Constraint Based Coaching

In the world of golf more and more players have been flirting with scores in 50’s than ever before. I became interested as to why? I came across an interesting article by Graeme McDowall and Peter Arnott on Constraint Based Coaching. In the article they highlight a number of very interesting ideas such as:

If you practice hitting successive shots with the same club, you will become good at hitting shots successive shots with the same club.

If you practice in low pressure situations, you will become good in low pressure situations.

Spending most of your time trying to perfect your technique you will play well only when your technique is good.

At some point in our athletic endeavours we all have been guilty of one of these, if not all three. I know have been up until a couple of years ago and at times revert back.

Over the last 16 months I have attended hockey practices where I have seen all three time after time. I have seen it at Atom and I have seen it in Midget. So why does minor hockey continue down this path? Is it the way we always have done it and they see no need to change? Is it pressure from parents on the Coach when they see something that is different and there is no instant gratification for the parent?

 Constraint Based Coaching strips the players’ ability and the performance environment. It forces the player to develop new physical and mental strategies to perform in this new environment. An example in the world of hockey came from the shootout. Before the shootout environment surfaced how many times in a game did a player put the puck between his legs and shoots it? My bet is none. However, with the shootout players had to find new ways to score and they have come up with some very creative strategies. The scoring environment changed from high speed and quickness in a game environment, to one on one where they have an uninterrupted non-resistant shoot out environment. The players also changed  mentally and physically. They exposed their shootout talents to 18,000 people in the arena and to the millions who will watch it on Sports Centre the next day. They have become very comfortable at being uncomfortable.

So how does this Coaching work? The coach creates a learning environment by manipulating the constraints that impinge constraints that on performance i.e. task

Secondly, the player is forced to adapt their system dynamics (process) to output a functional response i.e. change behaviour. Actually it is very simple concept which has infinite applications. It is not about changing what you have, it about changing what you do with what you got that makes the difference.

So, my task is to start visiting practices to observe if constraint based Coaching is being utilized. As I have mentioned in previous articles I am an advocate of “Small Games”, but I am interested if other methods are being used teach hockey players the skills and tactics necessary to play the game in the correct fashion.

Until next time!

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