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Question That Question



COACH LEE GARLICK IS AN EXPERIENCED YOUTH COACH, QUALIFIED WITH UEFA A LICENCE, FA ADVANCED YOUTH AWARD & BSC (HONS) SPORTS & EXERCISE SCIENCE. HE IS CURRENTLY HEAD OF COACHING & COACH MENTOR WITH EXPERIENCE OF COACHING & MENTORING FROM GRASS ROOTS TO THE PROFESSIONAL GAME. coachgarlick.co.uk

(Article first published on Lee's website, 10th January, 2018)

With the introduction of the FA Youth Award qualification, and increased knowledge around the benefits of challenging young players to think independently to solve problems, a definite shift towards favouring questioning as a coaching style has emerged in modern day youth coaching. And rightly so, after all a good friend of mine by the name of Socrates famously quoted that “education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

That’s all well and good, however merely using a question does not necessarily mean that a player has accrued “additional learning” over say a command, or even no instruction whatsoever. How often do we ask a question of our players, and immediately receive a barrage of buzz words being thrown back at us? “Press!”, “Recycle!”, “Lock on in the half space of the mid-third and encourage the penetrative slipped pass coach!” Not bad responses from our 8 year olds hey?

If we as coaches ask questions which require one specific answer, this may not actually be testing the understanding or problem-solving abilities of our players, but merely their ability to recite answers which the coach has previously shared. In essence we are testing memory, not understanding.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example of a common coach-player questioning scenario…

Coach: “What should you do if there’s space in front of you?”

Player: “Pass?”

Coach: “Maybe, what else?”

Player: “Run with the ball”

Coach: ” Yes, that’s it! Excellent!”

This example suggests that there is only one correct action in the given example (running the ball), however is this to say that a pass cannot be an effective choice? Often as coaches we enter a question with a predetermined answer in our minds which we are hoping to receive from our players. This is all well and good, but as mentioned above may well suggest that only one answer is correct, and in fact on,y serves to test the recital ability of our players.

To encourage and enhance the problem solving or learning of our players, we as coaches must structure our questions in a way which will allow players to come up with solutions (alone or with the help of their peers) and have the confidence to explore and run with such ideas. Do we always have to provide “a right answer” or a “solution” to every question we ask, or would it be more valuable to leave our players wrestling with a challenge, exploring various solutions before revisiting later to discuss what options worked and which ones proved less effective?

I guess this may break the trend a little.

As a coach there is often an expectation to be the fountain of knowledge and to fulfill a role of parting knowledge onto our players, however if we want independent thinkers with the ability to solve problems on the field, then I believe it is our duty to prepare them adequately through our actions on the training ground.

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