Behaviour Training (BT) vs. Decision Training (DT) Part I
Posted by Dean Holden at February 11th, 2016
by Dean Holden, 27 November 2015
“Sit Ubu, sit! Good dog!”
Think back to your minor sport career (and beyond if you continued to play) – can you remember the coaching style that predominated your time as a player? I can; I have vivid memories about different coaches (good and bad) as well as their coaching styles. While the individual coaches differed, their principal coaching style did not – they were all similar in that they were almost exclusively drill based.
From the age of 14 on up, my coaches essentially ran the same handful of drills (did they all have the same drill manual?), in fact, my last junior coach was the King of the 3 L’s: Lines, Laps and Lectures! He ran the same exact practice every time down to the minute! This made for a lot of boring ice times… featuring lots of standing around in line for minutes, waiting for a rep that could last a mere few seconds, bag skating, or listening to the same old, same old, war stories from his era! The drills rarely featured game-like competition and the players weren’t held accountable for their performance (no real scoring/evaluation system in place), aside from being yelled at occasionally for missing a pass, shooting wide, or making a mistake. Hey wait… don’t most people learn by making mistakes?
This traditional form of coaching is called Behaviour Training (BT). It is very patterned, robotic and predictable. The players’ minds become stagnant, dangerously dulled and habituated by routine. When BT is used, positive short-term gains are achieved, so this form of coaching appears to be the best approach, thus it appeals to coaches and players.
In reality, research studies reveal that players trained primarily in a BT environment are unable to maintain high levels of performance in the long term. Skills and strategies that were mastered early in the season (mostly against zero or token resistance, IE: against tires, pylons, coaches, players with sticks upside down, etc.) seem to be forgotten as the season progresses. There is limited ability to utilize these skills later in new and unusual settings (like in a real game, where opponents put real pressure on you, with a real scoreboard, real officials and rules, in front of real spectators and scouts!) A ‘real game’ is chaotic and unpredictable, requiring spontaneity and creativity to come up with novel solutions on the spot! How will the poor BT robots cope? Not very well it turns out…
Unfortunately, as BT is still taught within our current certification systems, it remains the dominant technique in use. If you want an example of BT, head down to your local NHL, university or junior rink to watch a practice. The practices won’t vary much from one another in content, but the skill levels/execution obviously will. Regrettably, minor hockey coaches watch these adult BT practices, think they are the best thing going, steal these drills and then try to implement them with minor hockey kids and the cycle tragically perpetuates.
Here are a number of characteristics of highly behavioural coaching environments. As you read this list, I challenge you to do a self-assessment to see the extent to which your coaching style falls into BT:
- The player is not encouraged to provide input into their training program.
- There is an assumption that the best way to train is to induce a mindless state; where unconsciousness and automaticity are ultimate states. “Don’t think… react!”
- A desire to create training conditions that produce automatic responses all too often lead to artificial training conditions, lacking of the realities of competition. The widespread belief that “practice makes perfect” does not recognize that modern sport requires full cognitive involvement by the athlete during training in order to produce long term results.
- Over time, the player becomes more and more dependent on their coach – a situation that can have negative/disastrous results during games!
- Eventually, the player may develop the attitude that the coach is responsible for his or her success (and failure). Players do not assume responsibility for their own development and success. They move from a growth mindset to a closed mindset.
BT occurs when only the physical dimensions of performance are emphasized. These methods are used extensively in BT: simple-to-complex progressions, blocked or highly repetitive drills of the same skills, high levels of feedback, limited use of video models and video feedback, and an emphasis on specific drill perfection. High levels of physical work are required but the amount of thinking required by the athlete is low or non-existent.
Stay tuned for Part II…
1. Vickers, J.N, Decision Training: A New Approach To Coaching