How We Learn As Coaches: Informal v Formal Learning - Lloyd Owers

This piece has been written by Lloyd Owers, who you can find on Twitter here.

Regardless of the type of coach you may be, the leader you come across as to your players or the types of sessions you deliver, you will have been influenced at some point by a form of learning – whether this is coach education or life experiences.


Coaches may gain roles through playing experience (or sometimes because they are the only parent who volunteers!) but understanding how best to facilitate and support coach learning has been a key area of interest for coach educators for a long period of time (Purdy 2018).


Did your initial learning come from a coaching course? Maybe. Did it come from talking about football with somebody? Probably. And there’s the difference – a large portion of coach education is coming in the informal ‘form’.


Studies have been undertaken to look at which is better, and ultimately that is determined by individuals and what works for them. The good thing with coach education courses is that they can be sequenced alongside standardised measurements, for example, learning specific methods to gain a qualification at the end, but tutors and learners alike will agree on one thing – practice on the grass makes the best coaches!


So, you see the formal learning positives, learning important content and how to apply it. Another key benefit is that those qualifications are the ones that ‘open doors’ and allow for better job opportunities. But the importance of informal learning is lifelong and can benefit anyone at any level.


Informal Learning comes in the form of learning without a learning purpose in mind, for example, discussions, observations and just maybe a general chat over coffee. Watching others and how they work; talking to others about their ideas – both key areas of learning which can be applied to other settings.


Informal learning can happen at any stage of the game by any role within it. You may have just started coaching or you may be at the highest possible levels with a UEFA Pro Licence, but that informal learning is hugely important – it may change your philosophy. It may change how you talk to players. It may also change the way you see the game. So give it a go, talk football, watch football and improve without knowing about it!


Ref: Purdy, L. 2018. Sports Coaching: The Basics. London: Routledge.


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