Let’s Reflect: Why Bother?

Despite increasing acceptance of reflective practices as part of coach education, there seems to be little understanding on what reflection is, why it’s necessary, and ultimately why we are NOT doing it!

10 years of coaching experience may simply mean doing the same thing 10 times over.

What’s Reflection?

It’s often understood (NOT incorrectly) as the process of hindsight and learning what needs to be done in order to improve practice in the future. According to one definition, it involves “paying critical attention to the practical values and theories which inform everyday actions, by examining practice reflectively and reflexively.”

Why the Need for Reflection?

Indeed, coaches learn best through coaching itself (see previous article) but on the same note, 10 years of coaching experience may simply mean doing the same thing 10 times over. Learning is not an automatic by product of experience!

Research in different fields have shown that performance improves significantly when learners deliberate on and codify their experience. Coaching is no exception and here’s a research project specific to Sport Coaching. It IS possible to train and learn smarter instead of simply harder!

Reflection Cycle

Why we are NOT practicing reflection

I learnt about reflection during my formal education years in PE and later in Psychology. Also came across the mention of it countless times. You would assume that I must be quite an avid “reflector” having been exposed to it so often. Wrong! Despite being reminded of its importance for almost two decades, I’ve never treated it seriously until about five to six years back.

Here’s why it took me ages to get started! Pretty sure some of you will be able to relate…

  1. Too Complex
    The Gibb’s Reflective Cycle was my introduction to reflection during my undergraduate years. I was probably too immature at that time to understand the whole process which seemed weird and unnecessary.
  2. No Time or A Waste of Time
    There’s always too much work to do and deadlines to meet hence it feels all too counter intuitive to spend time doing something that does not have any “immediate” impact.
  3. “Airy Fairy”
    Most structured reflection involves some sort of “getting in touch with your feelings” shite was took me a while to get used to. Besides, I’m biased against persons who seem to be only thinking all the time (for good reason!). Always felt that these fellas are simply procrastinators.

So what made me finally decide to practice reflection regularly?

Well, like all coaches, I’ve always looking for ways to improve my athletes’ performance. Despite not practicing reflection myself, I decided to be a “hypocrite” and made reflection a part of every training session for the primary school rope-skipping team that I used to coach. I even designed simple thinking routines to help them make better sense of their training and experiences. For the athletes that I was working with as a psychology coach, I made a more deliberate effort to improve the quality of our facilitated conversations.

In short, it was my athletes’ success that inspired me to get started on regular reflection – my primary school athletes won three out of four division titles that year (despite having less training sessions due to budget cuts), and my psychology athletes were able to understand and apply the mental skills more effectively!

“Learning is not an automatic by-product of experience!”

As a coach, I began to get generative ideas for organizing practice and effective feedback. I also became more aware of how my own emotions affect my athlete’s learning. Instead of being a waste of time, regular reflection actually “saves time” – I was clear about what worked and what didn’t, and manage to get more done with less time.

Is “No time” also your excuse?

If you would like to start practicing reflection, here’s a link to reflective models that you could use. It’s advisable to follow a model for a start since hindsight tends to be biased and superficial. Ironically, the model that I use for reflection today is the Gibb’s Reflective Cycle! The same model that turned me off from reflecting when I was 21 years young!

Coach Hansen

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