Walkin (2010) suggest that we “learn by interacting with people, places and things”. If I may, I would like to add that in order for learning to occur, there must be the means, opportunity and motivation to increase ones comprehension of a subject, activity or domain. In other words, the self must wish to learn.
The week has been tough, but has presented numerous opportunities, both formal, informal and non-formal for me to advance my knowledge and understanding within the field of basketball coaching. In particular, it has spotlighted the wealth of expertise present within the game of basketball and the depth of the coach market place. In short, my learning has been vast but chaotic. As such, it would be difficult for me to document precisely my learning gains as my mind as been in a continuous state of firing, manifested within the many lectures, discussions, clinics and coaching conversations. The challenge for me now is to dissect the vast reams of information and reconstruct some sensibility that is applicable to my context and my aspirations of being an effective basketball coach.
As a starting point, I see my pre-season self revisiting the concept of planning. I think I can continue to improve in this area and potentially see some gain from a more effective and efficient approach to session, game and season planning. For example, within one of our discussion sessions, Trinic suggested that practice planning was an important part of guiding the development of individual players, managing the time that we have within our team and clearly defining the short and long term goals of our programmes. To support the development of planning we were introduced to an online system that we could both access and utilise to improve our approach to planning and scheduling. I believe for me, the software will promote a more systematic approach to my planning activities as well as provide me with a central and secure site for all my coaching documentation.
The observation of the FIBA U16 Boys European Championships presented themselves as really interesting learning moments. As a collective group we sat in a specific part of the arena and the din of the many coaching conversations could be heard ringing around the walls of the venue. However, what struck me was the presence of subjectivity, evident in the range of differentiation within our individual observations and opinions. I often struggle with the prevalence of anecdotal thinking over a more informed approach to developing basketball, particularly in the UK. However, on this occasion I found the variance in thinking to be stimulating as it occurred to me that my 67 new found colleagues in arms were mediating their observations through their own personal experiences, their knowledge and expertise. As such, considering that coaching is thought of as a social activity, the event would most likely be framed by each individual coach based on the social and cultural lens through which they viewed the game. I spent some time adjusting my lens and interpreting what it was I saw unfold in front of me. My frame was the U16 Boy’s competition back home.
During these learning activities, I spent a great deal of time observing the various coaches, and although I could not understand the different languages, the gestures, tone, pitch and body shapes revealed a great deal to me. For example, the Greek coach was very demonstrative throughout all of their games, he appeared to challenge all of his players individually, particularly when they made what he considered to be a mistake. Cushion (2006) and many other researchers of standing continue to refer to this approach to practice as traditional in nature, and aligned to a coach-centred methodology (Kidman, 2010). In fact, in my humble opinion, I witnessed the coach ‘break’ two or three of his players, taking away their independence and confidence. I felt this was visible in their body language and in their apparent searching for validation and reconnection following the berating. One particular instance stands out for me, a player had driven baseline and made a good baseline pass to a team mate in the corner. Unfortunately, the player dropped the ball and it went out of bounds. The coach appeared to be beside himself, gesturing angrily towards the player. I felt, at this point, that it had become obvious that the player had withdrawn from the game and from his individual role on the court. He was subsequently substituted out of the game and then subjected to a further scolding from his coach.
We debated this approach on many occasions throughout the course of the week. I got the sense that many of my peers agreed with a more servant or transformational approach to coaching practice. There was some talk of athlete-centred, although I am not sure how much of this concept was truly understood. Personally, I had changed my opinion, only slightly, but I had allowed room within my coach self to grant differing approaches a 2nd chance. I saw an element of discipline within many of the coaches thinking and I found it hard to disagree with. I guess at the heart of an effective coach is a situational approach to all that is coaching.