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By: Dr Mitch Hewitt •  2 years ago •  

It is perhaps both timely and fortuitous, given recent events, that I have been provided with the opportunity to contribute to the conversation surrounding the topic of this edition of Coaching Life themed around “Future”.

Some recent academic publications, work projects and attendance at a conference in November this year combined to stimulate some thought in relation to future considerations and directions in our coaching lives – and in my particular discipline – tennis coaching.

I present these reflections as question marks (?) as opposed to exclamation marks (!) designed to provoke thought in relation to our profession as coaches and our obligation that extends beyond merely teaching techniques and tactics.

Reducing inactivity and the role of coaches

The recent conference I attended in Adelaide was the Movement to Move: Global Insights to Get our Kids Moving.

This inaugural gathering provided the opportunity to launch the 2018 Active Healthy Kids Australia (AHKA) Australian Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth People in addition to the ‘Global Matrix 3.0 which presented the Physical Activity Report Card for Children and Youth from 49 countries attached to the Active and Healthy Kids Alliance.

The results from the Australian Report Card revealed that Australian children were not achieving acceptable physical activity levels.

This was demonstrated with an overall grade of D-, which tied Australia in 32 nd place from 49 countries.

Best practice success stories, innovation and the thoughts of highly credentialed individuals were revealed and discussed, all with the intention of encouraging a movement designed to promote children and youth across the globe to move more and sit less.

Professor Fiona Bull from the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified a ‘whole of society’ and cross-sector collaboration to address the challenge of inactivity.

One of these sectors comprised National Sporting Organisations which include coaches.

Coaches develop active individuals and provide programmes and associated opportunities for activity.

Do we (coaches) necessarily view our profession contributing to the global movement of reducing inactivity as we develop athletes and players of all ages and abilities to play sport?

Well, we need to in the future.

A pedagogical perspective that promotes intrinsic motivation to be physically active

I recently had the opportunity to contribute a chapter in a book edited by Associate Professor Shane Pill – Perspectives on Athlete-Centred coaching.

The concepts surrounding athlete (or player) centred coaching promote the players’ ownership, initiative and responsibility both on and off the field of play as opposed to the more traditional coachcentred approach.

Traditionally the coach’s role is primarily autocratic, commanding and prescriptive with a development priority on mastery of techniques which views the learner as a ‘vessel to fill’ with knowledge. This is largely based on what the coach decides the player needs (an idiosyncratic approach).

An athlete-centred approach empowers the player to become involved in the learning process.

This perspective values the holistic development of the player across multiple learning domains including, but not limited to, the psychomotor (e.g.,physical skills), cognitive (e.g.,decision-making, critical thinking and problemsolving), in addition to the personal, social and emotional domain (e.g.,communication, collaboration, initiative, selfdirection, respect, selfimprovement, motivation, persistence and effort) – often referred to as life-skills.

These dimensions of learning are emphasised and developed through game-based pedagogies that support representative gameplay practices that also provide an opportunity for modifications and adaptations to cater to the developmental readiness of the player.

For instance, individuals that are new to playing the game of tennis may substitute rallying a ball with a racquet for throwing and catching.

Both activities represent the fundamental feature of the game of tennis – projection and reception or the rally.

During this exchange, players also engage in tactical problem-solving and social interaction.

In this practice, the coach guides and facilitates the learning via well constructed questions which allows greater player autonomy and involvement.

Do we necessarily (as coaches) apply coaching methodologies that consider and promote autonomy, inclusion, game-play and life skills that ultimately contribute to enhancing an individual’s motivation and interest to intrinsically pursue lifelong physical activity?

Well, we need to in the future.

Sports coach as educator – engaging with the education sector Robyn Jones proposed the re-conceptualisation of the coach as educator. As a coach for over 30 years in addition to being a physical education teacher, this notion strongly resonates with me.

We are more than ‘just’ sports coaches – our profession represents a larger agenda. Contributing to enhancing the confidence and competence of individuals to become more active via pedagogies that promote learner involvement and inclusion across multiple developmental domains is the contemporary narrative and expectation.

Recent work projects have only consolidated these conceptions.

In an attempt to provide both generalist and specialist primary teachers and specialist secondary teachers with the capacity to teach tennis in the curriculum with educative purpose, Tennis Australia has aligned their Tennis for Primary and Secondary School resources to the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education (AC:HPE).

These resources are designed to promote tennis as an additional activity to promote movement within the context of and in conjunction with education.

These programs encourage a collaborative relationship between the tennis coach and school teacher that aim to provide students with an opportunity to sample the game of tennis within curriculum time which may lead to pursuing the activity at a tennis club – and as an activity for life.

Do we necessarily view our role to collaborate with the education sector?

Well, we need to in the future.

Obligation, Collaboration and Pedagogy – Future considerations

  The obligation of promoting physical activity which may contribute to the global mission of the WHO of reducing physical inactivity by 10% in 2025 and by 15% in 2030 should prominently feature in the future motivation of the sports coach.

Collaborating with the education sector should equally form a component of the sports coach’s future agenda. In an attempt to practically engage and enact with the aforementioned aspects, coaches should consider contemporary pedagogical practices, such as an athlete (player) centred approach, that acknowledge the learner’s interest and position in the coaching process.

Dr. Mitch Hewitt

Mitch is currently the Education Project Manager in the Education and Professional Learning team at Tennis Australia (TA). He has coached tennis for over 30 years in a family business that continues to operate today.

He worked as a Primary and Secondary school physical education teacher and spent time as the Head Tennis Professional at the American Club in Singapore in addition to being a Coach Educator at Tennis Australia for over 20 years.

He has a PhD in Pedagogy and is an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Canberra and an adjunct lecturer at the University of Southern Queensland.

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