Take two

Second session back, my ‘coaching legs’ are just about stable and the initial anxieties of session one all but vanished. My intention, from the conclusion of session one was to improve on my delivery, have more courage to implement the whole of my plan as opposed to just the small sided games. I wanted to see the constraints applied to the players exploration of tactical knowledge and execution and promote a two-way challenge between coach and athlete. In short, I wanted to foster a new way of thinking, one that reveals basketball players as more than empty vessels awaiting content through instruction and direction.

During my nine to five I have occasion to deliver different sports. This week I had engaged with volleyball and introduced several concepts associated with differentiation to enable students to explore coaching pedagogy, and in particular the application of the STEPS principle. We played volleyball with balls of various shapes and sizes, we reduced the court parameters and the number of participants per team, and most controversial of all, we introduced the ‘catch’ as a recognised shot. Our small-sided games were meaningful, spirited and a great deal of fun. I wanted to apply the same thinking and doing to my basketball practice. So, with a pep in my step I marched into session two ready to continue my courageous endeavour, one that would separate us from the traditional doing of historic basketball practice. Unfortunately, it was not to be, I was greeted with a new presence to our practice setting, a higher being, one that insisted that we “watch them play” in a bid to identify and select ‘talent’ for our flagship programme.

I did my best to interact with players, discuss their previous years experiences why they waited for their turn. I gained some satisfaction in the fact that the sixty or so young people were playing sport, they were engaged in what I had once called a three-dimensional dance, and all seemed happy to be back playing. I on the other hand wanted more for them. I had planned, anticipated, and pictured a very different two hours of learning and exploration. Perhaps that was my coach-centred self framing the ‘perfect’ practice environment? I hope not. I merely wanted to return to practice and employ the actions and reactions deemed appropriate within a coach setting.

I left practice less than satisfied, disappointed in my inability to ‘push back’, to challenge convention and move us to a more contemporary way of doing. I sat and reflected on what had passed. The young basketball players, for the most part were smiling, happy, sometimes loud, and all the time playing or waiting to play. Surely that should be the victory? I wasn’t so sure. I retreated to my ‘position statement’, my reason for coaching and for appointing myself as coach. I saw fun, respect, honesty, effortful engagement, and learning. It might have been chaotic, but it was very close to be all of the things I strive for. It just looked different. Much of the associated research literature refers to coaching in this vein. Perhaps the session was more of a success than I wish to admit? Who knows?

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