Aug 29

Reasons for a Program and Coaching Philosophy – Part B

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My doctoral dissertation dealt with the comparison of teaching/coaching styles and the effect on performance outcomes by Novice College swimmers in a 12-week period. The study is one of the first in the USA to examine factors, which link coaching style, and performance to qualitative data. In the mid-test (after 6 weeks) the swimmers taught by the autocratic style were superior in performance to those taught with the learner-centered style. I have to admit that I was disappointed but I had a hunch that at the end the results could be more supportive to my thesis statement. Indeed, after 12 weeks the performance (skills tests) of both groups was equal although there was one major difference.

The anxiety scores (heart rate and other somatic symptoms) were significantly higher because of perceived stress and fear of failure. The social and somatic stress questionnaire as well as the somatic anxiety tests revealed significant differences. Importantly, swimmers in the autocratic group indicated in the written feedback “they were glad the class finally was finished.” They implied that they had no intentions to enroll in advanced classes or continue swimming for leisure or enjoyment. Most stated that despite passing the skills tests they “hated their experience.”

On the other hand, the swimmers in the eclectic group indicated future enrolment into swimming classes, taking up swimming during noon-hour recreation and for outside leisure pursuit. Overall, ‘learner-centered’ swimmers enjoyed the social supportive environment, which decreased their apprehension. They also felt more motivated to learn and improve. As a teacher and coach I learned that teaching/coaching/learning is an intricate process. Successful teaching and learning depends on the ability to adjust, modify and experiment.

At times, this may include some ‘risk taking’ and sometimes it may not be ‘what everyone else is doing or expects you to do.’ Thor Ole Rimejorde, the Mastermind of Norwegian elite sports, believes in “daring to do it differently.” He went so far as firing many elite coaches because they were “stuck in the traditional mold.”

Modern coaching pedagogy (science of learning and teaching) encourages you to utilize a variety of teaching/coaching styles (there are twelve styles) depending on the ‘teachable moment’ and to take into consideration individual learning styles (there are seven styles). One of the biggest mistakes we continue to make in coaching is to group participants homogeneously (it’s easier) and to assume that all children learn at the same time or at the same rate. Of course, there are also times to be direct and use the authoritarian approach. Nonetheless, when we select a particular style we have to be aware that we shape and reinforce attitudes and acceptance toward adult leadership and authority in general. We always need to remember we are supposed to assist in the overall or holistic development of sports participants and guide their behavior.

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