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I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the training environment. It is my approach that will affect the outcomes. It is my behavior that will set the mood. As the coach, I can make the lives of my athletes miserable or joyous. I can be a tool for resentment or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor; hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether an issue will escalate or de-escalate and if a person is humanised or de-humanised - Adapted from the work of Dr.Haim Ginott


What is coaching? Sport coaching is a complex, challenging and multi-faceted role that involves many responsibilities and requires a variety of skills to be effective [1,2]. It can be thought of as both a social activity and pedagogical endeavour [3,4] and categorised as either participation focussed or performance orientated [5]. The key points of both categories are summarised below. Participation coaching usually takes place in settings where it would be inappropriate for coaches to treat competition and winning as the prime objectives. Instead, the aim of a participation coach is to provide opportunities for athletes to have fun, learn new skills, develop confidence, interact with friends and compete socially [3]. Performance coaching is much more focused on preparing athletes for competition [3]. The role entails design and implementation of highly structured yearly training programs, overseeing competition schedules and analysing performance. Participation focussed coaching

Performance orientated coaching

Has little or no focus on winning.

Is directed primary at improving the sport performance of athletes.

Promotes fun and enjoyment. Targets competition and winning. Provides opportunity for playful competition. Makes extensive use of games and activities.

Implements highly structured training sessions and yearly training schedules. Emphasises development of sportspecific skills.

Works mostly at community level. Adopts an holistic approach to the development of athletes (A = Agility + Attitude) (B = Balance + Behaviour) (C = Coordination + Confidence)

Works mostly at the pre-elite level and in high-performance sporting environments.

ModBox coaching is very much focussed on working with participants who have elected not to pursue a high-performance sport trajectory and attention should be focussed on providing positive and transformational experiences, rather than an emphasis on competing and winning.

Insights into coaching The following quotes might provide more insights into coaching. However, coaches wanting more information, might find reading Peak Performance beneficial. This book is described as ‘a one-stop text for coaches, athletes and students of sports science who want to improve their knowledge and sporting performance by the application of scientific training principles’. ‘So much coaching is hit and miss, coaches giving you sessions without knowing why. Everything should have a reason, a scientific base. Every time I went out the door, the session had a purpose, a means to an end. That is where so many get it wrong’ Wendy Smith-Sly, 1984 Olympic 3,000 metre silver medallist ‘Training must be systematic, which means it must be thorough, regular and organised’ Connie Carpenter-Phinney, 1984 Olympic cycling road race champion ‘The thinking must be done first, before training begins’ Peter Coe, Coach and Father of Lord Sebastian Coe, two-time Olympic Champion and Gold Medallist (1980 and 1984)


Coaching styles Most coaches develop their own unique style based on their personality, level of experience and knowledge of the sport [5,6]. While it is important that coaches retain their individuality, they must also maintain a flexible approach during periods of training to ensure the coaching style is appropriate to the situation and meets the needs of the individuals within their charge [5,7]. The tables below provide an overview of the most commonly identified coaching styles and suggestions for their use. Autocratic (Bossy)

Democratic (Guider)

Laissez-Faire (Casual)

Autocratic coaches like to be in control and generally make all the decisions.

Coaches of this style will guide athletes toward achieving their goals and involve them in the decision-making process.

A casual coach makes few decisions and allows the athletes to take ownership of the practice and make the decisions.

Command style

Reciprocal style

Coaches provide direct instructions and mostly dictate.

Coaches let athletes take some responsibility for their learning.

Problem solving style Athletes solve tasks that are set by the coach.

Guided discovery Athletes are encouraged to explore options and decide for themselves what works best.

The information presented in the above tables was adapted from Applying psychology to sport

Characteristics of effective coaching The characteristics that define effective sports coaching are similar for community-based and high-performances coaches [8-10]. Having an understanding of these traits may not only assist ModBox coaches with the delivery of their training sessions but could help to improve the overall standard of their coaching. Effective coaches are passionate about their role Effective coaches are inspiring people, who are passionate about helping others and like to see people succeed [5].

Dr Alcides Sagarra CarĂłn Cuban Boxing Team Head Coach 1964-2001. 32 Olympic Gold medals and 63 Senior World Championship Gold medals.

Effective coaches inspire others  Effective coaches motivate people to achieve more than they thought they could by constantly challenging the limits of their beliefs [11]. Effective coaches lead by example Effective coaches model the attitudes and behaviours they want their athletes to adopt, and expect the same from their assistants [12]. Effective coaches make activities fun Effective coaches constantly find new and creative ways to integrate fun into their training sessions and understand that athletes who enjoy themselves tend to perform better [13].

Something all coaches should remember Great coaches are not born - they are made. Beginner coaches become accomplished coaches, and skilled coaches become great coaches, by thinking hard about their coaching and discovering new ways to improve it. - Adapted from: Becoming A Reflective Mathematics Teacher: A Guide for Observations and Self- assessment 1st Edition

Effective coaches develop people Effective coaches focus on the personal development of their athletes by combining the teaching of life skills with the coaching of sport skills [14]. Effective coaches are great communicators Effective coaches know that communication involves not only conveying a message but also active listening so that the person sharing the information is aware that they have been fully heard and understood [15]. Effective coaches understand the individual differences in their athletes Effective coaches understand that every athlete is different in terms of attitude, personality and sensitivity, and they spend time getting to know these individual differences [16]. Effective coaches, then individualise instructions, cueing and behaviour to better suit the needs of the individual. Effective coaches individualise the learning process Effective coaches understand that individuals perceive and process information in different ways [17,18]. They therefore implement a range of strategies to cater for the different learning styles within a group.

Top 3 characteristics of a phenomenal coach 61% Developing  the  whole   person     55%  Strong  communication   skills  and  the  ability  to  teach   53%  Constantly  looking  for   ways,  techniques  and  tools   to  improve  performance    

2008 Coach Survey Summary Results: Evolution of the Athlete Conference. The figures shown for each point represent the percentage of coaches who identified the characteristic as important.

Inclusive coaching Research undertaken by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) has revealed that people with a disability are 15% less likely to participate in sport than their able-bodied counterparts and of those that do participate 75% are unsatisfied with the activity [19]. These figures highlight that more needs to be done to ensure that people with a disability are provided the same opportunities to enjoy the physical, mental and social benefits of sports participation as those who do not have a disability [20,21]. ModBox coaches can assist this process by adapting their coaching practices, training sessions and activities in such ways as to ensure that every participant - regardless of age, gender, religious/cultural belief or level of functionality - is given the opportunity to participate in ModBox training sessions and public performances. Additional information that may help ModBox coaches with the development of inclusive training environments can be found in the resources below.

Play by the rules free interactive disability-inclusion training

Confédération Sportive Internationale Travailliste et Amateur

Commit to inclusion guidelines

‘Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers’. -Nelson Mandela

The role of a ModBox coach A lot has been written about the role of the coach. In fact, you can read almost any publication on sport coaching and there will be a section on the role of the coach. In most cases, however, the focus is on the skills that are required to be an effective coach and not the primary role of the coach [22]. For example, being able to manage complex situations, plan thoroughly, communicate effectively and provide leadership could be described as highly valued skills but none of these abilities accurately describe the role of a coach [23]. Below are some questions about the possible roles of a ModBox coach. These questions might help stimulate more ideas concerning the essence of the coaching role. •

Is it the role of a ModBox coach to develop safe, fun, friendly, inclusive, positive and exciting training/learning environments?


Should ModBox coaches be concerned more about developing strong coach/athlete relationships that focus on the personal development of the individual rather than promoting a win-at-allcosts attitude?

Developing welcoming training environments that provide opportunities for personal growth, learning and development for athletes and coaches is perhaps the main role of ModBox coach.

Coaching the 5Cs Research focused on Positive Youth Development (PYD) has shown that low exposure to the 5Cs: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character and Compassion during childhood and adolescence is likely to lead to antisocial behaviour and other behavioural problems. Also, young people who experience higher levels of the 5Cs tend to transition more successfully into adulthood [24-26]. UK Sport has adapted this research to sport and developed a specific approach to coaching that is primarily focused on the development of the above traits. Known as ‘The five Cs for coaching’, this approach aims to develop a wide range of personal capabilities through positive sporting experiences. The table below is based on this approach and provides suggestions that could be adopted and implemented by ModBox coaches in an attempt to assist with the development of the 5Cs.


ModBox coaches can assist with the development of this trait through the provision of age and developmentally appropriate training activities, creating opportunities for continuous learning and the implementation of task-orientated learning environments.


Confidence is more likely to be developed through participation in ModBox when coaches use a progressive approach for the development of skill, provide positive encouragement and focus on improvement and persistence rather than outcomes and results.


Strong friendship groups, positive and supportive coach-athlete relationships and a sense of belonging are examples of how connection can be developed through ModBox.

Character & Compassion

Participation in ModBox is more likely to support the development of these important traits when the coaches and training environments clearly value, model and reward them.


Creativity can be promoted in ModBox programs through the use of an athlete-centered, inquiry-based approach to learning that encourages athletes to think for themselves and promotes and rewards self-expression.

Central to the 5Cs approach to coaching is the view that all young people have the potential for positive growth and development [27,28], and should be regarded as a valuable resource to be developed rather than a problem to be managed [29].

Additional suggestions for developing the 5Cs Features of the training setting that are important in developing the 5Cs, thereby contributing to positive youth development, include the following [30-32]: Physical and psychological safety Physical safety refers to the level of safety and security a setting provides its participants [33,34]. Providing training environments that are free from distractions and potential hazards, and provide health-promoting practices are examples of how ModBox coaches can create this setting feature. In the present context, psychological safety refers to the quality of interactions between the coach and participants [33,34]. ModBox coaches can promote a sense of psychological safety by ensuring interactions are respectful, caring, and appropriate to the specific needs of each athlete. Appropriate structure This setting feature is concerned with the existence of clear and consistent expectations regarding rules, values and training structure [33,34]. Providing training sessions that are carefully planned, properly structured and are supportive of the values that underpin ModBox is a way in which this setting feature could be realised. Supportive relationships ModBox coaches can ensure that supportive relationships become a central component of their programs through enabling supportive, caring and respectful coach-athlete interactions that offer guidance and support to all. Opportunities to belong This setting feature highlights the importance of providing training environments that appreciate individual differences and strive to provide a place of belonging for all participants, regardless of age, gender or level of functionality [33,34]. ‘Sport has been dominated by a system in which the needs and interests of the coach overtake those of the athletes. A system structured and ruled by adults, also known as the professional model of coaching, is one in which the coaches have the power to make all the important decisions and are mostly devoted to product outcomes, rather than the process of developing people’ [35]p.171.

Positive social norms Maintaining high expectations of athletes, as well as encouraging, modeling and rewarding such desirable values as fair play, cooperation, responsibility and empathy [33,34], are examples of how this setting feature can be promoted within a ModBox program. Support of efficacy and mattering This setting feature can be promoted through the use of an autonomysupportive approach to coaching that not only values individual expression and opinion, but encourages athletes to openly share their ideas [33,34]. Opportunities for skill building This setting feature promotes the importance of providing opportunities for continuous learning and the development of not only sport skills but personal and social skills [33,34]. ModBox coaches can implement this setting feature by focusing on developing the whole person and not just an athlete. Integration of family, school, and community efforts ModBox coaches can support the development of this setting feature by promoting values that are consistent with other learning environments, such as schools, family and community organisations, and by actively networking and collaborating with these groups [33,34].

‘Good habits formed at youth make all the difference’. - Aristotle

Developing people and athletes As the primary focus of a ModBox coach is to assist with the positive growth and development of young people, coaches will need to underpin the coaching of sport skills with the teaching of life skills [5,14,36]. Suggestions aimed at assisting with this holistic approach to athlete development are presented below. •

Coaches should build trust -‘To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved’. - George MacDonald

Coaches should always motivate – ‘Relationships are about helping motivate each other to be all that you can be’. - David Archuleta

Coach should show they care – ‘Nobody cares about how much you know, until they know you how much you care’. - Theodore Roosevelt

Coaches should be able to relate – ‘It’s a weird thing, that people have the ability to help one another just by relating’. – Natasha Lyonne

Coaches should measure their success by the quality and strength of the relationships they develop with the athletes and their families and not be concerned with winning [36,37].

Coaches should not only focus on improving the athletic qualities and technical proficiency of their athletes, but assist with their overall personal development [11,38].

Coaches should use a deliberate and systematic approach to the development of life skills [39].

Coaches should not just talk about life skills, but make sure they are demonstrated and rewarded [39].

Coaches should take advantage of teachable moments when they present themselves and provide examples of situations in which the demonstrated skill/behaviour can be transferred to other areas of a young person’s life [39].

An example of holistic coaching within a ModBox setting The example below demonstrates how an holistic approach for athlete development could be used within a ModBox training setting. In this example, the coach deliberately utilised a teachable moment (which also has the potential to be a moment of truth, refer to page 18) to not only congratulate the athlete for her performance but to provide an example of how the demonstrated behaviour could be transferred to other areas of her life. From the perspective of the athlete, leadership was demonstrated by a willingness to volunteer and assist with the development of the newer members, which in turn could promote additional positive outcomes for not only the athlete but also the program. The discussion takes place at the end of a training session when the coach acknowledges the significance of the moment: ‘Well done Sara, you were excellent today’. – Coach. ‘Thanks coach, I was trying really hard’. – athlete. Coach engages further: ‘I could tell. I thought it was your best performance to date. Congratulations on an outstanding display’. – Coach. ‘Thank you, coach’ – athlete. ‘You’re welcome, Sara. I’d also like to thank you for demonstrating the type of behaviour, attitude and determination that our program values’. – coach. ‘It’s not a big deal’, – athlete. This is when the coach attempts to link the behavior to a known skill, in this case leadership: ‘It certainly is a big deal, Sara. Great leaders demonstrate the type of behavior they wish to see in others and that’s exactly what you’ve been doing here’. – coach. ‘Really, I’ve never thought of myself as a leader. That’s kinda cool’. – athlete. ’Well, I think you’ve got the potential to be a great leader and was hoping you would consider helping me by working with some of the newer members’. – Coach. ‘If you think I would be of some help, I’d love to be more involved. Thanks coach’. – athlete. This is where the coach attempts to link the skill to other areas of the athlete’s life: ‘I think you’ll be great Sara, just like I bet you are at home and at school’. – Coach.

A philosophy for coaching Coaching philosophies should reflect the values and personal beliefs of the coach, provide a framework for current work practices and help to clarify what a coach expects from him/herself and others. It should be considered a work-in-progress that will evolve over time, and be shaped by new experiences and the complexity of the environments [38,40]. To create meaningful and worthwhile coaching philosophies, some researchers [38,40] suggest coaches begin by carefully addressing the questions below: • • •

What do I believe is the nature of coaching? Why do I think that? Why are the athletes participating?

Cassidy et al [38] believe that once the above points have been a considered, the following more practical questions should then be addressed so that the philosophy becomes a functional and useful tool. • • • •

Is my approach appropriate? Can I justify my actions? Is there a better way of doing things? How do I introduce and follow my coaching philosophy?

Why am I coaching?

Who am I coaching?

What do I want to achieve?

‘Understanding your reasons for coaching and your beliefs about the coaching process is an essential beginning for your journey as a coach’ - John Buchanan

Dealing with difficult situations It is unfortunate but almost inevitable that at some stage of their careers most coaches will be required to deal with a difficult situation. Whether it is negotiating with overzealous parents or dealing with bullies it is important that coaches resolve the matter with professionalism and respect so the incident does not escalate or negatively influence the training environment. When dealing with difficult situations, coaches should use the trust and rapport they have developed to assist in resolving any issue in a way that is both respectful and helpful to everyone involved. Coaches are encouraged to use the information contained in the links below to better prepare themselves for some of the challenging and difficult situations they may encounter. •

Dealing with difficult people in sport

Dealing with pushy parents

Overzealous parents behaving badly

‘Conflict cannot survive without your participation’. - Dr Wayne Dyer

Safety issues and concerns ModBox coaches should always consider the safety and welfare of the participants by ensuring that the potential for risk is suitably managed before, during and after training sessions. Below are some suggestions that may assist in minimising the potential for risk and help to satisfy specific legal requirements. Strategies for minimising the potential for risk • Ensure that all athletes complete an introduction and screening process. • Have a referral strategy for any health and/or medical concerns that may arise from the screening process. • Use participant waivers and image release forms. • Provide participants with substantive information about the risks, benefits and expectations of the program so they can make an informed decision about their participation. • Have a qualified first aid person and first aid kit on site. • Ensure the training space is free from any hazards. • Take time to plan each training session. • Identify desired training outcomes. • Start training sessions with an effective and specific warm-up. • Provide clear instructions. • Be alert for any potential problems during training sessions. • Ensure work/rest ratios are appropriate. • End training sessions with a suitable cool-down period.

More information about sport safety is available from stop sports injuries

Helpful online resources The following links contain a number of free resources that could be helpful for reducing risk. Coaches may find the templates in the Play by the rules link particularly helpful for developing and implementing their own safety guidelines. •

Play by the rules (Free templates)

The Fitness Australia risk management plan

Keeping things safe (The Australian Sports Commission)

Key points for reducing risk Reducing the likelihood of accidents and managing the safety of participants is an extremely important issue [41,42]. Some key points for reducing risk in a community-based sporting activity could include: Ø Having a dedicated person or committee take responsibility for reducing risks. Ø Promoting a safe culture by encouraging members, coaches and volunteers to be vigilant for potential hazards and risks. Ø Implementing systems to support risk management practices (e.g. reporting of potential risks and hazards, incident reports, emergency evacuation plan)

Common injuries Injuries in sport can occur when training or competing. Some injuries are the result of accidents, while others are the result of poor training practices and/or the use of faulty equipment. In regard to boxing-related training the most common injuries associated with participation are sprains, tears and fractures [43,44]. These types of injuries are normally the result of improper technique being used in activities such as punch bag drills and generally occur to the hands and wrists. For example, ligaments can be severely damaged and in some cases completely torn if a fist is in a flexed or hyper-extended position when a punch is incorrectly delivered to an object such as a punch bag [44,45]. These types of injuries are often quite painful but do not usually require casting – nevertheless, medical advice should still be sought. In more severe cases, incorrect punching can result in a fracture of the carpals or metacarpals. These are not only very painful injuries but in most cases the injured area will have to be set in a cast and require complete rest to heal [46,47]. The above highlights the importance of good technique and the need to protect the hands whenever punch bag drills are going to be included in a ModBox training session. One proven method for reducing the potential for risk to the hands and wrists is the use of hand wraps. When applying hand wraps it is important that the key points below are addressed. Attention to these points will not only help to strengthen and support the hands and wrists but will reduce the risk of injury. Coaches should ensure that: • The wrist joint is supported. • Knuckles have plenty of coverage. • Base of thumb is secured. • Hand wraps are not too tight.

Treating injuries Sports injuries can be classified as either: • •

Acute: An injury that occurs suddenly, such as a sprained ankle. Chronic: An injury that is caused by repeated overuse of muscle groups or joints. Improper technique and individual abnormalities can contribute to the development of chronic injuries [47,48].

The appropriate treatment for an injury will depend on the type and severity. However, in most cases the RICER method (see illustration below) is recommended and athletes should be referred to a trained medical professional for diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible [49]. Additional information for the treatment of injuries can be found in the links below. These resources have been prepared by industry experts and outline a number of strategies for the prevention and treatment of sportspecific injuries. •

Sports Medicine Australia injury fact sheets

Stop sport injuries

Helping players cope with the stress of injury







An illustration of the RICER approach for treatment of injuries. In addition to using this approach, coaches should try to provide emotional support to injured athletes during periods of rehabilitation and where possible continue to involve them in the program.

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Suggestions for Coaching ModBox  

This information guide provides an overview of the coaching role, summarises the key factors required to be an effective coach, contains sug...

Suggestions for Coaching ModBox  

This information guide provides an overview of the coaching role, summarises the key factors required to be an effective coach, contains sug...