A few months ago, I was asked to cover a tennis coaching session with a group of 10-11 year old children. For the main part of the session the children focused on moving their opponents so that they could get into a position to finish the point. This was then followed by a competition in which the children tried out what they had learned during the main part of the session. At the end of the session as we were clearing the equipment away, one of the players came up to me with a big smile on his face and told me how pleased he was with a shot he had hit in the competition. With great excitement, he said, ‘And I hit it like this………and he couldn’t get it back.’ As he was telling me, he was showing me how he hit it with his racket. To let him know that I had heard him I said, ‘So what is it you were doing with your racket again?’
‘I was hitting it like this.’
‘Oh I see, you were hitting it with the racket face slightly open and he couldn’t get it back..’
‘Yeah, yeah’ that’s right!’
In this particular situation, the young player had discovered something which was important to his game – how the angle of his racket had impacted on the type of shot he’d made. When I was listening to him, I noticed that he was also showing me with his racket what he had done. By listening to both his verbal and non-verbal cues I realise now that this is what helped me to find a follow on question to what he had said.
Sometimes at the end of a lesson where a coach might be hurrying to get off court and thinking about moving onto their session, there can be a tendency, as in the example above to just say, ‘Ah, that’s great.’ Followed quickly by, ‘Ok guys, come on… lets get the equipment in…come on now…let’s hurry up!’ Unfortunately, the result is a missed opportunity to let the young player know that he has been heard and what he has said is of value. Being able to switch our attention in order to listen fully even for just a few seconds, will have a positive impact on a child’s enthusiasm for learning and confidence.