One of the main goals of coaching is to develop the “skills” required by the particular discipline or sport in which the athlete is involved. These skills may range from simple to complex. Their level of difficulty (in execution) is proportionate to the amount of time the athlete engages (or has been involved) in the practice of said discipline.
But there is more.
The context of the athlete’s general experience is critical. We can say that all behaviours exhibited within the limitations of the coach-athlete relationship should benefit the technical progress of the athlete’s skill set. However, to successfully facilitate this progress, three factors must be considered: a proper definition of “progress”, how that definition relates to success, and a clear understanding of the athlete’s needs.
Let us start by looking at what progress is. The dictionary defines progress as the development of an individual or group in a direction considered superior to the previous level.
It is essential to understand that there is no specific or universal way to quantify progress.
Progress can be as small a step as having a recreational trampoline athlete going from unbalanced bouncing to performing ten straight bounces without leaving the centre of the trampoline to a provincial athlete achieving mobility scores to the national level.
The implication is straightforward: progress is any forward movement or improvement in the athlete’s skill level. As coaches, we can also consider improvement in attitude or attitudinal shifts conducive to better progress.
Obviously, and this is where things can become blurry, the insinuation of this definition is contingent on the physical and psychological factors affecting the athlete’s learning and development (their progress and success).
Furthermore, it [the definition] must consider that these factors are themselves dependent on other aspects of the athlete’s condition like their needs, potential, and expectations of the sport. So, with a more explicit definition of progress, we can begin to define success; if an athlete’s expectation of the sport is to perform ten controlled bounces in the centre of the trampoline, and they have achieved this, they can be considered successful within the context of having met their own expectations for a particular class, a week of training, or the duration of their career in the sport of gymnastics.
NOTE: As it pertains to success, we must understand that it is also dependent on circumstances like the physical, psychological, and emotional state of the athlete. The instructor’s objective is to understand these circumstances and use them toward the athlete’s development and progress. However, it is also important to recognise that most if not all these factors may be beyond the instructor’s control – it follows that the instructor must establish consistency in the training environment.
Of all the factors affecting an athlete’s condition in training, their potential is the most difficult to observe, as it is relative to the athlete’s general condition, especially psychological/emotional tendencies.
Adequate development will come from a relationship in which these factors affecting the athlete’s condition are not detriments but form part of a healthy, dynamic framework where some progress is always possible.
— Coach José
I wrote this article for www.pulsars.ca on August 14. 2018 and it is published here with their permission. It was originally titled A Quick Word About Progress. I have edited parts of it to fit the context of this blog.