When Is DT Needed?
DT should be used continually in coaching. Watch for several useful signposts. First, if
performance is high during practices, but days, weeks, and months later, there seems to be
limited transfer to game situations, DT may be the answer. Second, if your athletes
continually make it to the quarter- and semifinals, but the championship always seems to
get away, DT may be what is needed. Third, if communication between the coach and athletes
seems to go downhill over the course of a season, DT may be a way to increase the very
necessary high levels of interaction between coaches and athletes required in sport today.
DT appears to improve the training environment by fostering improved communication between
the athlete and the coach (Chambers, 2001).
Does DT Create A Different Coaching
When DT is used, the coaching environment changes in ways that need to be anticipated by
coaches, athletes, parents, and athletic administrators.
First, because the level of complexity in practices is higher early in the season,
performance levels may be lower than what is found using more traditional methods (see
Figure 1). Everyone involved in the training process needs to appreciate that the athletes
are learning more complex aspects of the sport and therefore the training is more
difficult than under traditional methods.
Second, delays in physical improvement in skills and tactics may occur; therefore, other
means of assessing improvement must be found, such as the athletes' ability to think and
answer questions, to be self-motivated during training, to rise to the occasion in
competition more so than in practices, and other improvements that are not solely based on
physical performance observed during practices.
Third, because your athletes are mentally engaged at higher levels as they train, you have
to learn to deal with their greater cognitive involvement in the game. Some coaches find
this very challenging because an athletic mind, once unleashed, is creative, challenging,
and often over-motivated.
Fourth, when you use bandwidth feedback, some athletes may feel they are being neglected.
It is especially difficult for those who are dependent on the coach to develop
self-reliance, and coaches need to develop strategies for this eventuality. One solution
is to simply explain to the athletes the scientific foundations of DT and the fact that a
reduction in feedback from the coach is an indication performance is improving.
Fifth, DT leads to more being expected of the athletes in terms of being responsible for
their own development. Some athletes resist this, preferring to be dependent on their
coaches. Teaching athletes the benefits of being self-reliant is one of the challenges of
DT. Finally, parents, technical directors, and others new to the approach need to be
informed of your new practice methods. The key, in our experience, is education. At the
NCIC, we have developed a number of publications to help in this process (Vickers, Bales,
et al., 1996 a, b, a; Vickers, 2000; Vickers, 2001). DT provides a number of new skills
that help you train the decision-making skills of your athletes. DT, at its highest level,
seeks to improve the performer's ability to solve problems, both independently and in a
group setting, and make effective decisions even under the most challenging of competitive
Do Coaches Use DT?
A study has just been completed (Vickers, Reeves, Chambers & Martell, in press) in
which we followed 13 NCIC coaches through one year of practices. The four females and nine
males were full-time coaches and all were endorsed by their sport to obtain their 3M Level
4 certification as well as the NCI diploma in high performance coaching. The sports
represented in the study were badminton, cross country skiing, short and long track speed
skating, squash, men's and women's ice hockey, track and field, and wrestling. Thus, a
singular approach was applied to a number of diverse sport forms. The athletes ranged in
age from 11 to 25 and varied in skill level from developmental athletes in the club
setting to national/international competitors.
We videotaped three of their regular practices - one prior to learning about DT (P1), one
during which the coaches had to apply the DT approach and were evaluated (P2), and a final
practice where there were no pressures of evaluation (P3). The coaches were evaluated on
the extent to which they used the seven DT tools.
We found significant changes from P1 to P2 in 27 of 49 categories (55 per cent) and from
P1 to P3 in 15 categories (31 per cent), a very positive result. The greatest improvements
were found in the areas where the research foundations are the most established (variable
practice, random practice, feedback), heightening the value of research in effecting
coaching change. There was also a change in the coach's adoption of questioning, which
increased significantly from P1 to P2 and again from P2 to P3. Of all the tools, this was
the one that coaches consistently commented on as most valuable. Overall, the coaches
appeared to be able to implement the practice, feedback, and questioning tools more easily
than the video feedback, hard-first instruction, and modelling ones. One reason this may
have occurred is that video feedback, hard-first instruction, and modelling tools should
be used early in the season, rather than later. It might be that coaches used them, but in
earlier practices that were not observed.
Of the 13 coaches in the study, four coached athletes at the Salt Lake Olympics, two to
medals, even though they were relatively junior coaches at the time of being enrolled in
the NCI. Eight have gone on to coach national-level teams, three are head coaches at
universities or colleges, and two are the head professionals at a training club. Many have
coached athletes to high levels of success since the study was conducted.
In conclusion, DT places the training of decision-making skills on an equal footing with
that of physical training. The 3 Step Planning Process and 7 Tools are the same for all
sports and together provide a unified approach to increase athlete cognitive involvement
in the training process. The end goal is to enhance the athlete's ability to make
decisions under stressful competitive conditions. DT recognizes that the emerging
profession of coaching requires the use of a universal set of principles derived from
research, while at the same time accommodating the diversity found in each sport.
le Journal en français
Vol. 3, No. 3
Decision Training: An Innovative
Approach To Coaching
What Are The Roots Of Decision Training?
How Did DT Evolve?
How Is DT Taught?
The 7 DT Tools
When Is DT Needed?
Does DT Create A Different
Do Coaches Use DT?
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