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  • Writer's pictureAlan Ewing

If we are stuck in our ways, we will get in the way! Evidence or anecdote based teaching?

Use your head. It's your decision. In the end, the only person you can rely on is yourself. If I did, I would have ironed the shirt in this picture instead of leaving it to someone else.

In April, 1996 at age 18, I attended the Birmingham County FA Preliminary Coaching badge in Tamworth, UK. It's long since gone and is now called the FA level2 I believe (I did that in 2001 with my UEFA B). That was the start of a coaching career that has led me to lead programs, educate coaches all over North America as well as transition into teaching in the United States. It is a privilege to be able to be a coach instructor, mentor and educator. I am very lucky that I now get to lead a group of teachers and coaches in eight different schools, and four different futsal programs in 3 states. Together, we have the opportunity to influence over a thousand students a week. That is quite a bit of responsibility and because of this, I find myself constantly asking myself and my staff questions.

'A picture paints a thousand words'.

On that very first coaching course, Tom Stack, the lead instructor, asked for a volunteer. I remember very vividly as I stood up and stepped forward in the changing rooms at Woodhouse High school. He told me to step over a pen with my foot one way 3 times, then 3 times the opposite way 3 and then another way 3 times. I tried to do what he asked but failed miserably. He now said 'Watch me' and demonstrated exactly what he told me to do a minute earlier. I copied it without a mistake. Wow. I think of that moment like a lightbulb lighting up as if I was in a cartoon. Talk about a major learning moment for me and something that has shaped everything I do when it comes to teaching, coaching and instructing. Boiled down to 5 words - 'Show me, don't tell me!".

Using Visual and Audio Cues in a class as an attention getter.

Having completed or instructed over 30 different coaching qualifications in 4 different sports, from 4 different soccer coaching organizations, in 3 different countries, and having taught for a National coaching organization since 2005, I have been a big proponent of the 'Show me, don't tell me' way of coaching. When assessing coaches on coaching a 'freezable moment' or 'coaching stoppage', one of the things I look for in a coaching candidate is to get in and out quickly. Demo what you want and get out. Don't get in the way. I use a reminder called the 4 R's for this with the second R being about the demonstration and solution.

I love an Acronym or a simple way of remembering the order of an action or even the colors of the rainbow. Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. - R, O, Y, G, B, I & V or Roy. G. Biv as my 8 year old daughter told me last week before changing the colors to something else and trying to change the acronym. I remember coming up with one myself to help me remember the classification of species when studying Human Biology. It wasn't very good as I can't remember it all but I know Kingdom and Phylum were 'King Philip'. Clearly it didn't stick.

Have you heard of the 4 P's of defending? Pressure, Position, Patience & Pounce (on a poor touch). Thanks Roy Dunshee for adding the 4th one. It was always 3 before him.

I have more acronyms that I use regularly but are they evidence based or anecdotal? What about dealing with injuries? S.A.L.T.A.P.S. procedure anyone?

See the injury/what happened.

Ask what happened.

Look at the area that is inured (for discoloration, swelling, bleeding etc.)

Touch the area (to feel for heat, pain, swelling)

Active movement (by the player)

Passive Movement (by the first aid person)

Skills Test.

If they pass all of them, then they can go back in. If they fail one, you start again. Simple. Easy to remember and can serve you well.

If it sticks with you and you remember it, it must be good right?

Sorry, we got a little sidetracked. Let's get back to acronyms and coaching tricks - The 4 R's - Recognize, Review, Rehearse, Restart.. Easy to remember.

Recognize the coachable moment

Review it (short Q & A and a demo)

Have the players Rehearse the solution

Restart the play live

"When you demonstrate, do it to a moving ball. Demo at the pace you want the players to play at" I have said probably over 1000 times to coaches I have been lucky enough to instruct. It seems to help players know what to do and exactly what you want. Is it right though? Do we want to freeze the moment or coach at a natural stoppage? In 1996, all of the coaching points were moments you said 'Freeze' or as Tom taught 'Stop. Stand Still!' which is one of the most English ways to stop the play.

So what works and what doesn't? What is evidence based and what is anecdotal?

Over the last 23 years of coaching, there are a number of educational theories that arrived and stayed, or are gone and forgotten. Some just won't go away. One common misconception that has been well documented recently is 'learning styles' such as 'visual or auditory learners'. Some anecdotal evidence it seems, can go a long way in establishing theories, philosophies & terminologies that still are being used across social media and educational bodies despite the lack of evidence to support it. I was a big believer in this especially as it seemed to confirm my experience with Tom Stack and with me being a visual learner. It has helped me and all of the players and coaches I have worked with in the 23 years since that lightbulb moment.

"I am sure this is not the case with everyone, but I'm not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater".

Is the evidence to support my instruction over the last 23 years anecdotal? Maybe. Is 80% of all learning visual? I don't know. Did I or have I changed my thoughts on demonstrating to players? No. It seems to work for me. I am not sure if this is the case for everyone else but I'm not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater if there is value in it for me and the players I get to coach. Although, I would love some evidence to quote to share with all my peers on social media (joking).

Isn't that the problem with theories though? We get to share our thoughts, ideas and theories instantly but is that helping us in the United States today? In theory, NYCFC should have beaten Toronto at a canter last week but they did not. In theory, Man City should beat Norwich. In theory, and tradition, we ask players to change their attitudes but if we analyze ourselves, can we change our attitude so easily? What different factors are involved in creating that attitude, at that particular time on that particular day? There's a myriad of factors involved according to Dan Abrahams. He uses the term 'manage your attitude' instead of 'change'. It is something I like a lot considering that I work with students age 5 - 14 every day. That latter age group of 6th, 7th and 8th graders have provided me with enough evidence over the last 9 years to support using Dan's terms of 'managing' rather than changing. Does everyone agree with Dan's thoughts on this? I highly doubt it but it works for me.

That Ladies and Germs, is why being an educator in any field requires an open mind. We are constantly debunking, confirming or denying theories that we find anecdotal evidence to support our side. The only saving grace for me though, is that I do get to test and experiment with this on a regular basis and that I also have an open mind to being wrong.

Earlier, I said I love an acronym. One of the most wide known acronyms for treating injuries is being questioned at the moment as doing more harm than good. What is being questioned? R.I.C.E. - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. I attended a GHSA first aid course two weeks ago that was still teaching this method.

Sometimes coaches can get in the way, if we are stuck in our ways, so should I stick with RICE or go with another new recommendation - P.O.L.I.C.E.? Do you want to know what that stands for?

Well I think at this point, you need to research that one yourself and make your mind up for what you think works. Do not just rely on what you have heard from other people (including me).

Image and text above courtesy of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP)

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