Goldilocks and the 3 levels of competition within the lesson to create a motivated environment
Last weekend was assessment day for a group of fantastic young coaches looking to further themselves in tennis through professional development. They were presenting lessons to orange kids aged 8 – 10 years old of various levels of experience and skill. Observing these coaches as they formed great relationships with their students and delivered really purposeful activities to these orange kids, I witnessed different approaches to using competition to create motivation within the lesson.
Adam, who was a very confident player but just finding his way as a coach had a group of quite skillful boys and jumped straight into competition from the beginning of the lesson. 1st to do this, 1st to serve 10 balls in the service box, 1st to 11 points etc… The boys in the class enjoyed this style enormously [of course], but essentially that is what the lesson proved to be – all style and no substance. By starting with competition and never letting off, Adam got high levels of motivation but gave himself little opportunity to actually coach, make corrections, show demonstrations, ask questions and actually make learning happen…this lesson was too hot!
Next up David took to the court with his group of kids. David is quietly spoken and has a really nice way with the kids. His lessons reflect his personality and there was noticeably less energy on the court than Adam’s, yet he was effectively getting the kids to volley with good technique and was slowly achieving the objective of the lesson. However, as the lesson wore on the kids started to attention started to wane, while David worked patiently with one pair or player, the others in the group began to lose concentration and motivation.
The problem was they were not working towards a goal, 1st team to rally 10 balls in a row, or 1st player to hit 5 volleys deep over the service line. No scoring or rules had been implemented, no matter how successful the players became at performing the skill they weren’t given the chance to practice it under competitive situations. The players were just practicing their technique and it wasn’t long before the air had gone out of the lesson…it was too cold!
Finally Emily took the court with a mixture of boys and girls who might have been hard to manage [2 were brother and sister]. Emily is an inexperienced coach, but she comes onto court highly organized and her lesson plan was full of activities that were interesting and challenging. Her strategy when delivering was to give all the players time to practice the skill while she demonstrated, guided, questioned and explained to the kids the technique required to perform the skill.
Once the kids had a chance to slowly explore the right technique and had achieved some success she designed scoring systems so the concentration lifted immediately. For each different skill during the lesson Emily started with slower more deliberate practice followed by more intense competitive play. Her scoring systems were varied and effective moving from co-operative, to competitive working at a skill, to competitive points:-
– 1st team to rally 10 balls into target area
– 1st players to hit 5 serves into a target area
– 1st player to reach 7 points, including a bonus point if they won with an accurate serve.
By allowing the players to practice the skill and then compete she had got it JUST RIGHT! A group of potentially difficult kids to manage had been tamed; an environment was created where the players were motivated to develop the technical skills to achieve the tactical challenges presented, real learning had taken place.