Article – Coaching Decision Making in Sport

Eight Recommendations for Coaching Decision Making in Sport

With the advent of the professionalization of sport over recent decades the topic of decision making has been become a major area for discussion. Whether it is Kevin Sinfield taking a strategic attacking kick to put opponents under pressure or Rory McIlroy plotting his way around the Augusta National course in pursuit of the Masters green jacket, decisions are being made constantly during games. Decision making – or makers in the case of individual sports – are integral to success of any sporting endeavour, the FIFA World Cup this year in Brazil will prove testimony to this.

Whilst some believe excellent decision makers are born, in most cases effective decision making comes from many hours of deliberate practice. Therefore, coaches should seek to maximise decision making opportunities in their coaching both inside and outside of formal coaching sessions.

Below are eight suggestions that coaches can use to stimulate decision making:

1. Involve players by empowering them to develop creative training activities

2. Create training sessions that put players in unfamiliar situations so they have to develop solutions to the problems posed

3. Create situations where players have to negotiate the actions of opponents. Rather than using static markers use players who move around to create continually changing situations that require a range of decisions to be made

4. Encourage players to question each other and provide feedback on their performance

5. Encourage deliberate practice with feedback. Apply four times the amount of praise to criticism and use positive reinforcement to challenge players. Warning….make deliberate practice player centred and enjoyable!

6. Maximise players’ exposure to as many playing situations as possible. Constant re-enforcement of playing scenarios  improves intuitive decision making

7. Avoid too much structure with younger players and encourage them with deliberate play in a wide range of sports to improve pattern recall and recognition in later stages of development (Pattern recall and recognition is the ability of a player to access information stored in memory and then reconstruct in response to a given event)

8. Playing sports of a similar type – eg invasion games such as hockey and basketball – will develop core sports skills and has been found to enhance all-round decision making ability.

Here are a few of the ideas that the young volunteers had about coaching young people.  ‘What is your top tip for coaching young people?

•Get to know the kids you coach. It makes doing planning the session easier and more fun.

•Have fun! Give the kids no option but to come back. Show enthusiasm at all times

•Make your instructions clear and precise. Keep it simple. Make sure they understand

•Ask them what they think, keep them involved and keep checking they’re enjoying it

•Join in yourself. Have a laugh. Have fun with the kids

•Get the kids to share ideas. Get the kids talking

•Respect young people in sport and how they want to play

•Have perseverance

•Always have new ideas. Use your imagination

•Be open minded. Don’t think you’re always right

•Adapt the session for the area and participants. Do more classes for young people with disability