Sports psychologist Dan Abraham, who I’ve mentioned before, offered up what he called seven quick ideas for coaches. They’re simple in concept, but he does suggest they deserve some thought. Here they are, with some of my own thoughts.

1. For players to learn through instruction, information needs to be encoded deeply.
  • Make sure they’re paying attention…all eyes on you!
  • Communications must be short & understandable (lean & lucid)
  • Give them a chance to ‘picture’ what you’re explaining
  • Check their understanding

I would call all this pretty standard teaching approach. I’ve written before on that second one – keeping talk to a minimum.

2. Help your players build their leadership toolbox by:
  • Including more collaboration during activities. In other words, give them chances to experience leadership
  • Negotiating type of leadership: by action, by instruction, by energy…which type fits each individual best?
  • Seeing leaders as an extension of coaches…create informed leaders (flatten the coach-player hierarchy)

An potentially important element of the first bullet is unstructured play where players are encouraged to work together on solutions. And we can do that in a structured way as well. Leadership development is always something worth thinking about.

3. The human cognitive architecture for visualization includes:
  • Central executive….choose it!
  • Phonological loop….say it!
  • Visuo-spatial scratchpad….see it!

Help players choose what to visualize (“Tell me about your best”). Help players to say it and see it…in detail!

This kind of ties in with the 3rd bullet from #1 above.

4. A key to learning is attention!
  • Attention is driven neurochemically by the release of:
    – Dopamine (interest)…reward
    – Norepinephrine (alertness)…threat
  • Make activities:
    – Personally meaningful for each player…reward!
    – Collaborative (social)…reward!
    – Challenging and pressurized…threat!

I love that last one. It talks to both finding ways to put players in pressure situations in practice, and to more generally keep them challenged.

5. Helping players develop relevant cue words & phrases prior to a game can help limit the amount of spontaneous self-talk they experience during the game (that can distract from picking up environmental clues).

Prepared cue words & phrases decrease thinking during a game!

It occurs to me that I haven’t written much of anything about helping players develop good self-talk. Need to remedy that!

6. Player ownership can be a key to learning tactical movements
  • In training, as an activity unfolds, if a player is doing something wrong avoid correcting…
  • Instead, trigger their curiosity by telling them there is something they can improve…and ask them to consider what it is…
  • Don’t stop play…let them ‘think’ and ‘find solutions’ themselves

I’ve long liked the solutions-based approach to thinking. The one thing I would reflect with regards to the first bullet is the need to make sure the player has the necessary knowledge of performance.

7. And…
  • Help players have action-changing words (adjectives) then ask them to embody and enact their actions in the style of these words
  • Alert…alive…lively…sharp…relentless…focused
  • Action-changing words hone identity. They guide attention and influence intensity

This could be a lot of fun with a young group of players. 🙂

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.