Dec 29

The Coaching “Toolbox” and the Impact on Learning

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Many of us have a ‘Toolbox’ somewhere around our living quarters so we can build, renovate or repair ‘things.’ We add new tools or replace the old ones. Let’s apply this concept to the teaching/ coaching of sport activities.

The Coaching ‘Toolbox’ presents a long-term vision with carefully planned progressions and methods to accomplish that vision. It not only includes physical, technical, and mental ‘preparation tools’ in the given sport, swimming in our case, but also those tools to develop lifetime skills for athletes. Are You, the Coach, in that mind-set? Are You expanding ‘Your Toolbox’ in a creative path? This means to ‘fix things’ with notoriety, providing hints, cues, implementing novel teaching tools or equipment, and presenting a variety of learning scenarios to your athletes.

There are several questions one has to address:

a) What are the desired Final Outcomes of the Program?

b) What is the Coach’s responsibility to make sure these Outcomes are achieved?

c) What is the Coach’s overall accountability for the Program?


In addition, properly selected ‘cues’ to create images, the so-called ‘mental, thought or mind pictures’ is important because they stimulate skill development and performance of younger athletes. After all, “ideas are the beginning of all achievement” (Bruce Lee, cited in Little, “Striking thoughts Bruce Lee’s wisdom for daily living”, p. 47, 2000). Athletes should be encouraged to create their own mental pictures because it empowers them and makes their involvement more meaningful. They share their personal ‘word list’ with the coach, which makes for better ‘two-way’ Athlete-Coach interaction, and is more positive and constructive. Most importantly, continuous application of these mental images by both coach and athletes reinforces the focus on technical skills when performing later on.

This brings us to the next step, the actual teaching/coaching process. It involves progressive planning for each training session, successful delivery of the overall training session, and evaluation of athletes and coaches at the end of each session (very often overlooked!).


They are based on the following pedagogical principles and steps:


  • The Pre-impact
    • Planning Warm-up and Cool-down activities, progression and sequence of physical and technical skills presented as Themes
  • The Impact
    • Delivery, i.e. the training session
  • The Post-impact
    • Reflection and Evaluation of the training session and performance
    • This also includes the reflection by the coach or coaching staff:
      • Was the plan completed?
      • What could have been taught better?
      • What was good?
      • What should be retaught, re-emphasized, or refined?


Teaching and Coaching is Progressive and Sequential

I consider ‘good teaching and coaching’ as a progressive, sequential, and creative process. How do we achieve that? The science of teaching/coaching methodology is called pedagogy, derived from classical Greek it translates as ‘leading/educating’ whereby the pedagogue is the teacher/coach, whose educational process is critical – not some random, haphazard approach! It entails not only methods but also a plan of vision. Think of progression as the horizontal and sequence as the vertical column.

In European sport training, children are exposed from the beginning to movement education with gymnastic-type activities as the main focus, and the are introduced to the Six Dominant Movement patterns with so-called Movement Themes. The latter entail skills that combine basic motor fundamentals and movement concepts to develop progressively more intricate and complex movement patterns (refining), which apply later to any sport.

The following Movement Patterns are based on these gymnastic-type activities (recreational not competitive)/games), and the integrated physical preparation, which again transfers to any sport (swimming in our case):


  1. Locomotion- dynamic movement

Moving forward – back­ward – sideways – diagonal – circular

Any sport movement or skills (for Swimming: swim strokes, starts, turns, underwater skills)

  1. Spring- includes height and flight

Centering over the base of support in take-off

  1. Landing- dynamic and static balance, and control

Centering over the base of support at landing

Any sport (for Swimming: starts into the water and entry, airborne position after starts)

  1. Balance- static and dynamic

Control when moving or in stationary position

Any sport or movement or skill (for Swimming: starting block platform, take-off, airborne position, entry into the water)

  1. Rotation- pivot, turning in various degrees, spinning

Awareness in space

Correct placement of Center of Gravity

Centering over the base of support

Control of rotational speed

Control of acceleration-deceleration

Any sport movement or skill (for Swimming: Turns)

  1. Swing- static and dynamic balance, and control

Correct placement of Center of Gravity

Centering over the base of support

Awareness of correct and incorrect weight shift

Any sport or specific sport movement or skills (for Swimming: arm movement in starts, arm recovery)



The Six Movement Patterns also include the following Themes:


  1. What moves the Body?
  • Body parts-

Arms, legs, head, body, body roll, wrists, hands, fingers, feet, and toes

  • Body actions-

Bending (contraction), stretching (extension), twisting (rotation) such as bending at the hips, knees, trunk, joints

  1. Where does Movement take place?
  • Areas-

a) Personal space – all sports: in relation to self, partner, group (for Swimming: circle swimming, starting platform, turns)

b) General space – all sports: arena, court, field, rink, track lane, etc. (for Swimming: pool, swim lane)

c) Equipment space – all sports: ball, net, goal, hockey stick, racket (for Swimming: starting platform, lane rope, kickboard)

Dimensions of Space-

a. Direction– forward – back­ward – sideways – diagonal – circular

b. Level– on floor, very low – low – medium – high – very high – standing – standing on a surface, platform, diving board, skis, skate board, snow board, etc.

c. Plane– frontal – horizontal – sagittal

d. Range- small – medium – large

e. Pathway- straight – curve – peripheral – angular (straight line – flight pattern)

f. Length – Width – Depth

Quality of Movement-

a) Time

b) Force

c) Rhythm

  • Body Action Effort-

Synchronization – opposition

  • Relationship between body parts-

Arms, legs, head, body (for Swimming: stroke timing and rhythm)

  • Movement Aesthetics-

Flow of movement

Smooth transition in movement patterns, sequences, and series


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