Great Coaching: A Classroom Lesson

Last December, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article in the New Yorker titled “Most Likely to Succeed” which compared teacher performance to NFL quarterbacks, because both are nearly impossible to predict in advance.

The article describes several commonalities used to identify great teachers.

“Among them is ‘regard for student perspective’; that is, a teacher’s knack for allowing students some flexibility in how they become engaged in the classroom. ..’These are three and four-year-olds. At this age, when kids show their engagement, it’s not like the way we show our engagement, where we look alert. They’re leaning forward and wriggling. That’s their way of doing it. And a good teacher doesn’t interpret it as bad behavior.”

The first lesson is to allow the freedom to engage with the learning without automatically dismissing the players’ behavior as “goofing off.” Kinesthetic learners, for instance, tend to stand in the back and mimic the action of the coach.

Many see this as disruptive or even disrespectful. However, a good coach understands his players’ learning styles and knows who needs to feel their way through the learning, rather than just hearing instructions or seeing a demonstration.

“Of all the teacher elements analyzed by the Virginia group, feedback – a direct, personal response by a teacher to a specific statement by a student – seems to be most closely linked to academic success.”

The second lesson is that making a specific, individual response to a player’s action enhances the player’s learning.

Finally, anchoring the instruction around the children enhances their learning. Rather than randomly instructing a skill, anchor the skill in terms of their performance. If you want to practice help defense, show a small bit of film covering help defense in a previous game to illustrate the need for the instruction and personalize it.

A coach’s ability to instruct and meet the players’ learning needs has a great impact on a coach’s success, and these three ideas should enhance a coach’s effectiveness.

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

1 thought on “Great Coaching: A Classroom Lesson

  • The following was comment was left by a high school coach on another site:

    “I like this. As an English teacher, I have to identify each student’s learning style and tailor my instruction/expectations accordingly. When coaching, I’ve recently realized how effective using film first or at the very least whiteboarding the Xs and Os first (visual learning) before doing a walk through (kinesthetic learning) can be. “

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