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Explicit, Direct, Instruction

I am now in my second year of teaching special education. My experiences and schooling has bettered my understanding of how students learn, and even how athletes progress. In teaching, there’s a rule that states, “Don’t ask your students to do anything you haven’t taught them yet”. In coaching, this happens constantly. objectivesCoaches move right into hitting fly balls or turning double plays in the first few practices without covering the basics of what they’re looking for. I remember watching a coach, run a fly ball drill, and each athlete wasn’t performing as the coach had expected them to. A majority of their players weren’t using the correct footwork to move to the ball. At this particular practice, they had a college player as a guest. This player was executing the drill properly, dropping her hips and crossing over to move to the ball. She was eventually highlighted to the other girls, and immediately everyone’s performances improved. The rest of the team suddenly understood what was expected of them, and they were then able to perform properly.

There is a simple way to integrate teaching skills before asking them to be performed – setting objectives. In teaching, it is best practice to have the objective of the lesson written on the board; ‘Today we will determine the greatest common factor between two numbers”. After reading over and explaining this to students they are aware of what the goal is and why they are completing the work at hand. With this information, they can self-monitor their progress throughout the instruction. It gives their work purpose and also helps the teacher to keep each lesson focused and productive. In the coaching world, this best practice can easily be implemented it just looks slightly different.

Before each drill, coaches share what they are looking for with their athletes. For instance, when base running to first base, a coach may explain to their athletes; I’m looking for you to hit the front of the bag, I am looking for you to immediately break down and look right (for a passed ball), I am looking for you to run on your toes, and pump your arms straight back and forth. base runnigAs the coach is going through this checklist, they should also be demonstrating each aspect so the athletes know exactly how to execute the drill. This is beneficial even for the things that seem simple. For instance, there are multiple ways to break down after hitting the bag. Be explicit with your instruction and demonstration. Make sure your athletes know that you want their hips to drop while their head turns sharply to the right after hitting the bag allowing them to stop in an athletic position just a few feet past the bag. Go through each objective and make them repeat it out loud:

Coach: “I am looking for your foot to hit the front of the bag. What am I looking for?” Players: “Our foot to hit the front of the bag”. Coach: ‘I am looking for you to break down and look right. What am I looking for?” Players; “Us to break down and look right.”

Experiencing skills in multiple forms helps them grasp new expectations and skills.  I always make my athletes, see it, hear it, say it, and do it. Making your athletes say the skill out loud helps to prime their brains and bodies for the movements; it helps them remember the skill and execute it. After you have gone through these directions with them a few times or a few practices, it is something you can do quickly and easily before each drill. The coach can simply ask what am I looking for? The players should be able to easily repeat the objectives of the drill.

After I began using this strategy with my players it immensely improved the focus of our drills. My athletes explicitly understood what I was expecting of them and they were able to comply. They now had a rubric for their performance.

Quote of the day: 

“You’ve haven’t taught until they have learned” – John Wooden

About smarcia12

I am a Sports Psychology graduate student who is more than passionate about the world of sport psychology. I not only strive to better the sports world, but all aspects of life! Sport psychology is so applicable to everyday life, it's amazing!

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