Category: Teamwork

Are you engaging all of your team?

If you coach, manage or lead a team of people it is inevitable that you will be faced with a group of people who have different preferred styles of learning. That fact presents you with a challenge. That challenge is how to engage all of the group by using all of the learning styles. Failing to do this could result in failing to fully engage the group, resulting in some of your team not learning what it is you intended them to learn.

The educational psychologist Dr Bernice McCarthy found that we fall into four different categories when it comes to learning. Here’s a very simple overview:

Type One: The “Why” people.

The ‘why’ group prefer imaginative learning through feeling and watching, seeking personal associations and meaning through involvement. They are the sort of people who learn by making connections and particularly like the question, “why?”.

Type Two: The “What” people.

These are the analysts amongst us. They like facts, processing information and thinking through concepts before formulating ideas and opinions. These guys like to ask the “what?” questions.

Type Three: The “How” people.

This group likes to learn by doing. They prefer common-sense learning and are not concerned by theory, they just want to try things out.  They learn by thinking and doing, by experimenting, and tinkering. They are very good at applying ideas and love the question “How?”.

Type Four: The “What if” people.

The final group is particularly interested in the consequences of learning something and what would happen if they did something or didn’t do something. They seek hidden possibilities, explore ideas, learn by trial and error and self-discovery. They are excellent at creating original adaptations and modifications. The key question for these guys is “what if?”

To be a really effective coach it is important to cover each of the learning types. The way to do this is by planning your coaching session accordingly. For each skill or drill you want to teach, prepare the session in a way that it answers the questions “Why?”, “What?”, “How?” and “What if?”. To be most effective it is important to then deliver the session in that order.

People who prefer to know why? tend to switch off until they are given a good reason for listening, so start with this style first. The next stage is to tell people the details. This is the what? phase and covers the facts, instructions and tactics. The next stage is the how? part and probably signals the start of the practical part of the session. The final part of the session should be looking at the consequences of learning the skill or drill and what possibilities it opens up.

Following this system is a great way of structuring your coaching sessions and provides a very useful framework to work from.

You can find out more about Dr McCarthy’s learning system by visiting:

Good luck!



Gaining Momentum

Quite often in coaching sessions with athletes I hear them refer to momentum in relation to their performance.

Now momentum in the world of physics is a tangible and measurable concept – just think about a car rolling down a hill and you’ll understand. But athletes tend not to roll down hills so the momentum they are referring to is psychological momentum and that is far more difficult comprehend.

Researchers have examined the concept of psychological momentum from a variety of different angles ranging from ‘what causes it?’ through to ‘does it even exist?’ and many models and theories have since evolved. Despite all the research and the theories the most important thing is that most athletes have a very real perception of momentum that not only exists but shifts according to what’s happening in the game or competition.

What every athlete wants is to be gaining momentum but true to the laws of nature for one competitor to gain momentum another must lose momentum. So how do we do go about gaining momentum in our performance to overcome an opponent and how do we go about reversing a loss of momentum. Well there are a number of key factors that trigger gains in momentum*:

  1. The negative body language of opponents
  2. Opponent’s weaknesses
  3. Opponents mistakes
  4. Self-Confidence
  5. Good moves or actions
  6. Past experiences
  7. Encouragement
  8. Positive attitude

By increasing your awareness of these factors you can begin to build a strategy for controlling momentum in a game or performance. Doing this successfully does require a very good level of awareness and the courage to make changes in your game plan if necessary but it can be done. Becoming a master of controlling momentum and you will significantly increase your level of success.

Enjoy the game!


*Source: J App Sport Psychol 20: 57-72 2008

Sporting Partnerships

“I was not over-eager. I was a little bit faster” Sebastian Vettel after crashing into his teammate Mark Webber whilst attempting to overtake him during the F1 Turkish Grand Prix.

“It was a ******** disaster” Mark Webber.

Whether it’s for training purposes or for actually competing, forming a partnership can be a tricky task. So many factors have to be taken into consideration that partnerships can be formed for a number of different reasons. It could be to enhance the performance of both partners, for one partner to lead and mentor another, or simply for someone to keep you company during those long hours of training.

One of the first things any partnership should do is to establish what it is the partnership is being formed for. What does each partner want out of the partnership and what are they prepared to give? Be open and honest so that there is a clear understanding from the start. If there is sufficient common ground then a mutual vision with clear goals and objectives can be created so that a cohesive and collaborative unit is formed. If either of the two partners do not share the same vision then any partnership is likely to fail.

All successful partnerships share some common qualities. They help each other to learn, provide positive challenges or positive rivalry, help each other believe in themselves and their mission. They constructively analyse each others performance and contribution, provide encouragement when needed, and share actions and perspectives on how to improve each others performance and the partnership itself. If you add to that a sense of humour and good banter then not only will it be a successful partnership but it will be fun too.

Competition between partners can have very positive outcomes but if it leads to ongoing tension and conflict it can break the spirit of even the best partnerships and friendships. Just watch how things develop between Webber and Vettel for live evidence of this. A great partnership carries a spirit or sense of mission that lifts both partners. A partnership that is free from ongoing tension and conflict brings out the best in both partners and inspires them to give more of themselves and give more to each other. The first rule of ‘partner-competition’ should be that it does no harm to either partner’s performance. Every action that is taken and every comment that is made, whether by a member of the partnership or someone connected to it, has the potential to affect the spirit of the partnership. Positive actions drive good things; negative actions drive bad things. Being positive with each other and challenging each other in positive ways brings out the best in everyone.

Great partners give each other good reasons to believe in themselves, their goals and their capacity. They grab every opportunity to enhance confidence and avoid speaking or acting in ways that undermine confidence. They challenge each other to push their limits and become better performers, but they do it in positive and respectful ways. This approach is empowering. The best partnerships are formed when people feel valued, supported and respected. When this happens they give more of themselves, give more to others and perform at a higher level on a more consistent basis.

There are two great partnerships in this years Formula 1; Webber-Vettel and Hamilton-Button. Each driver has the ability and the desire to win the championship but of course only one person can ultimately claim the prize. We have seen the first major incident between Webber and Vettel and a very near-miss between Hamilton and Button in what was almost a carbon-copy incident. It promises to be a fascinating competition and I for one am expecting plenty more excitement yet.