For anyone that has read a tweet, blog entry or FP post published by yours truly, the sight of a fairway or trail picture is a constant to my ramblings on all matters coaching. The pictures are typically from the same golf course or MTP route and represent my multiple views, the way I frame reality from differing perspective. This is to say, each day presents a new challenge, a new problem to solve and a new way of navigating the 150-yard approach or the 15-foot drop-off.
On my drive down the A15 at 05:05 this morning I mussed over my latest offering, the sunrise drenched 13th fairway of my members club when it suddenly dawned on me. As coaches we operate in a socially constructed reality shaped by the actors and agencies that frequent our space and the multiple influences garnered by our experiential interactions. As basketball coaches we are all presented with similar issues, that of steering the 3-dimensional dance in a bid to be effective in our practice and affect positive change in the people we work with. Yes, there are levels of operation that demand subtle differences in the way we approach our coaching, but the overarching challenges are the same. Where we differ is the way we chose to tackle the challenge, how we see our charges and approach the task at hand.
My epiphany was one of social constructionism, a joined-up reality that paints a picture of coaching practice. Indeed, I am pretty sure (I don’t know for certain of course) that the UK basketball coaching community share similar views, ideologies, and ways of doing that align in some way, shape or form. This must be true as through our interactions, exchanges and debates we share ideas, learn, and teach when and where possible, and are afforded multiple opportunities to build on what we know. Yet we are all different and approach our practice in different ways. Cushion refers to this as coaching ‘in’ and ‘through’ our practice. In other words, we engage in behaviours and models of coaching as a way to solve problems and in act learning.
Perhaps, with this in mind, it is time to come together and say that what we do and how we do it ‘depends’ on the context, the level of play/competition, and the situation we are faced with. Perhaps it is time to stop worrying about ‘what’ we are doing (to a point of course) and concentrate more on why we are doing it. What do I mean? As a coach interested in what we do during our interactions I utilise the term ‘behaviours’ as a way to describe distinct actions performed by the coach at any given moment. What I gain from this is a frequency model, Coach A demonstrated x number of instructions during the timeout phases of competition. I think this is an exciting, and important starting point, one that builds on forty-plus years of systematic research into the behaviours of the coach. However, I hope to move to a very specific setting, that of basketball competition and realise exactly what it is we are doing and why.
My research to-date tells me that each coach is very different, their behavioural profiles (if you wish to use that term) paint a divergent picture of the same setting – Regional Standard Basketball Competition. Does this mean that one is more or less effective than the next practitioner? I doubt that is the case. So, what does it tell us? Much like my fairways and trails, coaching practice is a socially constructed phenomena, it is idiosyncratic, chaotic, and very much the ‘messy swamp land’ Jones described it as. It is also a similar reality, one that we must navigate together as a way of creating new meaning and new ways to make each other more effective in our individual way of doing.