Athlete Centred Coaching

The concept of "ideal lesson plans" was strong in my teacher education training. It had emphasised order, control and the value of "set induction". Set induction is where the markers for the session are all set out prior to students/players arrival, so that when students/players "come in" they are looking at the "field" and wondering, "what are we doing today?" It was somehow assumed in this emphasis on set induction that the markers being out for the drills would "set" a mental state of readiness and bring on (induction) anticipatory thinking for the lesson from the students or the players. While the value of games and open drills or "play practices" were emphasised in my teacher education, "ideal" sport teaching and coaching was still demonstrated as largely directive instruction.

By the time I came across the idea of athlete-centred coaching in the mid-2000's my ideas of "ideal" sport teaching/coaching had shifted considerable from the teacher-centred instruction style I observed during my teacher education to a more "student-centred" style. This was largely thanks to having been exposed to Australian Hockey Coach Rick Charlesworth's concept of Designer Games, Edith Cowan University PE lecturer Les House's game context approach, and the Australian Sports Commission Game Sense approach, while teaching at schools in Perth in the early-mid 1990's.

I came across Lynn Kidman's book Athlete-Centred Coaching: Developing Decision Makers and I was attracted to the ideas initially as there were many similarities between athlete-centred coaching and the Game Sense approach that I had been using in my coaching and teaching of sport. However, athlete-centred coaching went further in its suggestions for athlete empowerment.

While a Game Sense approach is centred on the development of thinking players (for an example, see Teaching Tennis: Consider a Game Sense Approach ) athlete-centred coaching promoted athlete ownership, responsibility, initiative and awareness, guided by the coach. In the approach, athletes are encouraged to participate in decision-making and problem-solving in a shared approach to knowledge and its transmission. A Game Sense approach is player-centred, but it is still somewhat of a practice style of instruction where decisions about session content and outcome are all under the coach control (for an explanation see Considering Game Based Teaching/Coaching as a Cluster of Styles). 

An athlete-centred approach is the opposite of a coach centred, autocratic coaching which is characterised by commanding and prescriptive coaching emphasising conformitivity, the outcome being athlete reliance on the coach. Empowerment, decision-making, knowledge formation and culture are common themes of athlete-centred coaching. For this reason, athlete-centred coaching has been described as a more humanistic approach. In Athlete-Centred Coaching: Developing Inspired and Inspiring People the humanistic challenge of coaching to develop self-aware athletes is explored. Greater emphasis on relational understandings that extend a coach concern to the "whole" person rather than the often more common reductionist standpoint of "training the athlete" is evident in recent explorations of athlete-centred coaching. These are explored in the recent text Perspectives on Athlete-Centred Coaching 


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