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How to coach: STEP model for practice design

Over the last few months, I have been working with coaches of various sports (Cricket, Volleyball, Rugby, AFL) and assisting them in their coaching development. Possibly the most asked question by any coach is "do you have any drills for x...?" This is one reason why coaching sessions or masterclasses are so popular - because the coach delivering normally has one or two new drills or tasks that the attending coaches can take away and apply instantaneously with their own team. Answering the above question doesn't sit well with me for two reasons:

  1. I don't have the content knowledge in each different sport to identify or create outstanding drills that coaches can use and apply with their teams. I could answer their questions, but it would be an uninformed answer at best.

  2. Copy and paste methods of coaching do not work. A good coach will create a training task to solve a very specific problem with a very specific player or group of players. Every problem, player and group of players are different, so care must be taken to provide them with suitably challenging tasks.

This can all be summarised as the "what to coach". My work (and that of other skill acquisition specialists around the world) is more focussed on "how to coach" (Smith et al., 2022). Specifically, how to design and implement tasks, and how to communicate and interact with players. This post will focus on the design of practice tasks, and the utilisation of a modified STEP model (figure 1) to assist coaches with the design of their practice design.