Smith and Smoll (2007) suggest that the actions of a coach have an impact on how people, particularly children and young people, perceive and react to their sport experiences. But that as coaches, we aren’t always as aware as we might be of our actions, how they are perceived by the participant, and the impact they have. I don’t think it’s a huge leap to consider that this may well be the case for the wider club environment/experience. So how do we find out more about these perceptions and experiences? Well… in a club of 200 members, you may well have 200 different individual perceptions of experience. Or when coaching a group of 20 young people – again each individual may well perceive their experience in a slightly different way, based on various factors.
To change anything for the better, often we first need to shine a light on our own thinking and disrupt our perspectives, biases and assumptions – the ‘unfreeze’ stage of change (Lewin, 1947). In the context of coaching and sports club experiences we might consider the immediate participant experience and the wider eco-system that surrounds the club and its people.
A useful tool to consider the factors that influence immediate participant experience is The Personal Assets Framework for Sport (Côté, Turnnidge & Evans, 2014; Vierimaa, Turnnidge, Burner & Côté, 2017). This framework highlights three dynamic elements of Personal Engagement in Activities, Quality Social Dynamics, and Appropriate Settings. Personal Engagement refers to the activities, games and practices that we as coaches create and lead to engage participants. Quality Social Dynamics addresses the crucial aspect of coach-participant relationships and interactions between peers within the session, while Appropriate Settings refers to the suitability of the physical environment.
(Adapted from Côté, 2014; Vierimaa et al, 2017)
· Our intentions or objectives· How we structure the activities we use· The coaching behaviours we adopt during the session· How we engage with the participants, how the participants engage with each other, and how they engage with the activity
(Adapted from Muir, 2018)
Are there differences between our intentions and both our experiences and those of our participants? Have we become aware of perspectives that we weren’t previously? And what might we do now in how we design and deliver future sessions?
As well as immediate in-session experiences, there are a range of wider influences on participant experiences, as well as the experiences of club coaches, parents and volunteers – whose experiences are also important to consider, not least because they are significant enables and influencers of participant experience. Some of these considerations and influences are summarised in the image below.
- What could we, as a club, start doing to make experiences better?
- What could we, as a club, stop doing to make experiences better?
- What do we, as a club, do well already and should continue?
- What do we do a little bit, that we could do more to make experiences better?
This could be done through a club online survey, or even better though individual or group conversations where you can follow-up to find out even more. Remember the club experiences of coaches, volunteers and parents are important too!
Great experiences are more likely in a positive club environment. So what does a good children’s sports environment look like? Well… every context is slightly different and every individual is slightly different, but a good starting point would be to consider how your club’s practice compares to the iCoachKids pledge:
- Be CHILD-CENTRED
- Be HOLISTIC
- Be INCLUSIVE
- Make it FUN and SAFE
- Prioritise the LOVE for sport above LEARNING sport
- Focus on FOUNDATIONAL skills
- Engage PARENTS positively
- Plan PROGRESSIVE programmes
- Use different methods to ENHANCE LEARNING
- Use COMPETITION in a developmental way
Why not set aside a little time in the coming weeks to find out some more about the various perspectives and experiences, in-session and/or more broadly, of those involved in your club?
By Simon Toole, Coaching Consultant, Sport Northern Ireland
@CoachingTooleS @SportNINet #SportNILearning
Further information on some of the content and concepts shared above can be found through the following resources:
- The Personal Assets Framework: https://community.ukcoaching.org/spaces/17/coaching-children-ages-5-12/blogs/general/15123/a-framework-for-positive-youth-development-in-sport
- Coaching Practice Planning & Reflection: https://www.ukcoaching.org/resources/topics/podcasts/coach-developer-conservations-(s2)-(ep-11)-bob
- The iCoachKids Pledge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZyDO9rLr4o
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