Success Versus Learning

Coaching epiphanies, like other epiphanies, can come at any time.  In my experience they come most often after two often unrelated thoughts that are bouncing around in my head careen into each other and are suddenly considered together.

One such epiphany occurred while I was working with the Australian team.  The team would travel for weeks at a time but some players would have to remain behind and train in small groups of four or five players, maybe less.  Inevitably, upon return the review of the responsible coach was that the ‘homebound’ players had significantly improved.  Equally inevitably, upon returning to team training those players had barely improved, if at all.

Now I knew that the coach was a good and conscientious coach who was working the players well.  And I knew that the players were fully present and motivated to improve, after all their friends were all off travelling the world.  But somehow the work they were doing didn’t translate into actual performance.  There must be something else at play there.

I was reminded of that story as I read this review article.  The particularly relevant phrase here being; “you cannot directly measure or observe learning per se. … Instead it can be inferred by 2 principles – “retention” and “transfer””.  The point being that success in a drill does not equate to learning.  It does not matter how many successes you have in a drill it matters how many successes you have in the following match.  The way I often put it is that the match is a test or exam of the coach’s work.  The coach works / practices during the week and is tested in competition.  Given the performance in competition, the coach can (more or less) perfectly judge the quality of his work (i.e. practice).

The rest of the article is great too.

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Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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