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Guided Discovery

This is an excerpt from Athletic Movement Skills by Clive Brewer.

A coaching method that goes somewhat towards combining aspects of both the drill and the games approaches is the guided discovery technique. Using this method, practitioners establish a drill or practice pattern and then use questions to guide or shape the athletes' learning and thus influence subsequent performance attempts. Effective questions are those that direct the athletes' focus to a particular aspect of the skilled performance, either the decision-making process or the technical aspects of a particular movement or skill execution.


Asking Effective Questions

Ask questions that raise awareness and promote responsibility. Use what questions first:

  • What did you do differently this time?
  • Tell me what you felt in that movement.


Follow with questions that explore the following aspects:

  • Where were you looking to help you decide where to move?
  • When did you feel your heels coming off the floor as you descended?
  • How much force do you think you used to push into the floor to jump upwards?


Or progress to asking for further explanation:

  • Tell me more about how you felt the weight distribution change through your foot in the clean pull.
  • Describe in more detail exactly where the bar was when you felt the weight shift forwards from your heels.


For less-experienced performers, you may direct their attention towards a specific focus. Relate feedback specifically to the coaching points on which you instructed the athlete to focus.


For experienced performers, you may want to focus on and follow the athlete's interest. Sometimes an experienced athlete will make you aware of something you could not see or had not focussed on; for example, the athlete may say, ‘That didn't feel as powerful' or ‘When I land on my left leg, I feel more unbalanced than on my right.'


Try a rating scale using the athlete's anchor words or images to keep the athlete from judging him- or herself. For example, ask, ‘If 1 is no push at all and 10 is the most explosive push you can give, rate your push into the floor on that repetition.'


Really listen. Use your eyes as well as your ears. Listen to intent as well as content.


Give the athlete time to answer, especially when he or she is getting used to answering questions. Think about giving the athlete another skill attempt in which to come up with the answer to your question rather than providing the answer.

Learn more about Athletic Movement Skills.