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Giving an Effective Demonstration of Skill

The purpose of a demonstration is to increase the players' understanding of the skill by providing an accurate model from which to learn. For players to make appropriate decisions on how to execute skills, coaches need to provide an explanation and a demonstration so that players can learn and practise. An effective skill demonstration requires careful planning by the coach.

Consider the following questions:

Why is the skill important?

Understanding the importance of the skill in the context of the sport and competition will assist both the coach and player in teaching and learning the skill.

How will the skill be demonstrated and explained?

Select an appropriate method of teaching the skill taking into account the type of skill and the experience and ability of the players. Generally, it is recommended that the whole skill should be demonstrated first to show the players what the skill will look like when performed correctly, then broken down into various skill components (whole-part-whole). Remember players need to be able to observe the demonstration at different angles. Show both left and right-handed ways to execute the skill. Make a note in your session plan of two or three teaching points and some key words or phrases to emphasise important parts of the skill. Keep the instructions simple and avoid the use of jargon where possible. Players should be asked to concentrate on only one or two aspects of the skill at any one time.

What equipment will be required?

Coaches need to determine what equipment will be required to give an effective demonstration and ensure that appropriate equipment is available and ready to use when the time comes. For example if you are using a video have everything set up ready to press ‘play' before you start the session.

Where will the skill be demonstrated?

When planning your demonstration, take into account any possible distractions for your players such as the position of the sun or bright lights. Depending on how many players there are, decide on an appropriate formation which enables them all to see and hear the demonstration clearly. One of the most common and effective formations is a semi-circle with the coach or demonstrator standing in front.>

When will the demonstration take place?

The most obvious time to give a demonstration is when the players are learning a new skill; this should take place early in the training session while the players' minds and bodies are relatively ‘fresh'. Demonstrations can also be used when giving feedback or to remind players of a previously learned skill. It can also be useful to repeat the demonstration at the end of training so players can be reminded of what to work on.

Who will demonstrate the skill?

It is important that whoever is chosen to demonstrate can perform the skill correctly. Coaches will often demonstrate skills themselves, but they can also use players, sports persons from outside the team or even video tapes as part of the demonstration. Choose players with a range of skills to demonstrate. Asking the star of the team to demonstrate all the time can be discouraging for the less skilled and the learners. For most players, being chosen to demonstrate is seen as a reward for good performance. Be aware, however, that some players find this embarrassing - as a coach you should respect their feelings.

How will you know the players understood the demonstration?

Ask specific questions after the demonstration has been given. Avoid simply asking "Did you understand?" as players tend to nod a yes response whether they think they understand or not. Ask specific points about the demonstration and get the players to ‘show you' what they have learned. Their responses to questions and the way they perform the skill will tell you whether they understood or not. If a player has not understood the demonstration or, after a series of sessions they have not yet grasped the concept, then it is up to the coach to modify the information and/or the teaching method to assist the player's understanding. Everybody learns differently and it is one of the coach's roles as a teacher to find a teaching method that suits the player's learning.