G’Day ‘learners’.

Today’s blog will help sports coaches (and all caring adult stakeholders) to:

Consider the idea of using DIFFERENTIATION to better inform the practice and future of your own and peers’ efforts with learners…

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Once last year, I was envious of a fellow learner’s TWEET, Queensland Netball’s, Richard McInnes, when he was able to attend an occasion with the great coaching academic, Dr. Wade Gilbert in my home town. I expressed my AWE and was sent a text by Netball Q’s great leader asking what I was doing that afternoon. It turned out that Gilbert was presenting to a very small group of netball coaching minds and I was allowed in!

Having taught/coached for a long while and been the creator and lecturer of a couple of sports coaching subjects at university plus other experiences, I was fully aware of Dr. Gilbert’s work. However, this moment about this time last year was pivotal in my development, because Wade chose to engage us in the work of the UCLA master John Wooden, to reconsider that coaches were teachers just like “Coach said”! This echoed resoundingly throughout my experience because whilst I was noticing that coaches were certainly talking a lot more about learner centred coaching, having been through interventions like Game sense or CLA etc, I knew that we needed more than enthusiasm when the ‘rubber hit the road’.

In any case, join ‘Grassroots Coaching and Consulting’ Facebook if you want a four page summary of the learning, or, PROVE that you have subscribed to “Gunn Engagement” YouTube channel, and I can email you a copy.

Find Dr. Gilbert here: And below is a comprehensive book found in Caloundra, Sunshine Coast Library. It is that good!!!

Ode to incremental coaching improvement

Ode to incremental coaching improvement

Importantly, Wade had us revisit the work of COACH plus that of the original 1976 research (the first in the discipline of coaching) by the UCLA researchers. It took me on a journey including a revisit of the original work which was later clarified with COACH and original researchers three decades later (Galimore and Tharp, 2004). Clearly, COACH was athlete centred as cited in Galimore and Tharp (2004):

He studied each individual very carefully so he could anticipate what his students would do—or fail to do—and he was primed and ready to instantly respond with one of those brief, information-packed instructions. “He knew me better than I knew myself” (Nater, personal communication, October 30, 2002).

Readers, you will need to read the many books on Wooden yourselves but COACH at times on reflection didn’t know if he was looking back with ‘rose coloured glasses’ at times…

But I knew very well that those who aren’t going to play very much, they’re not going to like me that much. Many of them are going to think it’s personal. I hope it isn’t personal but am I perfect? Can I be sure of my own self that I’m not playing favorites? I know I don’t mean to, but I can understand how others would feel that way. . . I know that. (J. R. Wooden, personal interview, February 12, 2002) Thus, praising reserves was intended to let them know he appreciated their role of helping regulars prepare for stiff competition. By extending themselves in practice, they would create the conditions that he needed to teach the regulars. If he praised them more than the regulars, he hoped this would reinforce their commitment and effort. However, he reports that he was not always successful in his communication
Coach Gunny analysis on the AFL Hip and Shoulder

Which brings me to the point of all of this. According to AITSL standards (see blogs previous for AITSL) , ‘proficient’ teachers in Australia are supposed to ‘differentiate’ like COACH for all students. For example, Focus Area 5 from Standard 1 stated that those at ‘proficient’ level should:

Develop teaching activities that incorporate differentiated strategies to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

Here is something they don’t teach at university however when considering the above… ‘The full range’ expressed clearly is near impossible at high schools that I taught at. Six periods a day, 28 minimum students, plus other subjects, sports, responsibilities… No disrespect but COACH had it easy. Yet, the researchers all pointed how meticulous Wooden was in at least planning for all of this differentiation. Or at least for the main seven players.

Thus, to help guide coaches in particular to think like a ‘teacher’ and improve practice, I thought I’d turn to my old mate Dale Sidebottom of Energetic Radio and a guest for help. Below are some tips on engaging the individual learners on their needs, which Gilbert et al., (2010) saw as the first cornerstone of Wooden’s teaching success, under the label, ‘love’. The practitioner is Wayne Schultz, a PE teacher and coach of some repute who can be found here:

Yet, not before I shamelessly support readers with my own experiences!

The pilot episode in Gunny's quest to prevent concussion. How to tackle safely in AFL or any contact sport.

The learnings from Wayne on individualisation are found here with Dale:

Schultzy’s School of Engagement tips - How to maximise the inclusive learning for individuals in physical activities/sports:

1) Build programs from student feedback

2) Ensure you cater for ALL student needs

3) Implement change in staff by simplifying the sports for staff - what Gunny calls the HOW is illustrated in great examples via European Handball at around 10 minutes in podcast or as wane says, “You don’t need a 20 page document…”

Schultzy’s Practical examples through striking games - to maximise the inclusive learning for individuals in physical activities/sports:

1) Wayne asked, “Are tees holding learners back?”  Based on their needs and development of tracking the ball… “Just get a larger ball in.” 

2) Use progressions for striking: off tee, rolling ball delivery, underarm throw etc… THEN kids hit balls ‘a mile’ but was safe to field etc “like their heroes”

Queensland AFL team. Accountability is just a word. This is 12 minutes in of firts session. Create the correct LEARNING environment and your athletes will be switched on, physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially. LOVE Coach Gunny SUBSCRIBE for more!

3) Break a group of 24 students into groups of six

4) Use many different ball types and colours and textures

5) Allow different tools to strike with like tennis racquets

6) Provide what the students need to feel competent but let but “let them unpack how they want”

Coach Gunny is tackling player welfare - the safety of the tackler and the person being tackled. Concussion prevention should be the coach, the club and the game's number 1 concern. Gunn Engagement is launching the first instalment in the series - Head Awareness

7) Teachers provide tools not prescription

8) Use scenarios “You are 4/80 and just lost a wicket…”

9) Allow teachers to be the experts of their kids’ needs whether that be Game Sense etc

Do your players know where the space is? No they don't!!

10) Needs to be FUN but with a PURPOSE

11) Allow all to be involved “no lines”

12) Make it “audience centred” consider CONTEXT of school where students are from

Coach Gunny's Essential Coaching Tips. In this video, maybe the most essential element of engagement....the JUICE! That's right! You need to BRING THE JUICE!

13) Teachers have to SHARE more with each other and students

14) teaching is like a piece of Lego: make it transferable and adaptable

Launch of 'Engagement' series of coach and club development series for Australian football (AFL) community clubs. Learner centred coaching venture between Simon Black Academy (Simon Black and Nathan Clarke) and Coach Gunny (Craig Gunn). #Engage FIRST THANKS to the LEGEND of Anthony of AOB Media and Wilston-Grange Gorillas!

Thanks Wayne and Dale for your pragmatism and JOY of teaching.

Finally, whilst at it, continue sharing (like Schultzy said) and remain curious teachers. There are many ways to learn nowadays outside the hallowed halls of the higher institutions… Thus, how about we work together as curious learners and teachers?

Here is another of my favourite teachers:

Yours in learning,