Reflective Practice


The previous Blog was about coaching philosophy and for me reflective practice is what helps you both check your philosophy and helps you develop it as you grow as a coach. Furthermore it is often suggested that in order to be an effective coach one must participate in reflection and also to learn from such experiences.

Let me give you an example, my philosophy is very clear around player development and an athlete centred approach and this this is why this example haunts me. A number of weeks ago during an advanced session I took control of the class because the aims were not being hit as quickly as I had envisaged. For many this might seem the right thing to do, but for me this isn’t as it doesn’t fit with my beliefs. We got some quick fixes and the majority of the children were then performing as I had hoped. However, one child disengaged from the practice and even commented “this is boring” my reply as ashamed as I am to say it was “you are welcome to sit out at any time”. The incident passed, the player got half involved and the majority of the group got the results they had hoped for.

It usually takes me 30-40 minutes to get home after sessions and this is my time for reflection. This incident as soon as I had quiet time hit me like a sledge hammer, why did I behave like that, why did I respond to a simple statement with such negativity, why did I take his comment personally, why didn’t I find out why it was boring and so on?

I needed deeper understanding of why I behaved like that, I wouldn’t normally I would ask why was it boring, I would ask the rest of the group, I would ask how can we improve it, what else could we do, so why didn’t I?

I still haven’t come up with the answers as to why, it could be because I lost my way a little and was using a command style which I am uncomfortable with, it could be because I had wrestled control when normally the children would have it, it could be that I was just tired from a long day. To be totally frank it doesn’t matter why, what matters is that I understood through reflection that it was the wrong thing to do and was not in keeping with my philosophy. I spoke to the child in question a few days later and he apologised for being rude, which made my guilt worse and I apologised for being arrogant we shook hands and played 1v1.

Now this is the key to it all, within 40 minutes of our mutual apology another boy who was being coached in our session albeit by another coach came up to me and said I don’t like this session I want to go home. We’ve been here before so we went to one side had a sit down and we found out it was because his mates were in one group and he’d been split up and just wanted to be with them, easy fix.

But was this just an easy fix, without the previous reflective activity would the original behaviour simply have repeated itself perhaps being framed as poor process but good outcome or if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. But instead through deep understanding of ones own actions, a reflective practitioner looks back at their own practice with objectivity and considers how they can improve. They are not happy to cruise along but instead look for the best possible practices.

This process can sometimes be a painful and difficult one, it is often the case that ones own biggest critic is themselves and the act of looking within can cause much discomfort. But it is also suggested that in order to become the best you can be requires you to remove yourself from your comfort zone.

It is suggested therefore that to become an effective coach firstly a clear and well thought out philosophy is decided and shared, and once this is in place a coach regularly and with objectivity self monitors their practice then if required adjusts and obtains the required tools in order that they may undertake to become what they envisage: an effective coach.

Note: I do not believe myself to be an expert coach but I am simply researching what is believed to become such. I am trying to learn the tools of an effective coach and apply them to my practice. This blog is simply my own opinion shaped by both extensive reading and personal experience and welcome any debate, support or counter argument.