3 questions every coach must ask (Coaching series part 2)

I remember during my university days, I took a module in coaching science called “Coaching Process”. We were prompted/forced to become “reflective practitioners”…. I hated it. Having to constantly write about how things did or didn’t work, who it affected, how it could have gone better blah, blah, blah. It was boring, required lots of time and I didn’t see the point of it.

Fast forward some years and I now see just how useful this habit is. In fact if you’re into Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins etc you probably know how much they engage in this task and promote it for self development. It’s rumoured that Sir Alex Ferguson has a record of every session he ever delivered. I guess my previous dislike for this task was based on the fact that I was forced to do it. However, this practice, is essential to developing further as a coach. Really, as coaches we are doing this all the time. Analysing match video, reviewing drills, critiquing skills – we are always asking “How could that have gone better?” Usually this is based on the athletes in front of us, but how often do we ask these questions of ourselves?

Are you constantly tweaking your approach to coaching?

There are a number of models out there for this sort of task. Most of them are very formal and not particularly exciting. You may have come across the “Plan, Do Review” template for example. These don’t tend to make you want to do it, at least not very often. However, recently I’ve come across a much easier to grasp model, with the sort of language that makes it accessible to coaches and doesn’t take a ridiculous amount of time to engage in, maybe 5 minutes. Believe it or not, this model comes from the nursing profession…
So enter Rolf et al (2001) with 3 easy questions:

  1. What?
  2. So what?
  3. Now what?


Put your coaching under the magnifying glass…

This basically related to the context or challenge encountered. Describe what happened. What was good or bad? Was it great/poor session? Was there some communication breakdown with my athlete? Was I disorganised, too inflexible, too authoritarian, too democratic etc? What was the problem? What was my response/the responses of others? What was my  role in the problem? What were the consequences?
Eg. “1 drill I had planned didn’t work. I didn’t plan for so many athletes to attend. They weren’t engaged and were stood around for too long, getting distracted and fooling around.”
So what?
This relates to the issue. What does this tell about me/my athlete/my team? What was my motivation? What could/should I do better? What is my new understanding of what happened?
Eg. “I didn’t plan this session properly. I should have had a contingency plan for larger numbers and kept the drills short and sharp. Perhaps breaking them into smaller groups or arranging alternative drills for them to work on in between. Maybe I could do with an assistant coach to help with coach to player numbers. Maybe before sessions I will brief athletes on why we are doing the drill to help with engagement.”
Now what?
Time for some action. What could I do in the future to overcome this problem? What might be the consequences? What could I do to improve my coaching?
Eg. “I will start each session with a briefing after the warm up. I will tell them what we are doing and why. Next time I will break them into smaller groups and give each group a different drill to work on. Then I will rotate groups every 5-10 minutes. I will also try to recruit a coaching assistant to help with managing the session.”
You may find this best to do directly after a session, or potentially directly after an issue or challenge has arisen. You might like to do it in a written form, or simply ask yourself these questions mentally, or even record them in your voice notes on a phone. The link below has some useful questions to help in this process. Go back and review your notes occasionally. Are you still making the same errors or are you growing and developing? If you are still making the same mistakes then remember the words of Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results…”
If you enjoyed this post, please like, comment and share. You can also stay up to date with the latest content by liking us on Facebook.
Are you a grassroots youth sport coach or PE teacher who wants to improve the athleticism of your athletes?? Check out our Fundamental series athletic development programs here.
Questions based on Rolfe’s model