Learning to coach differently online
Coaches are masters at supporting others to develop and reach their full potential. But when you’re used to being in a room with participants, online classes present an interesting challenge. Lynne and Gerry from Bluewave Korean Martial Arts share how they’ve learnt to coach differently online.
When we first started online classes, we were unsure how it would go. It’s a completely different way of coaching and we had no idea what take-up would be like. We wanted to help our members stay active and to keep our club name out there.
Before lockdown, we were teaching 11 regular classes every week and three specialist classes every month. Rather than moving everything online, we started with four 30-minute classes per week. Following a short survey to members, we added a further two classes at the start of May and a course for beginners last week. The classes included new style classes focusing on fitness and stretching, which supplemented more traditional Taekwondo.
80% of our active members (who had attended a class in the three months before lockdown) have signed up for online classes and 50% are active in the online classes. We have welcomed students who had dropped out of training, including some who are currently at university. We also welcomed students from other British Taekwondo clubs in Hampshire and Berkshire to participate in the classes. It is through regular and ongoing contact with our students that we have achieved this level of engagement.
Coaching differently online
Coaching via Zoom is different to moving around a class and talking to people. There’s less interaction and you can’t observe in the same way. We’re doing a lot more talking and are coming out of each 30-minute session feeling physically drained.
In a virtual class, you can see some of what people are doing. But when you’re looking at a screen with 20 people on it, it’s difficult to see the finer points. You have to go in thinking ‘what if?’. It’s a case of imagining and pre-empting things that you would normally spot when walking around a class.
We are preparing in a level of detail considerably beyond what we’d do for a physical coaching session. We have always had lesson plans with coaching points. But we now have lesson plans that are timed to the minute. We have found that good preparation is key to successful and exciting coaching sessions.
We have also adjusted the way that we demonstrate movements. Rather than demonstrating facing students, we’re performing movements with our back to them or side on. Students are finding this easier to follow on a screen and this is something we’ll take back into our physical classes as well.
Making it all worthwhile
The online environment is very different for coaches and participants. We’ve noticed that some of the less experienced junior age students perform better online than in a face-to-face environment. They are no longer intimidated by who they feel are the gifted students who have trained with us for several years. They don’t feel like someone is watching them or that their peers are better than them. Some students are blossoming in this environment.
We also have students over 70 years old who fall into the highly vulnerable group. The classes have enabled them to stay active and continue Taekwondo during lockdown.
Keep developing as Coaches
An important part of keeping the coaching strong and relevant has been to continue with our own personal development. We have kept in touch with our National Governing Body, British Taekwondo. Attending the regular Coaches Video Conferences has given us the opportunity to learn from and share experiences with other coaches.
Along with other Bluewave coaches, we have completed the Safeguarding in Sport and Mental Health Awareness for Sport and Physical Activity online courses.
Tips for coaching online
Adapt – coaching online is different. It’s important to adapt your coaching style to suit your students and the online environment.
Prepare – preparation is key. Having a timed plan helps get coaching points across in a shorter session and ensure students are engaged throughout.
Invest – we’ve invested in a larger screen so we can see students better. We’ve also invested in high quality bluetooth, a microphone, and a professional quality web camera so students can hear and see us better. It makes a huge difference.
Bluewave kit list
- Jabra 510 Bluetooth Microphone/Speaker
- Jabra Link 370 Bluetooth connection to extend range
- 43″ Sony Monitor
- Tenovo TEVO-VHD3U PTZ Camera
- Laptop with Pro Zoom account, which is more flexible than a free account
- 4G internet connection through USB tethered mobile, which has proven more stable than Wi-Fi.
Take a look at how other clubs have adapted during COVID-19 on our sector support page.