Evolution not revolution: The importance of ojective reflection

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I like learning but sometimes I catch myself a little overly enthusiastic about some new information. I know I can get a little carried away at times when I first am introduced to a new insight, alternate viewpoint or a novel design. With this perceived potential added value that I now have at my disposal the need to reflect becomes all the more important. The reason being that sometimes I feel the need to go back to the drawing board and change my approach fundamentally. Tweaking some habits is healthy and show’s awareness and some appreciation of one’s processes. But to start again from scratch and to do so continuously, of course is not productive and does not lead to deep understanding of a subject.

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water!
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

‘Don’t go throwing the baby out with the bath water’ is perhaps the best encapsulation of this self debilitating yet well meaning approach that I find myself occasionally slipping into. I am all for being exposed to new ideas and to then take them on is the next logical step, however there needs to be a level of analysis taking place before any changes are made. Without doing so, you always run the risk of letting go some of the more effective practices that you hold that perhaps just needed some attention to be made to be more efficient.

No one operates to their desired optimal standards in any walk of life 100% of the time. The main reason for this being that unfortunately we are human. We are emotional creatures and from time to time our standards slip as we are faced with changing external circumstances. These often force us to think and act quickly and therefore compromise our own expectations through reactive actions that in hindsight we would probably not choose to partake in. From a coaching perspective, a simple example of this could be in the difference in expected numbers to a session. Personally speaking, bigger numbers than expected has at times led to a sense of panic and a loss of control. This has led to disengagement and ball contact time lost. Such disappointing experiences have then been the catalyst for me to then rip up my processes and start again. However what has been missing and what has facilitated this destructive behavior has been a lack of self reflection.

Since recognizing the importance of reflection in both my everyday and professional activities, I have put an emphasis on incorporating some basic reflecting into my day. Over the last year or so and as a result I have found myself to be able to bounce back, adapt and restart with less inner turmoil and less subsequent damaging action. This in fact has been replaced with more productive and rational follow through steps to ensure that I am moving on from each experience good and bad, positively.

The timing is important.

As mentioned, being the emotional beings we are, perspective can be clouded by our emotions as they are heightened having just been immersed in the session. Judgement then is not as objective as it could be and you may have a skewed reflection. Having said this emotions should not be completely discounted and can help give greater clarity in our reflections and also aid recall of details.

Gibbs' reflective cycle '98
Gibbs’ reflective cycle ’98

I have found my most effective reflections have been within an hour or so after the session and the way I do this is simply by answering some key questions relating to the session’s structure.

Key areas revolving around the player make up a large part of the questioning. Things relating to the player’s experience, the player’s environment, and the communication with players as well as between one another are the first things that are considered.

Then, having answered these and with the time that has passed we can be more objective when examining our own performance directly. The content, the nature of the delivery and the ongoing adaptations are all among the areas that make up the rest of the reflection process. From there, its then a matter of looking at what can be done for next time. It’s important not to beat ourselves up and get overly negative with certain unpleasing aspects, hence we answer the question: ‘What things did I do well vs What may have been better’. Following this we are able to specify exactly what needs changing and also just as importantly, what needs retaining.

A continual process of this will lead to not only a greater understanding of our players, but also of ourselves and our processes. Effective sessions can start moving towards efficient ones and with this we end up accelerating the rate of development of our players. This is ultimately where we want to get to.

But then what do we do in the face of new information?

Well, again we turn to our reflective process. Constantly examining our processes, knowing what works and what doesn’t allows us to objectively find room for new things we should include, tweak what we already do or even completely remove a certain practice altogether.

As a coach, revolution may seem the thing to do as exposure to new ideas forces examination of your beliefs and practices. But in truth, evolution is far more effective and much more necessary if we are to learn anything deeply about a given subject, including our players and even ourselves.

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