Stuck for Something to Say? – How about asking?

A couple of weeks ago, I was assessing a level 2 UKCC qualification in tennis and I noticed a trainee coach struggling for something to say to one of his pupils during his on-court assessment.  He had set up a drill which involved the players hitting cross court for depth, and he had explained and demonstrated the importance of the racket angle and the speed of swing in order to achieve this. During the drill, he seemed desparate to instruct and give feedback to the players as he went round. However, when he came to one player who was consistently hitting the ball deep, he seemed to be lost for something to say and  just stood there for a moment, before walking on looking a little uncomfortable.  Afterwards, he said he thought the player seemed to be doing everything he had told them to do and wasnt sure what else he could tell him. We discussed the possibility of reducing the target area in the drill and giving specific feedback. Sometimes, there can become a sense of urgency around the  need to tell and impart information, when in fact all we really need to do, is to check how much our children are focussed and help them to maintain that focus.  One way in which we can do this by asking them for their experience, as in the exercise above,  ‘What do you notice the most, the angle of the racket, or speed of the racket swing?  Or, on a scale of 1-10, how fast you are swinging your racket to achieve that depth?

There can be times as coaches when we can feel there is little more we can do to help. When Sir Steve Redgrave and Mike Holmes were training for their 1st pairs gold medal, their coach Mike Sprechlen found the use of questioning a huge gift. Having shared all of his technical expertise with them, and with the additional use of  video feedback sessions, Sprechlen recognised that they were feeling things that he couldn’t see and found the use of questioning enormously beneficial such as, ‘ Using a 1-10 scale, how much are you two in synchronised timing on the catch?’  This helped not only Redgrave and Holmes increase their awareness, but helped him as coach, learn more about their experience.

Perhaps, next time you find yourself stuck for something to say or impart, you could always ask your students for their experience of the situation?