Coaches are Teachers
‘If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn’
Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Estrada
The great NFL coach Vince Lombardi once said, “They call it coaching, but it is teaching. You do not just tell them it is so; you show them the reasons why it is so. Then you repeat and repeat until they are convinced, until they know.”
To be successful, coaches must be competent teachers, and there are some important lessons a coach can learn from classroom practitioners to abstract the best performance from their players. Coaching is teaching and the parallels drawn from each craft are such that they need to be spoken about in unison. However, before you can teach and pass on your wisdom and knowledge, the key ingredient you need to establish, are positive relationships with your players. You might be the best coach tactically with the most extensive knowledge; however, if you are unable to connect and build a rapport with your playing group, then the rest does not matter.
Teaching and coaching is not an exact science meaning you should continue to develop your craft over the journey of your career as a life-long learner. Professor Dylan William, an educational expert in teacher quality said, “Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.”
Teachers can make a large and positive difference to how well children perform at school, just the same as a coach, but unfortunately, not all teachers and coaches do. The reality is that some teachers are far more effective than other teachers, just as some coaches are far more effective than other coaches. So, what separates the good practitioners from the great ones and what are key factors that makes the biggest difference in the classroom or in the case of coaching, your ‘football club’ environment, in terms of getting successful outcomes from your players?
To unpack this question further, we need to look closely at John Hattie’s Meta- Analyses study, conducted by researchers from all over the world, which included over 50,000 individual studies and over 250 million students. Meta-analyses is a method designed to increase the reliability of research by combining and analyzing the results of all known trials of the same product or experiments on the same subject.
His research developed a way of ranking various influences in different meta-analyses related to learning and achievement according to their effect sizes. In his ground-breaking study “Visible Learning,” he ranked 138 influences that are related to learning outcomes from very positive effects to very negative effects.
Visible learning means an enhanced role for teachers, as they become evaluators of their own teaching. According to John Hattie, visible learning and teaching occurs when teachers create the conditions necessary for students to become their own teachers.
In summary, an effect size of 0.4 is the average teacher effect on students that can be accomplished in one year of teaching, or in football terms, one season. In comparison, an effect size of 0.15 means that students could achieve this by just getting older, without having to go to school or training. Therefore, any effect size that is greater than 0.4 is what you should be striving for and incorporate into your practices. The higher the number, the greater the improvement.
A couple of these size effects will probably shock you and do not automatically lead to the fast tracking of students.
• Mentoring (0.15)
• Teacher education (0.12)
• Ability grouping (0.15)
• Gender (0.12)
The key takeaway from these results is that teachers and coaches should not assume that by just knowing the content will automatically correlate to you being a good teacher or coach.
The areas that indicate strong progression in student outcomes, in order of effectiveness are:
• Student expectations (1.44). This strategy involves the teacher finding out what the student expectations are for the learning and pushing the learner to exceed these expectations. Once a student has performed at a level beyond their own expectations they gain confidence in their learning ability.
• Providing formative evaluation (0.90). This is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures conducted by teachers during the learning process to check for understanding. This allows the teacher to modify teaching and learning activities when necessary to improve student learning.
• Teacher clarity (0.75). One of the main components of visible learning is about the importance of clearly communicating the learning intention of the lesson, or in football terms, session and the success criteria. Clear learning intentions describe the skills, knowledge, attitudes and values the student needs to learn. Success criteria describes what success looks like when the learning intention is reached.
• Teacher/student relationship (0.75). Some teachers take this for granted. If they like and respect you, they will want to learn what you are teaching.
• Teacher feedback (0.73). Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on learning and achievement, but the impact can be positive or negative. Feedback on task, process and self-regulation level is far more effective than on self- level (e.g. praise which contains no learning information). The most powerful feedback is that given from the student to the teacher as this allows teachers to see learning through the eyes of their students.
• Prior achievement (0.67) and engaging prior knowledge to complete a task.
• Teaching strategies (0.60), direct instruction (0.59), and problem solving (0.61) allows students to create a plan, understand a problem, check for understanding, and embrace the learning environment (0.69).
• Mastery learning (0.58). This involves teaching small chunks of information and providing feedback until it is mastered by the student/s.
• Providing exemplars and articulating what you want and are looking for in the learning, (0.57) enhances student’s knowledge.
• Student goal setting and understanding the learning intention (0.56) will bridge the gap between old and new learning of information.
• Motivation (0.48) and self-concept (0.46) all have a positive impact on the learning environment.
It is important to note that clubs/coaches need to look at the evaluations and comments and decide whether it will make enough of a difference for their players. This 0.4 hinge point is not designed to make decisions, but instead to start discussions about the effect coaches can have on players.
TRANSFERRING TEACHER KNOWLEDGE TO COACHING
Examining the teaching profession in more detail should now give you a better insight into your role as a coach. All coaches should begin with a philosophy on coaching which is set on principles and beliefs that form the basis of your decisions and actions. Your coaching philosophy not only guides you, but also the players within your team.
As a coach you will create a dynamic philosophy that will continue to evolve throughout your coaching career. Your philosophy is shaped by the experiences you gain working with different players in various situations and should comprise of the values that you hold in the highest regard.
Developing your coaching philosophy is the essential ingredient in identifying the purpose of your coaching and your leadership style. What people want from a leader is a person who sets clear, consistent expectations, values their unique qualities, and creates an environment where they can do their best work.
It needs to be acknowledged that coaching can be a difficult job. It is a position that is often done in a public fishbowl. Coaching is one of those jobs where your effectiveness is often measured by something that is totally out of your control: winning and losing. In many situations, ineffective coaches achieve team success, due to them being lucky enough to have great players in their squad, making winning more easily. Similarly, you could be a wonderful coach and teacher, but because of a lack of player talent, luck, or other circumstances beyond your control, your win-loss record judges you. When reflecting and evaluating your effectiveness, stay true to yourself and make sure you look at the whole picture, rather than the win-loss column.
In summary, there is no one common attribute that an excellent coach possesses. The best coaches can be comprised of many different characteristics and come from many different backgrounds within their sport. By definition, a coach is “a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes”. However, a coach can be anyone who chooses to empower others. It can be a teacher, mentor, or a parent. A coach can impart valuable life lessons and develop leaders.
As a coach you should never underestimate the enormous impact you can have on the young men and women with whom you interact. We are not sure if many coaches realise how they exponentially impact other people through what they teach. So, as a coach, never underestimate the significance of your contribution. You have a tremendous opportunity to add value to someone’s life and in return you will actually add value to your own life.