Using questions as a coaching approach can be beneficial when coaching children as it can allow them to have an input which can then be guided, or praised. This is effective as it is important to build up the confidence of children when coaching them and give them alternatives to something they may have done poorly rather than be critical of them. This kind of feedback can also increase and maintain intrinsic motivation of children (Henderlong and Lepper, 2002) . Therefore by questioning what they have done in a positive contructive manner we can ensure they stay engaged and motivated in the sport.
I recently coached goalkeeping to a group of Under 8’s, I attempted to try and use a balance of questioning and feedback without criticising the youngsters. As they are all fairly knew to football, the idea of the session was to give them the basic technical skills required to play the position, handle the ball correctly, and ensure they fall correctly when diving as not to cause injury. Within my session I started by just feeding the ball to the player and seeing how they set themselves, and then how they attempted to stop the ball. Due to their age many of them had some obvious technical faults, so I decided to ask a simple question of “why did you do it like this?” I felt this was an effective question as many of them had an answer as to why they decided to catch the ball or stop the ball in this manner. The answers ranged from “I don’t know” to “I saw Mignolet do it .” From these answers I was then able to build upon this and try and add some more technical aspects into the session such as the start and set position moving on to the hand positions. By doing this, this allowed me to then ask more questions around the techical developments I had tried to incorporate. For example after I had ensured one participant was in the correct start position I asked him how it felt after he had made a save from starting like that. The idea was to try and see if the children understood why they start in that position, and how it improves their ability to react. I feel this was a good question as there’s no incorrect answer to this question, the start position that I taught incorporates the very basics of goalkeeping, however there is no right or wrong answer with this, as shown below by the comparisons. Fabien Barthez always started with his hands placed on or around his thighs, where as we can see Manuel Neuer starting more with his hands down by his sides. What is noticeable on both though is that their legs and feet are in an almost identical position.
I feel that with this age group, my questioning comes at the very start of Bloom’s Taxonomy, that being the Remebering and Understanding stages.
As we can see, the idea is that the children will remember the set position and the hand position from the questioning I have used. As the children are Under 8’s and learning the very basics of goalkeeping we do not need to really go much further than the understanding stage at this part of their development. As they become more experienced with the position they will naturally progress up the pyramid, and a lot of their feedback may become more intrinsic as they learn from a more trial and error basis.
I feel the video below is a good example of how to use questions with the same age group that I use:
These players are U8 players at Southampton, so they are better standard than I coach normally, however we can see that the coach sets out the task for the players and then introduces questions rather than critcising. For example during the one on one phase he wants to see the players improve the tempo and increase the speed. He gives a demonstration and asks the players “Am I slowing down as I come forward?” As we can see all the players are engaged and reply to the coach. This is clearly an effective method of using coaching as the coach has angled this in a way that the players will improve without actually receiving any criticism. The are improving simply through answering the question the coach has asked them.
As these children are technically superior for their age range we can see more elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy in effect such as applying and analyzing. The players are applying the answer that the coach has led them to by improving the speed at which they move, and they then become able to analyse why they need to do it that way, and also if they are doing it incorrectly.
Anderson, L., Sosniak, L. and Bloom, B. (1994). Bloom’s taxonomy. 1st ed. Chicago: NSSE.
Henderlong, J. and Lepper, M. (2002). The effects of praise on children’s intrinsic motivation: A review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 128(5), pp.774-795.