• Dr Wilbur Kraak // PhD Sport Science

Over-coaching... Sometimes Less is More.


In the last few months, there have been regular articles published in newspapers and magazines about our South African athletes or player’s lack of creativity, ability to adapt to conditions and decision-making skills under pressure across different levels. This has led me to the question, are we not over-coaching our athletes due to the pressure of winning at all costs?

What is over coaching?

Excessive input from the coaches while the athletes or players are practising or taking part in competition. In short, it means the coach is practising or playing instead of the athlete or player, thus the coach is making all the decisions. Too many times coaches feel under pressure to win games and therefore over-coach the athletes or players.

Who are most at risk of over-coaching?

It is often young and up and coming coaches who are trying too hard to impress and win games. There is also the coach who lacks confidence in their own ability, who tends to provide too much information. Sometimes coaches might lack confidence in their athletes’ or players’ abilities, these coaches feel the need to be in control of preparation and every aspect of match-play. Lastly, there are the ego-driven coaches who see athletes and players as pawns in order to promote their own reputation.

What are the effects of over-coaching?

By providing players with too much structure and not allowing them an opportunity to make their own decisions players aren’t afforded the opportunity to learn adequately during practices and matches. We’re creating ROBOTS by not allowing players to make their own decisions. On top of this, throwing out too much information at the incorrect times can confuse the athletes and players. This can lead to negative mistakes, and possibly to a lack of confidence. Over-coaching can create anxiety and pressure on coaching staff and players alike, ultimately contributing towards coach and athlete burnout – as discussed in the previous issue.

How can over-coaching be prevented?

Firstly… believe in yourself and your coaching ability by being prepared and up to date with the latest trends and coaching insights. It is important to always put the athletes or players first and do not forget that you’re working with a human being. Create an environment where learning can take place by allowing them to make mistakes. This is a good principle for almost any working environment. Develop your athletes or players holistically. Empowering your athletes and players to make their own decisions will go a long way to function optimally where it really matters, on the field. It is also a good idea to involve assistant coaches, players and other support staff in your short and long term planning. This will lead to a greater buy-in from these stakeholders, and can provide fresh perspectives that would have been otherwise limited. I often try to design practices that include fun components while also trying to recreate match situations. Lastly, and quite importantly, stay a student of your game – keep on learning and improving. Reading about the latest training techniques and methods and learning from other coaches will stand you in good stead when the rubber meets the road.

In conclusion, I present 3 key areas for coaches to consider for preventing over-coaching:

  • Planning

  • Plan properly

  • Involve all role players in setting your short- and long-term goals

  • Make practices fun

  • Prioritise what needs to be improved

  • Keep on learning and improving your own coaching

  • Psychology

  • Allow opportunity to make mistakes

  • Do not over psych players before major competitions

  • Do not talk about winning at all cost work on the processes

  • Keep to routines (pre and post-match or competition) players are used to

  • NB! Coach during the practice and not from the sideline on match-day

Sometimes less is more.

#Coaching

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