnt something from the session and it must be remembered that this was the first session many of them had ever given.



Badminton was also coached indoors with four full size courts laid out.  Students were met and a register called which stopped the playing with equipment. The warm up was not very effective and consisted of balancing or bouncing a shuttlecock during a relay race. This meant that many students, due to their skill level, could do no more than walk.  A better practice could have involved playing air shots in an imaginary game combined with short sprints and jumps to increase the heart rate. A whistle was used which may be considered as unnecessary as the session was indoors but having decided to use it, the whistle was used half-heartedly and was ineffective.


Good explanations and demonstrations were used before each new shot was introduced.  All students were called in centrally to watch and the demonstrations were inspiring which gave many a goal to aim for.  Students were allowed to practice for each shot in the form of mini competitions between the pairs although, not enough time was allowed for the students to practice or in terms of personal coaching and consequently the progression (doubles) came too early.  Moving from a ratio of shuttlecock to player of 1:1 to 1:4 in the form of doubles greatly decreased the contact time for the students and it may have been better to have just played singles. The final progression consisted of a game of ‘killer’ played over two courts and was a great success, although the less skilled players went out the earliest and these students actually needed the most practice.  The activity descended into a spectacle of the better players and it may have been more prudent to have a tiered system played on two courts thus catering for both skill levels.


Again the warm down was effective but dull with no recap or summary and the session ended rather abruptly.  The session will be remembered for the excellent demonstrations although it is pity that such talent was not passed on to the students.



Delivery of the football was outside on the Astroturf and encompassed the skills of passing and shooting.  Students were greeted with mannerisms and idiosyncrasies depicting lethargy not enthusiasm. The warm up was creative using dribbling and foot control games such as ‘body parts ‘ and ‘traffic lights.’ The latter game involved the recognising of different coloured cones for different skills. Although one member of the group was colour blind limited effort was used to help him with a coach telling the individual what skill was required.  This made the individual stand out and could have been simply alleviated by changing the colours of the cones to white and red.  The warm up had the scope to work the students quite hard but failed to do so, which could be due to the lack of enthusiasm projected by the coach.


The session moved on to a passing square, which was made more difficult than necessary by the poor communication of the coach who only spoke to half of the group.  The coaches did not inject any personality or enthusiasm into the practice and it became mundane. The practice could have been better if an element of competition had been added for instance ‘Lets see the first team to complete ten passes.’ This practice then progressed to a game of ‘splits’ with 3v2 although the level appeared to be too high with some students unable to pass the ball let alone play the game.  The coaches failed to step in and rectify this problem leaving the poorer players confused and the better players annoyed.


The shooting session had the same problem of not being basic enough and as a result some students shooting was not affected.  At this juncture personal coaching was needed for the less skilled students. More proficient players could have still been involved if a basic drill had been used by giving them harder shooting tasks at the same target as the weaker players. The final progression was a shooting game in a small area where the emphasis was on quick shooting. One of the students was kicked accidentally and injured because he did not have any shin guards on, which actually should have been checked at the start of the session.  The area was too small for all the students and the coaches lacked control, thus the game descended into a melee of bad tackles and poor shooting.


The warm down was equally as unenthusiastic and dull as the start with one of the coaches saying ‘I know it’s a pain in the ass but we’ve got to do it.’ With no summary this was by far the poorest session and it finished with many students happy that the ordeal was over.




The rugby session sought to coach passing and handling skills on the all-weather surface. The session was well laid out prior to the arrival of the students with all grids coned off and a reception area.  Students were briefed on what was expected of them and the session to come. The coaches were split so that as one was coaching, one was ready to receive the next group and the others were setting up, thus allowing for the seamless flow of activities.

The warm up tried to be interesting and different by playing a game of ‘bulldog.’ However, due to the competitiveness of the students it may be questioned as to whether they should have been sprinting so early in the warm up. This needed to be managed more closely so that a gentle progression was achieved. The area used could also of been larger to accommodate more width and more balls should have been used to increase the options of the catchers. As it was dry and sunny, this part of the session may have been better played on the grass, affording better protection for the students.

The session moved on to lateral line passing in groups of five, which created a bit of unopposed realism, and the crossover forced the students to look for space. During this phase more personal coaching could have been used. This progressed to grid work of 2v1 encompassing the dummy and committing the defender.  The coach injected real enthusiasm to this part of the session and this was reflected in the effort of the students.  This part moved quicker than planned and therefore the ‘overlap or scissors’ was introduced. This was only made possible by having a good knowledge of the subject being coached and it may be suggested that it is increasingly more difficult to coach a sport that one is less familiar with. The progression from this was to 3v2 although this was too difficult initially. The area was also too narrow and had to be widened during the session, although this does show that the coach understood what was going wrong and could correct it. This part would have been better served starting with 4v2 then moving to 3v2 allowing the students a better success rate initially and in terms of numbers, making it easier for the coach to organise.  The session moved back to line drills in order to incorporate the ‘miss pass’ and all other taught passes but now passively opposed in the line, putting the students under pressure.  The final progression took the form of a conditioned tag rugby game. The sides were purposely imbalanced in order to forcefully create space, thus generating the practiced scenarios in a game situation. Again the initial playing area was not wide enough but credit to the coaching staff that noticed the problem and corrected it. Some of the coaching staff joined in with the game to generate certain plays but withdrew as the students gained in confidence.


The warm down was very good utilising the ‘Aukland Square’ and kept the students interest all the way to the end of the session. This was the only group to recap on the sessions coaching points using a question and answer scenario, which would have increased the knowledge retention of the students.  Overall an excellent session but there is always room for improvement and it may be suggested that the sick and injured could have been involved in someway by recording scores or helping with equipment.  It must be remembered that this was the last session of the four and this group of coaches had the benefit of the previous three groups sessions and their debriefs.


In summary most coaching groups did improve over the four-week period and all of the individuals learned a great deal about themselves as well as the skill of coaching.  All of the sessions did have room for improvement and as the observations showed practice seems to breed confidence.  Most of the coaches would probably suggest that if they had to do it again their sessions would be much improved but this is only possible through the cyclical process of modification and evaluation.


Critically examine the utilisation of coaching strategies and styles in a range of sports.  Illustrate your knowledge by referring to practical examples in a sport of your choice together, with pertinent academic reference.



Modern society has embraced sport, which has now become a social phenomenon of vast complexity and magnitude.   The media has elevated many (not all) sports, players, officials and coaches to a previously unsurpassed level.  Many national and international coaches increasingly find their decisions and methodologies scrutinised and dissected in full public view.  This essay will give preference to the elite coach in terms of style and strategy drawing reference from a wide range of sports.  A plethora of coaching strategies are said to be available to the coach but focus will be given to feedback and planning.  Many eminent individuals have written about style, and although the language is often different, the essence may be considered the same. 


Style may be considered the interaction and communication between coach and performer/s.  Although style could be seen as sitting on a continuum (see fig 1) three distinct styles come to the fore. This essay intends to examine the command, co-operative and submissive styles which will be shaped by the personality traits of the coach.  Tutko and Richards (1971) found the three most common of these traits to be the hard-nosed authoritarian, the nice guy and the intense or driven (Insight, 2000).  The style one utilises when coaching must take into account the athletes individuality.  No two players are the same and by this very nature decisions concerning training should be made with each individual in mind. 


“ It does not take an astute coach long to realise that athletes within a team are quite different.  They have different performance and fitness attributes, life-styles and nutritional preferences, and they respond to the physical and social environments of training in their own unique ways.”


(Rushall & Pyke. 1990.)


Thus style could be seen as straddling a continuum incorporating differing levels of input from the coach and performer. (See fig 1.) Due to such individuality however one particular style may come to the fore during certain circumstances.




  As figure 1 shows the command style is a coach-centred approach with all decisions from pre-impact to post-impact being taken by the coach (Boyce, 1992). This level of control may be considered as a necessity during training that could be dangerous.  Sports such as American football, climbing and rugby are potential hazards if not controlled or managed safely.  The latter sport with unprotected impact must have a safety first orientation, commands given by the coach must be carried out to the letter in order to avoid injury and accident.  The level of control may be released gradually over time as the performers become accustomed and proficient with the phase of play being coached.  This may cause difficulties with regard to effecting the realism of the practice but an injured performer is an even worse scenario.


Attaining the correct level of discipline may require the use of the command style. In a recent article in the Daily Telegraph the present Newcastle soccer coach, Bobby Robson, claimed that when he first arrived at the club there was a problem with players messing around and not taking in the information during training. Robson tightened up discipline at the club and asked for greater professionalism especially from the more senior players, thus Newcastle’s resurgence could suggest a degree of success on Robson’s part.  Some players may react differently however, such as Stan Collymore formerly of Liverpool, Aston Villa and now Leicester football clubs.  It is well documented that he is a difficult player to coach and many clubs have transferred him for what may be considered his behaviour and not his football. This may suggest that the coaches have failed to understand Collymore’s individuality or equally it could be down to the player not being worth the effort required which may be the reason so many clubs have let him go.


Total direction from the coach relies heavily on the quality and knowledge of that coach however, it may be suggested that creative or spontaneous play may be stifled under this strict control and may not produce inspirational or freethinking players.  It may therefore be suggested that this style is suited to coaching teams that may need much control and direction.  This style would also seem to favour closed skill sports like tennis or golf, as the performer has limited decision making to do (Boyce,1992).


The co-operative style works as a partnership and openly requests input and decision making by the performer.  Martens (1997) suggests that this style fosters athletes first and winning second.  Words such as guided discovery, practice, question and answer, show and ask are all used to force the performers to think and make choices.  Performers are given freedom of expression and encouraged to find solutions to their problems themselves.  The coach builds this form of discovery into the training, subtly directing the practice to his and the performers chosen goals.  The coach allows the performer to make mistakes and then learn from them.  This generates decision-making and experimenting, which is necessary to master sports pertaining to open skills.


The final end of the continuum sees the performer having the greatest input or control. This may take the form of self or team analysis commonly carried out via video playback.  Whereas in the previous category the coach leads the feedback, in this the submissive category the players analyse their own performance and that of their peers (Insight, 1999. p19).  The elite performers such as Eric Cantona and Diego Maradonna were great soccer players who often stayed behind after training honing their skills without the aid of a coach, although it may be argued that they were only practicing closed skills such as free kicks.  Golfers and cricketers can be seen practicing after a bad shot, which is only possible if the performer understands the mechanics of the particular motor control they are trying to replicate.  At the elite level such is the exceptional skill of the performers that new and previously unseen forms appear.  For example, Jim Furyk has a very unorthodox golf swing but is still ranked in the world top ten, Ian Botham arguably England’s best cricket all-rounder invented the backhand sweep and the Cryuff turn did not exist until Johane Cryuff himself invented it, thus these skills were previously unable to be taught by the coach.  This extra freedom allows the elite performer to explore a natural ability that the coach may have little understanding of and therefore, it could be argued that the coach can also learn from the performer which could ultimately improve the coach’s repertoire.


“No one style is necessarily right or wrong. Each has a place in a particular situation or with a certain performer.  The important issue is that coaching should develop a range of styles beyond their preferred or most comfortable, so they can select the most appropriate style for a particular individual or group, in any situation.”  (NCF. 1999. P43)



The FA concurs with the NCF suggesting in its Coaching and Education Scheme (FACC. 1997) that being able to change methods is an important skill in effective coaching.  Thus it could be suggested style transcends both player and coach in that their coaching relationship will change as will their styles ultimately creating a pastiche of style.


 “I want the same tempo on the eighteenth green that I have on the first.” (Sam Snead. Undated, Sports Illustrated.)  This holistic view of the performance relates to the smoothness and consistency of technique required throughout the event.  Strategies are possibly a way of producing that consistency;  and moreover at the elite level it is concerned with making the performer familiar and comfortable with an almost predictable environment.  Coaching may be described as an art and a science, both of which have a role in the development of the performer (NCF, 1999).  Evidence of the sports  science can be seen with the influx of nutrition, psychology, biomechanics and physiology into the coaching arena. However no matter how much empirical data is collected, it is useless until interpreted by a good coach who can then formulate a plan of action. 


Sport has become a truly global activity for the elite performer and with this comes the potential hazards of different climates, altitudes and to a certain extent different playing surfaces.  Acclimatisation to the performer’s environment is broader than it may first appear and the coach must plan well in advance to predict when these changes in the athlete’s schedule will occur.  This is evident with tennis and the Wimbledon (grass) tournament.  Top players are often entered into the preceding Queens tournament, which is a

lesser venue but has the benefit of a grass surface.


However the top performers  can be seen as victims of their own success.  For example Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson is well documented as suggesting that the schedule for English teams is too congested coupled with success in the Champions League or FA cup and soon they could be playing three times a week.  Although it is accepted that there is little control over the number of games played their forward planning has produced player rotation systems and a bigger squad, which eases the physical pressure on the individual player.  Similar set ups can also be observed at Chelsea and Arsenal football clubs.  Setting up a calendar framework such as the dates of the FA Cup, Champions League and important domestic fixtures is not enough and must be accompanied by the build up process to the chosen events often referred to as peaking.   Having agreed the goal it is the task of the coach to prepare the performer for a specific event on a specific date.  The same is also true in other sports, for example in the recent Anderson Consulting Golf World Match play Tiger Woods was beaten in the final by Darren Clarke some twenty places behind Woods in the world rankings.  Woods having played successfully all week with arguably his best golf during the semi-final against the world number two saw a dip in his game during the final, which may suggest that Woods peaked too early for this competition.


Arguably the one of the most important strategies available to the coach is the use of feedback as Bilodeau suggests,

“…performance fails to improve unless feedback is introduced; performance improves with feedback; and performance either deteriorates if feedback is withdrawn, or shows no further improvement.”

(1969. p260)


Rushall and Sidentop describe the two main types that exist as intrinsic and artificial (1972).  Intrinsic feedback (IF) allows the performer to evaluate their responses often called the knowledge of results (KR), which can be observed with individual skills such as serving in tennis, shooting in soccer and hitting the green in golf.    Artificial feedback (AF) is information not available during performance and is added by the coach for evaluation purposes.  This could take the form of verbal comments, sports science equipment and video analysis, however research results for this kind of feedback are not encouraging (Bilodeau,  1969) and he further suggests that performance was increased during the presence of AF but deteriorates once it is removed.  The success of this augmented feedback relies heavily on whether it can call attention to intrinsic cues.  After all there is no point relying upon information, which will not be there when training has finished and it could be suggested therefore, that the task of the coach is to make all kinds of feedback eventually intrinsic.  A performer may require to be placed in a particular position in order to generate the ‘feel’ as demonstrated in coaching ‘the roll’ in canoeing. For example, the coach moves the performers limbs and paddle into position in order for the performer to feel for the surface of the water.  Providing KR or generating ‘feel’ allows the performer to practice without the constant presence of the coach and may well be suited to coaching teams or large groups.  It also allows the performer to proceed at there own pace. However the initial learning and generating of KR or ‘feel’ is time consuming and is probably best served in a one to one situation.


In summary, having examined the evidence the principle of individuality, in that every athlete will be different, seems to be the pre-cursor to the mix of styles adopted, however this is tempered by the coach’s own personality.  The continuum theory sits well with these findings allowing for a plethora of style mixes for any given coach or situation, therefore mastery of a range of styles will allow the coach to better communicate to the performer/s and possibly become an all round better coach.   A close relationship should form between players and coach and as this relationship grows and changes so will the coaching style.  At the elite level the evidence suggests that there is value in making room for the exceptional performer who may challenge the coach’s existing conventions.


Planning seems to be the pre-cursor for other coaching strategies in that this provides focus, motivation and direction. Planning gives structure not only to the performer but also the coach and allows the coach to address potential situations before they arise.  Although it is accepted that planning is required at all levels, the evidence suggests that the more successful teams are likely to have a more congested schedule and therefore have a greater need for planning. Having created a plan, the route to achieving your aim is unlikely to be successful without the use of feedback, as the evidences suggests feedback actually improves performance.  AF is to be used with caution as it creates a situation that is not part of the athlete’s actual performance moreover; the crux for success seems to be in making AF eventually intrinsic. However, it is accepted that AF is part of a process of eventually getting feedback to be intrinsic, although the journey to this will involve initial uses of other forms of feedback and the results may however, never be totally intrinsic.

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