Listened to your podcast with Jeremy Boone this morning, really enjoyed it.
If I can ask, I was really interested in what you said about consequences during games. I was wondering what sort of consequences you have been using. How you felt it had affected the level of competition and if there were any situations that you aren’t using them?"
This article is based on my reply....
A lot has been said about the use of consequences in practice and I do know some coaches and governing bodies who do not like the concept. use of the word consequences conjures up images of kids being 'beasted' or punished which is an understandable fear but from my perspective I think it is an essential tool which, if used skillfully, can really aid in the development of skill and performance.
For me consequences create an outcome which creates intensity (see my previous post on that) and intensity creates mental engagement which builds skill. Too often I see players going through the motions by training in a way that is not game realistic. It is not surprising then when they get to the fierce competetive arena of the game that the skills break down. I hear coaches talking about this all the time when they talk about players 'reverting to type' under pressure. 'Reverting to type' is just inadequate preparation in by book.
Consequences create pressure and pressure creates a training environment that is closer to the real thing.
So how do I do it...
I like to use a mixed diet of consequences depending on the group or the situation. Just to be clear I only use consequences in training and practice activities not competitive games.
My favourite technique is to get the players to come up with the consequence themselves. A couple of weeks ago I asked the group to create a forfeit and they came up with singing! It was hilarious to see the losing team perform a rendition of 'let it go' from Frozen to the other team who all got their camera phones out to video it!
Another week, they decided that the losing team had to cook for the winning team at a forthcoming team social evening. Wow that was a doozy!
The other thing I do is use ongoing internal leagues so that as we get towards the end point of each league and the players are aiming to win or avoid losing the intensity rises.
At the start of the season I use physical consequence to build conditioning into training sessions. I use it as a way of 'gamifying' sessions that are focussed on the basics. It is always done with the players agreement as I ask them if they agree that conditioning will be important to achieving our goals and then I ask the to choose if they want conditioning within the session or separately (they invariably pick conditioning included). We establish the perimeters of the exercise together and set the goals. They then agree what they will do as a consequence if they fail to achieve their goals. It is amazing how high they set the bar!
If I do use a physical consequence, I present it as an opportunity to improve our performance by being fitter and stronger than any other team in our league. I find that getting the players training with the fear of the conditioning prepares our mindset and means that we are gritty and tough in games because we have been through worse in training.
I can't stress enough this aspect of 'selling the why' before going down tis route. The use of consequences has to be congruent with their goals but, used well, it is very powerful. I I have also found that this approach really builds team cohesion and develops team spirit as well as building character in young players, the sense of challenge and overcoming adversity is something that really grabs hold of some players.
I hope this helps
Professor Dweck is clearly very busy at the moment, she has recently given a TED talk in scandanavia which you can see below. This has prompted me to develop 10 practical ways to help developing a 'Growth Mindset' which should help when working with children and young people.
My 7 year old son came up to me recently and asked me how he could improve the drawing he had done...maybe the work I have been doing is paying off!!
Avoid labels - "you are smart", "you are clever". Focus instead on how they do what they do.
Get them to explain their process "tell me more about how you did that, what was the strategy you used?"
Explain to the child that the brain is like a muscle which benefits from training. The brain can be trained through trial and error. The secret is to persevere and to fall in love with the struggle.
If they do something that is easy for them and they are expecting praise, offer them an 'opportunity' to stretch themselves by saying, "I want to give you the opportunity to show me how well you can learn".
Apologise for creating a game or practice that isn't challenging enough for them. You will know it is working when they say to you..."we don't do easy".
Ask them if they want the easy task or the harder one. Use this as a test to see if they are on track.
Use the 'horizon strategy' to keep the achievement of the task just out of reach but still visible. Give them checkpoints so that they can still see their improvement.
Explain that you are less interested in them getting the answer right as much as you are interested in how they got to the solution.
Create an award for the 'top struggler'. Reward the person who has tried the hardest and had the most fails.
Always explain that you can't make things easy because easy isn't fun. You want them to have fun and the fun comes from working hard at something.
Some of you may have seen on Twitter recently that I was fortunate enough to be able to host a conference at the RFU where the keynote speaker was Professor Carol Dweck who was talking about her life's work which centres around the concept of developing a 'growth mindset'. For anyone that needs a quick recap, this article does a great job of summarising Professor Dweck's work http://www.fastcompany.com/3039181/why-determination-matters-more-than-smarts-in-getting-ahead
Something Professor Dweck said during her keynote presentation really struck a chord with me, she stated... "We should be having struggle conversations all the time..we would never get home from work and say 'honey, I have had the most fabulous struggle!'". It really made me think about how young people today are surrounded by people with fixed mindsets that are creating a culture that is 'failure averse'. It also made me reflect on how much work I do to create environments that are full of challenge and where failure is part of the daily language.
This has really prompted me to go further with my feedback where I have resolved to started talking about failure and struggle much more..."what was the best failure team?" "What did we learn from that?" Or "who wants to share the struggle they had today".
I have often said that I evaluate my sessions not by the smiling faces and 'great session' comments I get from the players but by the air of 'slight disgruntlement' that is in the air. Ideally I have got the the players to a place where they love the struggle and the challenge and so they still recognise the value of the session and have enjoyed it but I definitely don't like seeing players that are totally comfortable as I know that I haven't stretched them enough.
I like to use words like 'stretch', 'reach' and 'strive' liberally to surround the players with language which points towards the process of learning and really try hard to avoid giving outcome based praise like 'that was brilliant' or 'awesome skill' which feels nice short term but creates a world where the players are only interested in the outcome and avoid failing for fear of not being identified as successful.
I came across the video below on the blog of Simon Nainby (well worth a read) which I think is very apt within this discussion it gives an amazing insight into the corporate culture within the music streaming service, 'Spotify' where the word failure is in everyday use and the corporate culture reinforces this on a regular basis. I have to say that it looks like a fantastic place to work!
Spotify Engineering Culture - part 2 from Spotify Training & Development on Vimeo.
I think that this is a really great piece which really challenges the prevailing culture within most spors organisations and corporate entities. I certainly think that in the world of coaching we are too often reluctant to deliberately engineer failure and struggle for fear of the potential consequences of how we are perceived either by the players, parents or others.
I will be sharing some of my best failures in the coming months and hope you might do the same.