Physical Education

‘Critically discuss the key considerations when selecting appropriate coaching styles in PE and Youth Sport, with particular reference to the learning outcomes’. When delivering a session either in Physical Education or in Youth Sport, the participants are young people normally under the age of 16. The way in which you execute and deliver a task may be the same (they are primarily in the cognitive and associative phases of learning) but the overall learning outcomes may differ slightly. In Physical education the values, which are developed, are similar, but focusing more on the introduction of sports and the mass participation. Whether as in Youth sport the focus is on ‘one sport’ and there is very much a win ethic involved. The main difference is that in PE it is a ‘formal inculcation of knowledge’ (Hill, 2001), or a taught lesson by a Teacher, compared to Youth Sport where a Coach normally delivers the session.

When the participants are young their knowledge of Sport is small, and they have not yet comprehensively learned the skills and techniques involved. Therefore the way that coachers or teachers deliver tasks should be pitched at an appropriate level to the participants, for example; in Hockey you wouldn’t teach the ‘flick shot’ to a group of novice boys, as it would be too complex for a beginner. There are many styles for how to coach/teach skills to young people. But there are two main coaching styles – autocratic (do as I say) and democratic (involve the participants in decision making). More simply there are four styles: Command (autocratic), Reciprocal, Problem solving and Discovery (reciprocal).

The characteristics of the group affect what type of coaching style you use. If the participants are novices they may need a more direct or ‘command’ style where the teacher/coach takes control. If the participants are experienced, a more democratic style of teaching is required, so that there is more input from the group and allowing individuals to make valuable contributions. Where motivation is concerned, if the performers’ motivation is low, then the coaching style should be more enthusing and reward based to increase concentration and motivation. But is motivation within the group is high then the coach can concentrate on the task, rather than trying to increase motivation. With age, the older participants get the more democratic the task should be, and the same with the responsibility level of the task. Responsibility shouldn’t be placed on young children, as it can become too complicated for them. (Mackenzie, 2004)

When participants are in the cognitive (beginner) phase of learning like many who are involved in PE or Youth Sport, it is essential for the teacher or coach to provide a general idea of the movement or task by using verbal instructions and demonstrations. Teachers/coaches should break down skills into constituent parts to simplify the task and then re-introduce them in a logical sequence or order (i.e. invasion sports; easy to difficult progressions such as initially learning to control the ball before concentrating on passing or introducing opponents gradually). Provide prescriptive feedback for error correction and motivation purposes. Employ specific practice drills and low contextual interference conditions initially i.e. only practice one skill per session.

Once participants gain a certain amount of experience in sport they begin to become more competent. This is the stage at which feedback occurs and the learner gradually becomes more aware of increasingly subtle and complex cues. Motor programmes are formed in this ‘Associative’ phase of learning (Hall et al, 1995). In this phase teachers/coaches are to encourage performers to evaluate their own performance. Also teachers should increase progressively the complexity of the task, e.g. in Football, introduce opponents, restrict time and space. Increasing the variability in practice as well as the amount of functional or contextual interference by practising more than one skill in a session, i.e. in Rugby, Tackling and Passing. (A Mark Williams et al, 2003)

In the Autonomous phase, which is the final phase of learning, the participant’s movements become almost automatic, and any distractions are ignored and the performer is able to concentrate on more peripheral strategies and tactics. Although it is very important that a coach or teacher doesn’t assume that learning has stopped. This is when a performer becomes competent in a Sport or series of movements. For a coach or teacher then, it’s important to use minimal intervention, i.e. encourage the participant to evaluate their own feedback; use demonstrations less frequently. It is essential to only deal with high components of the task. Also, present the learner with complex, realistic and challenging practice e.g. in invasion games, further restrict the time and space available to perform.

Using Football as an example, make sure the participants practice under realistic match conditions and encourage improvisation and adaptability through variety in practice (Wein, 2001). Employing high variable practice conditions and high contextual interference practice session are recommended, so you can practice more than one skill in each session. (A Mark Williams et al, 2003)

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