George Fell - First Aid and Outdoor Activities - Level 5 project

Are we paddling on a flat earth? How real are the coaching models?

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WARNING - this article won't give you any shiny new coaching toys. Nor any funky acronyms or mnemonics. It might make you think without giving you anything concrete to show for it. Then again it might resolve some coaching niggles that you have in the back of your head and empower you to get out there and play. If you want to cut to the chase, head straight to the "What does it mean for my coaching" page.

Here are a load of facts

George showing that men can multi-task

Now although I call all these things facts and might believe that they're true, they're four quite different beasts.

Dwarves and Giants : An "it works for me" fact

What I really mean is, "when I've played Dwarves and Giants, I've found that kids seem to have a really good time and actually get warmed up". This "fact" is based on my personal experience of what works for me. It might or might not be true for you. Even if we watch the same game, what I perceive as a successful outcome (lots of hyperactive children running round in circles), you might perceive as a failure. It's not fixed either; maybe next year I'll find a better game and downgrade dwarves and giants to only OK.

2+2=4 : A self-evident fact

I believe this to be self-evidently true. Absolutely, exactly and precisely true. It's true today and it'll still be true in a million years time.

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The earth is round : An experimentally determined fact

So you might put this in the same category as 2+2=4, but it's not. If you'd asked people three thousand years ago, you'd have been told "No it's not. It's flat". People had big arguments about this for hundreds of years and it wasn't until the ancient Greek philosophers turned their minds to it, and ancient Greek sailors actually saw it, that people started to come round to the idea that the earth is round. Even so (and in the face of increasing evidence) it wasn't until many hundreds of years later that belief in a round earth became the norm.

So this is an experimentally determined fact. People weren't sure if it was true or not. They went away and tried to find out. They found a load of evidence that supported it, and no evidence that contradicted it. Many people still people dismissed the mounting evidence of a round earth in favour of their own experience; "well it looks flat to me, so it must be". Some claimed that the earth being flat was self-evidently true (2+2=4 type facts), but eventually the experimentally determined facts won out.

It's important to meet my learners' VAK needs : What sort of fact is this?

So why might I believe this to be true? Because a highly qualified coach told me so on a coaching processes course? Because someone with a PhD wrote a paper saying it was true? Maybe because like Dwarves and Giants I've played with it and found it seems to work for me? I don't think it's self-evidently true, nor when you look into it, is there overwhelming evidence that it's true, indeed there's increasing evidence out there that it might not be true.

In twenty years time as more evidence accumulates, we might end up teaching something completely different on coaching courses.

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The trouble is it's really hard to set up experiments to test if bits of coaching theory actually work. Observing the curvature of the earth is a doddle compared to measuring how people behave, which is affected by so many different factors.

As a result of this MOST TEACHING THEORY IS MADE UP. Now that doesn't mean that it's wrong, and it certainly doesn't mean it doesn't work. It just means that it's true in the sense that Dwarves and Giants is a great game rather than true in the way that the earth is round.

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