They Call Us “Coach”: 3 Ways To Effectively Teach Sport


You haven’t taught until they’ve learned. –John Wooden

I love that quotation, because isn’t that what it’s all about?  As a matter of fact, I’ll take it one step further.  Can we really call ourselves “coaches” if our athletes don’t learn about their sport? If we are to call ourselves teachers of sport, then we’ve got to figure out how to unlock the key to each of our athletes…if we don’t, then we’ve failed them.

I remember the interview for my first head coaching job and the athletic director asked me the standard, “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” question and I’ll never forget what I told him.  After I listed off what I thought were my strengths, I told him that my biggest weakness was I talked too much.  He smiled and asked me to elaborate.  I went on to tell him that I thought I spent a significant amount of time explaining drills and talking about team stuff.  Even as a new coach, I understood that the more time I spent talking about volleyball was time the team was not playing volleyball.  And I think we can all agree that the more the team can touch the volleyball, the better.  When I first started coaching, though, it was almost like I thought I could will the team to have my same understanding of the sport.

I’ve always believed that a good coach can get what’s in her head across to her team in a manner that they can understand.  Does it help the team to have a former all-American as a coach if she lacks the skills to transfer her knowledge over?  I don’t think so!  In my Greatness 101 series, there’s a post about the master coach (click here to read it) who teaches each athlete differently according to what they need and how they process.  Most of us have a preferred method for learning.  Of course that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn in other manners, there’s just one that you feel more comfortable with.  I mention that not just for your dealings with your team, but to remind you that every one of your team members will not be like you.  You may thrive on watching film, but what if someone on your team really needs to hear information for it to sink in?

All folks are motivated in different ways, so let’s look at the…

**3 Ways You Can Coach the Same Athletes the Same Skill**

Visual: Film, dry erase boards, scouting reports…these are what visual learners thrive on.  Keep these things in mind for your time-outs and team meetings as well.  If you’ve got visual learners on your team and you’re just yapping away, they may not be absorbing as much information as you’d like.

Verbal: These folks’ eyes glaze over if your team is watching film and when you hand out the scouting report?  They glance over it and wait for you to verbalize what’s written on the paper they’re holding.  They’re the players that you can give instructions to mid-game and they put it into action immediately.

Hands-on: This one is harder to do in game situations, but it’s great for practices.  Sometimes you’ve got to physically place the athlete in the position that you want them to be in for that light to go off in their head.  Hands-on learners can listen to you talk, watch film and nod knowingly…but they won’t truly have grasped the information until you put them out on the court.

I’m sure this isn’t anything you weren’t already aware of, but hopefully it served as a good reminder for you that you can use with your teams.