Evaluation Of A Netball Coaching Session

The responsibility of a coach is to develop an athlete’s physical, technical, tactical and mental abilities. Moreover, their overall aim is to win in competition. As Martens(1987) suggests, one of the most important roles of the coach in competitive sport is to help athletes become more proficient in their performance. A good quality coach, meeting these criteria will be identified as ‘superior.’ The media may play a role in developing a coach’s portfolio focusing on their athletes’ wins and strategies. However, just focusing on wins/losses may prove to be limiting. There are many superior coaches who are not so well known and coach at a lower competitive level. Accordingly to Horne(2008)effective coaching is defined as, that which results in successful performance outcomes, wins/losses, self-perceived performance abilities or positive psychological response of the athlete. In relation to netball, by the coach adopting suitable leadership behaviour she is able to extract positive actions from the player to achieve set goals within competition/practice situations. As Bompa(1983)suggests, this role can include a wide range of tasks from sequential development/mastery of basic skills for beginners, to the more specialised physical, technical, tactical and psychological preparation of elite athletes. Subsequently, according to Horn(1992)the type of leadership behaviour exhibited by the coach can have a significant effect on the performance/psychological well being of the athlete. As Sherman,Fuller&Speed(2000) states, athletes partaking in netball specified that positive feedback, training and instruction, together with democratic behaviour were preferred coaching methods to social support and autocratic behaviour.

Coaching behaviours, therefore, are important; one tool to measure this is, the Coaching Behaviour Assessment System, Lacy&Darst(1985). Research on this aspect provides valuable information relating to leadership styles/feedback patterns and expectancy effects. However, it does not provide an insight into an athlete’s actual experience of being coached. As Valle,King&Halling(1989)suggests, in recent decades the definition of psychology was expanded to incorporate the study of both human behaviour/experience. Subsequently, the majority of research relating to coaching has focused on the behavioural/ordinary effectiveness, rather than the experimental/extraordinary greatness. When using these theories in netball the coach will need to be able to identify individual characteristics of particular players, including their strengths/weaknesses and apply them to differing conditions in order for them to meet their objectives. As Chelladurai(1978)states, effective coaching behaviour will vary across specific contexts as the characteristics of the athletes and the prescribed situation change.

For an individual netball player to achieve improvement in athletic performance, it may be necessary for a particular coaching behaviour to be adopted to which the athlete is receptive. In netball training, it must be considered that a suitable coaching behaviour applied for one player may be an ineffective approach for another. According to Tinning(1982)a specific behaviour adopted by the coach may be more productive of certain outcomes than others. Again, the coach when reflecting on the team will need to tackle the varying needs and preferences of individual players. The coach may choose to implement either a homogenous approach, treating all the players equally, or alternatively create a heterogeneous style that gives differential treatment to individual players. Furthermore, it is paramount for the coach to be aware of the players’ coaching preferences in order to maintain motivation and enhance performance. According to Chelladurai&Carron(1978)if a coach adapts her behaviour to comply with an athletes’ preference, the athlete may be more prepared to improve their overall performance.

Another recognition of good quality netball coaching is The United Kingdom Coaching Certificate, which is an endorsement of sports-specific coach education. It ensures that the sport of netball is providing the best athlete centred coaching available in recreational, development and performance environments. It is a combined netball development between English/Welsh/Scottish netball amenities. It also encourages change in the structure/education within netball, by addressing the needs of the game by supporting the present/future players. It is a four level coaching structure, consisting of the following aspects:

What the qualified coach is able to accomplish:

4

Design, evaluate and implement the progression/outcome of long-term/specialist coaching programmes

3

Plan , analyse, implement and revise annual coaching programmes

2

Preparation of, appraise and provide coaching sessions

1

Assist more qualified coaches, conveying aspects of coaching sessions to players, normally under direct supervision

Table 1: Illustrates four level coaching structure

The advantage of the UKCC is to enable the netball coach to acquire current qualifications and be adequately assessed. There are ongoing flexible resources available to accommodate/support individual coaches/players’ needs and environment, such as improved training/quality assurance.

Furthermore, within a netball environment the UKCC will benefit the coach by providing them with UK recognised qualifications, coach centred training programmes and assist in enhancing their profile/skills.

A systematic observation/evaluation of the selected sport of netball and surrounding coaching practices has been undertaken in order to evaluate the coaching process. In observing a particular training session, the qualities/weaknesses of the coach may be identified through evaluating the processes they put into practice. The data will also help to process why preparation is required to improve the session, game/players’ skills/motivation/confidence and set/meet aims/objectives. The level of competition at which the players are competing is County/National level. The gender profile of the team concerned consists of young female participants aged 18-21, with varying degrees of expertise/fitness levels. The coach, herself, is a 32 year-old female, with a good fitness level, eight years experience and a UKCC qualification at level 2. Data collated from questionnaires completed by the coach, player and an assessor has identified positive feedback factors together with aspects that need to be addressed.

Figure 1.0 illustrates the analytical findings of the coach herself, the player’s experience and the overall assessment.

The findings from the data suggest that the coach’s self-assessment identified a shortfall in her preparation, communication/skill practice and gives her the opportunity to focus on these weaknesses. However, her assessment actually found her organisation skills to be very good, perhaps there is a lack of confidence in her actual ability. It also found her demonstration/skill practice to be of a fairly good standard, but with a little room for improvement. The data representative of the mean player, however, illustrates some problem areas, especially where communication, preparation and demonstrations are concerned. It is important for the player to feel confident in the planned session and easily understand the demonstrative skills, whether verbal/physical as this helps them to meet their goals and improve motivation. The information relating to the Assessor’s evaluation tends to suggest that organisation was of a very high standard, demonstration/skill practice and overall rating were too of a good standard, illustrating that the coach was quite enthusiastic in her approach to teaching. However, the areas of preparation/communication were identified as needing to be addressed. Improvements need to be made in preparing training sessions and ensuring equipment is adequate for the task. The coach also needs to learn how to communicate more easily both with other staff members/players. Therefore, the key areas requiring improvement are preparation/communication. The coach may need to learn new techniques relating to preparing training sessions to make them more interesting, effective/time-efficient. She may also need to adjust her method of coaching or leadership style in order to address varying individuals differently to improve communication amongst the team.

The theory of coaching itself, is a form of leadership, identifying/pursuing objectives. Particular mention should be given to the training theory, although the principles of planning incorporate a degree of habitual traits and fashion, periodisation/training loadings, the principles themselves are based on physiological/biological theories. The second term refers to the generic aspects of coaching practice/ behaviour common to all sports coaching processes. Sports coaching should be understood as a process. As Cross&Lyle(1999)suggests, the coach relationship between athlete /coach, coaching practice/behaviour, and the training/competition elements are all essentials of the coaching process.

The coach’s overall role is to improve performance in competitive sport through acquired knowledge, organisation and planning/identifying goals. Therefore, from the assessments it is evident that the netball coach seems to have adopted an authoritarian leadership style, this being dictatorial in nature with the coach making all the decisions and the athletes responding suitably to commands. However, this approach does have disadvantages, defeat may be taken badly, sensitive performers may be handled inadequately/evident high sense of anxiety in players.

This approach works on the assumption that as the coach has the necessary knowledge, experience and power, she should instruct the athletes and they should listen, absorb and comply with these instructions without retaliation. However, the model of a superior coach is to be able to communicate coaching actions/influences to the players and provide a stable environment in which to learn. They should be consistent training/relationships, be able to manage in a team environment such as netball and develop a working system. With an effective approach in place the players should know exactly what is expected of them and what they expect form their coach, allowing them to focus on their coach’s actions/their own performance and overall development. Subsequently, the relationship between the coach/athletes needs to be robust enough to convey technical skills/mentoring from the coach to the athletes. Any developmental weaknesses should be able to be identified/enhanced through the appreciation of self/other awareness. This aspect is especially important within the sport of netball to provide an efficient, competitive game plan. A coach’s performance, especially if high performance may be evaluated using athlete feedback. As Franks(2004)states, there is intrinsic feedback that athletes obtain through participating in sport ….extrinsic feedback includes knowledge of results(outcome) and knowledge of performance (process).

As seen in the observations, feedback seems to be somewhat restricted in certain areas. Obviously, this needs to be addressed in order to observe, monitor performance and correct any errors within the training session. As Martens(1997)suggests, use sight and sound in providing feedback. This is important as individuals learn in different ways some gain more from explanations, whereas others may need demonstrations.

In netball this is paramount as it can illustrate how players may refine certain movements, such as passing/shooting. Cox(1991)suggests, verbal feedback is a vitally important issue in effective coaching. It may take several different forms, each of which reinforces players in a predictable fashion. As Cox(1991) points out, four questions in order to test effectiveness verbal feedback are required. These include, are the majority of statements to athletes of value, perhaps encouraging, is corrective feedback phrases negative or positive, when coaching numerous athletes is feedback given to an athlete so that the others can hear and finally, do I give feedback to my athletes whilst they are working and practising? As feedback within the netball observation is relatively poor between coach/players, to enhance this perhaps positive praise can be given to the players only when they understand the reason for it. Corrective feedback should also be phrased in a positive way and if there is any criticism to be made it is best for this to done individually so as not to expose a player’s weakness. Finally, feedback should be given immediately after performance, rather than during it. These methods will help improve performance without affecting motivation.

Motivation is a key factor in netball as it helps to improve the players game, work and train hard to the best of their ability. If the coach is good at motivating her players they will want to play for her particular team. For good motivation this depends on who the coach is and what she actually does. Motivation can be an individual thing, some players may be motivated by the enthusiasm/caring nature of the coach, others by the desire to please the coach, but on the whole motivation is improved by a good communication relationship, the setting of goals and a vision for the future. As Wooden(2004)states, you should study/analyse each individual to find out what makes them tick, you can then get them under your control. Therefore the netball coach needs to motivate each player in the team. As stated in the theory of cognitive-evaluation Deci&Ryan(1985)and Vallerand et al(1987), this theory examines the relationship between intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, in particular the impact rewards upon behaviour and performance…athletes have two innate needs, to feel competent and self-determining in their activities (Finch,2002). The netball coach by giving her players more verbal/physical encouragement will increase their confidence and boost moral. According to Finch(2002),Duda&Treasure(2001)the theoretical perspective on athlete motivation believes that attributions affect expectations of future success or failure and the emotional reactions of performers. By reflecting on various theories, the netball coach will need to give consideration to and improve her weak communication skills.

The assessment of coaches is paramount to reflect on coaching skills and coaches can be assessed by using the Coaching Behaviour Scale for Sport(CBSS), Cote,Yardley,Hay,Sedgwick& Baker(1999). The CBSS may be applied to an athlete at one or more points in time in invasive, competitive sport, usually around mid/end of season. Data collected during the mid season will provide useful feedback to the coach, allowing any issues to be addressed in the second half of the season. An end of season evaluation is also recommended. Ideally, the athlete will meet an independent Assessor to discuss the objectives of the evaluation. An athlete’s qualitative feedback relating to their coach’s abilities to teach technical skills and set goals is important. As McKerman(1996)suggests, coach evaluations, must be an enquiry into ones own performance. One needs to have a set of questions in which answers are sought through a form of research into one’s professional practice.

Reflective practice allows a coach to appreciate varying styles/methods of coaching relevant to different individuals or age groups, an important factor in netball coaching. Therefore, without a reflective structure the coach would not be able to re-evaluate the training processes. As Pollard(2002)states, reflective teaching is applied in a cyclical process, where coach’s monitor/evaluate and adjust their own practice.

The netball coach obviously needs to reconsider her selection of relevant coaching styles to accommodate various individuals, especially those who require more independence/self-reliance to progress.

A good netball coach should be able to encourage this aspect to assist those players who require to be interdependent. By communicating with a positive clear strong voice/praising where necessary, she should make her instructions/reinforcement easy to understand.

This in turn will enhance team moral and performance. If a netball coach has necessary knowledge/experience she will be able identify any weaknesses within the team/game plan, reflecting on them accordingly. As Pollard(2002)states the importance of reflection within coaching, the process of reflective teaching supports the development/maintenance of professional expertise. Therefore, reflective practice demands a coach to honestly assess their own behaviour.

Furthermore, reflective evaluation is useful in evaluating highlights where there are social needs within a sport, for example children. This is important when planning training sessions, in order not to overload. The coach will need to identify/supervise a player who performs differently to the norm. This should in fact be nurtured, as it may be a new artistic style to be developed in the future. Experimentation of ideas may unlock an individual’s potential, however, the coach should remain decisive/positive in her actions. Failure to do so, may affect the confidence of a player and their faith in the coach. As Tolstoy(1861;1967)cited by Schon(1991)suggests, each coach must, by regarding every imperfection in the individuals comprehension not as a defect in his on instruction endeavour to develop in their selves to discovering new methods.

Sport management needs to be applied in netball coaching. The assessment on the whole seems to highlight preparation/organisation to be of a relatively good standard. Organisation will often be influenced by environmental situations in which the coach is working/structures in place. However, problem areas are evident, these relate to preparation/time-control/verbal communication. Time-keeping by individual players/training sessions is a fundamental aspect in organisation as it helps keep structure in place. It seems the relevant training session was slightly disorganised and late to start, this may have had an overall influence on coaching demonstrations, as they may have been rushed to keep to a schedule

As a manager, the coach will be responsible for developing team structure amongst the players and possibly developing the configuration of the support organisation too. Staffing involves the selection of players/assistant coaches/others to help the team achieve its goals, together with training, assigning specific duties and the provision of a working environment.

Also, the netball coach will obviously be required to direct the team with good decision-making processes to meet objectives. Finally, she should be able to control the situation, by monitoring the process of achieving team goals via necessary adjustments as/and when required.

In the planning process, the coach needs to distinguish what/and how she is going to teach her team. She should be able to recall characteristics of individual players in order to determine how much they can learn. As Martens(2004)suggests, this information may be acquired from previous training sessions and it is important to systematically evaluate the players on essential skills identified, in order to assess their starting point for instruction and how to personalise their training to maximise potential.

The netball coach should also be well acquainted with rules and technical/tactical skills of the sport. To teach beginners, she ideally must have enough knowledge as is required to teach at professional level and there must be a strong understanding of the fundamentals. As Lyle(2002) suggests, the knowledge/skills of the coach is a key feature of the implementation of the coaching process, and the form/nature of the process are likely to be shaped by these capacities and the coach’s personal characteristics/values. It is evident that the process requires direct intervention, strategic integration/ co-ordination and requires a distinctive set of skills/knowledge. As DeMarco&McCullick(1997)states, expert coaches have a thorough knowledge of the sport they coach, team/player management, coaching principles/planning skills. The use of intuition in decision making tends to differentiate between expert/less expert coaches(Jones,2006). From the observations, there seems to be concerns relating to knowledge/skills of the coach. Some of these problems may result as a direct consequence of poor communication already identified. However, within the field of netball the coach may need to apply sport-specific skills by improving planning objectives. As Lyle(2002)suggests, improvement of sport performance is the central purpose of the coaching process and a detailed knowledge/understanding of performance is essential from target setting/prediction/monitoring progression to training programme design, planning strategy and tactics. With the balance of practice/competition management together with good planning, relevant feedback/communication, the original problems encountered may be improved. Obviously, the coach will need to be fully up to date with netball training techniques/competition requirements but consideration also needs to be given to the suitability of team members to the game, whether it is skill/fitness related and she should have the necessary interpersonal skills to deal with this. As Lyle(2002)states, hereditary factors may set limits of performance. The quality of the coaching process will determine how close to those limits the athlete will reach.

Once an understanding of how athletes learn and how relevant knowledge can be conveyed to the team the coach needs to focus on sport specific skills relating to netball and how to actually teach them.

Firstly, the skill needs to be introduced by clear explanation/demonstration then put into practice and relevant feedback acquired to correct any errors. When introducing the skill the coach needs to do this with enthusiasm, expressed through words/actions, helping to make the topic interesting/productive.

When she demonstrates a particular skill it should be performed as in a competitive situation, repeated several times and explained thoroughly to accommodate individualisation and varying learning attributes. As the coach has a UKCC qualification, she should have studied these areas during her training. However, if she requires further training she will be able to this under the scheme. Many players will express an appreciation of playing for good coaches who are honest, loyal and genuine, and also willingly serve in a variety of roles that go beyond the netball court.

An individual coach’s experience will emerge in many ways and most netball players have great respect for the veteran coaches. It does seem clear from the players’ experiences that it is not about what the coach does, but how she actually does it. As Gould,Guinain,Greenleaf,Medbery&Peterson(1999)states, athletes view their coaches as teachers/mentors and friends. They also view their coaches as parental figures, Lidar,Lavyan (2002). The coach, herself, needs to relate to the players more through communicating performance information/player-roles/expectation/ individual goals and a team vision. The players are likely respond to direct, one/one comments and indirect methods. There are some variances in the validity of the results, this may be due to the effects of reflective coaching, coach/athlete may have been too lenient/harsh on themselves/others. The players may have reflected on past experiences and taken this into consideration when applying her information. Also, during assessment, environmental issues may have had an impact, or whilst the coach was assessed she may have enhanced her skills in particular areas, especially enthusiasm, however, she could not override the apparent discrepancies regarding preparation and communication.

In conclusion, critical analysis and findings in the netball data obtained has characterised six major dimensions relating to the training session, and what the players relate to superior coaching. As Hughes&Bartlett(2002)suggest, the objective analysis of sports performance must use clearly defined, relevant and valid performance indicators and the method of measurement must be demonstrated to be valid and reliable. These are, coach attributes, the environment in which they perform, the system/structures in place, good relationships between coach/players, their overall coaching actions and influences. One key point that materialised, was the importance of interaction and in this particular instance this seems to be limited. Obviously, when players first join a team, they familiarise themselves with their environment/structure/coach and hopefully a rapour develops between the coach/player, together with a feeling of unit reinforced with the team’s dress attire. These aspects actually form the backbone of good coaching practice.

Therefore, the exercise seems beneficial, as the evidence is suggestive of a lack of consistency in areas of her coaching. For future development and enhancement of overall performance the netball coach needs to focus on various attributes that compliment each other, such as interaction/relationships and communication.

 

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