Practise Alone Won’t Make Us Perfect
“Practice alone won’t make us perfect. Progress happens when we make time for thinking as well as doing.”
Progress occurs when we combine practise with reflection. But how do we find time to properly reflect in this time-compressed world?
I can’t emphasise enough the value in setting aside time to think about how a coaching session went. What worked? What didn’t? What did you learn?
The Value of Reflection
UK Coaching lists self-reflection as one of The Top Ten Qualities You Need To Be A Coach.
Self-reflection helps you to:
- Grow and develop as a coach
- Learn from the past
- Not repeat mistakes
- Find ways to tweak and tune your delivery and your sessions
- Better understand yourself
- Consistently improve
Any type of reflection is better than none, but to be effective, self-reflection has to be more than just a few random thoughts on the way home. Ideally you want to go deeper than this, and have some type of record of your musings that you can later return to.
The real power comes from formally recording your thoughts and using them to drive action for your next coaching effort.
Without recording your thoughts, examining them, and formulating a response, it is unlikely that any real change for the better will occur.
Such records are also a marvellous resource to keep and fascinating to look back over.
In saying this, and despite being completely sold on the idea, I have struggled with being consistent with this process
In my time-compressed world of full-time work, part-time coaching and writing, and being Dad to three kids under the age of five, it is really difficult and frustrating.
For me, it certainly doesn’t happen perfectly every time. It is sometimes rushed, it is sometimes done days later, it sometimes doesn’t happen at all.
A couple of years ago, I started photographing my lesson plans using the Day One journal app, then adding a text-based review following the session. This actually worked OK, but it still meant that I was scribbling a lesson plan on a piece of paper and then had to remember to photograph it. It was also difficult to keep all of the entries together.
It is only very recently that I have started to piece together a procedure that is showing real promise.
Tips For Successfully Reflecting On Sessions
Ultimately, you need to find a method that works best for you.
Here are three key tips that worked for me.
Tip 1: Use an Online Notebook
For me, planning my sessions in an online notebook has huge advantages when it comes to accessing and retrieving notes.
I use Evernote. I love its accessibility (the premium plan – which I have – allows you to create and modify notes on an unlimited number of devices; the fee plan currently allows two devices per account). I find my records are easy to enter, store, manage, search and retrieve. I love how all of my session plans and reviews can be kept together in an online folder – no searching desperately for, or through, paper notebooks.
I haven’t tried it yet, but there is also the option to record audio notes, audio to text and images as part of the review. I am also interested in using the “Reminder” function in Evernote as prompts to ensure I plan and review my sessions in a timely manner – anything that helps!
Tip 2: Create a Template
I’ve created and customised a template in Evernote. The template is a table into which I write and review my session plans. The template gives my plans and reviews a consistent structure, helping to prompt the type of information that I need to record.
It simplifies the whole process, making it more likely I will follow through with it. It is easy to enter, alter, update and add to the information that the template contains.
Below is the template that I am currently using to plan and review my “Athletics Fundamentals” sessions. It isn’t perfect and is still a work in progress, but it may help you create your own.
Tip 3: Record Your Learnings & What To Focus On Next
The final two items in the above template are “Learnings” and “Focus For Next Session”. These are the two most important items. If you reflect deeply enough, you will discover something you have learned (or had reinforced) from every session. Without being prompted to formally record something you have learned, you may miss it or forget about it.
Having to determine a focus for your next next session will force you to prioritise your learnings and ensure that action from them is planned into the next session. In other words, you will find yourself starting to plan your next session while you are reflecting on the one just completed.
You want the self-reflection process to be as easy as possible, while being as effective as possible. To give yourself the best chance of consistently and effectively reflecting on your sessions:
- Choose an easily accessible medium where your records simple to capture, store, manage, search and retrieve.
- Use a template for your session plans and reviews.
- Ensure you record what you have learned and what actions will result from your learnings.
Over To You!
If this post helped you please take a moment to help others by sharing it on social media. If you want to learn more I encourage you to leave questions and comments or contact me directly.
Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes, and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.