Part 8 – Video observation
Jeff Mitchell – Community Coach Advisor – Sport Auckland / GACU
This is the eighth article in a series of 13 on developing your coaching skills. For the full list of articles in the series see the articles page.
In Issue 7 I discussed how mentoring provides an outside view of your coaching. Another way of gaining an alternative view of how you coach is through having your delivery videoed. Coaches often think of video observation in terms of match analysis; it can be just as effective in analysing your coaching effectiveness.
This article will look at how you can video your own delivery in order to improve your effectiveness. I will discuss why you should use video observations, how they can be used, what to do with the information you collect, and how to use it to increase your coaching effectiveness.
As with any aspect of coach development, the main purpose of using video observation is to improve your coaching effectiveness. One of the most important ways that video observation can do this is through raising your awareness. Sometimes there is a mismatch between what you think you do and what really happens; video footage is objective and shows exactly what occurs. This can help you to identify areas of your delivery that you are not aware of; with this knowledge you can then identify areas to work on.
A mentor or assistant coach can tell you that you do certain things when you are coaching, such as waving your hands or repeating certain words. When you see this for yourself, however, the effect is much stronger. Video footage is a good way to see any bad habits that you have developed and are not aware of. By identifying these habits you can take steps to address them.
Following a session you will struggle to remember everything that occurred. There will also be things that you did not notice at the time. By videoing your session you have a record of what occurred, which you can use to assist your reflection on the session. This video footage gives you greater, more accurate, information to work with. Videoing a number of sessions will also provide you with a record of your coaching practice, allowing you to track the improvements that you have made.
Effectively using video observation involves a lot more than just filming a session and then having a look at what was captured. To improve your coaching you need to be clear on what you want to observe and how you will use what you observe. The best way to use video observation effectively is to take a structured approach. The following process should be used to capture and then analyse your video footage:
- Analysis and evaluation
- Goal setting and action planning
Let’s look at each step in the process in more detail.
The better prepared you are, the more you will get from the observation. The first step is to identify what you want to achieve. Often it is useful to ask yourself a question that the video observation will help you to answer. This question should be tied to your Coach Development Plan. It could involve profiling your current coaching practice, or it could be to assess an area of your coaching.
Your Coach Development Plan should have some specific goals that you are working towards. To achieve these goals there will be elements of your coaching performance that you need to improve. The questions that you ask yourself should be related to these performance areas. Some example questions that you could ask yourself include:
- How often do I provide feedback?
- Who do I provide feedback to?
- How clear are my instructions?
- What is my posture like?
- Are there any words that I use excessively?
- How long do I speak for?
- Where am I in relation to my players when I speak?
From your questions you will need to identify what you want to look at and how you will observe it. This will give a focus to your observation and help you to direct your attention. This process could be similar to working with a mentor to identify the target behaviours that the mentor will focus on during an observation. Figure 1 shows two examples of taking a question and then planning what to look at and how to look at it. Here Coach Gary is planning how he could use a video observation of his coaching.
When filming your session, you want to make sure that you capture the aspects that you want to observe. If you are looking at your communication, you need to be able to hear what you say. If you are interested in your body language, you need to be clearly in focus. If you are focussing on your demonstrations, you need to be filmed from an appropriate angle. Decide what you wish to observe and set your camera up to capture this.
- Make sure that the camera is level (a tripod is recommended)
- Set the camera at an appropriate height for what you want to observe
- Use a microphone if it will be difficult to capture what you say
- Take into consideration background distractions.
Ideally you will have someone film the session for you. This will allow them to zoom in and track you to keep you in the frame. If this is not possible, you may be able to just set the camera on a tripod. If you do this, you will need to ensure that you will be in the camera’s field of view the entire time.
The purpose of filming your coaching is to gather information to help you to understand how you coach, and to then try to make improvements. When you observe the footage you are collecting this information. The first time that you see yourself on film can be quite disconcerting; I know it was for me. Once you get over the initial shock, you can start to look objectively at what you do. There will probably be things that stand out right away for you: how you talk, how you stand, and any habits that you did not realise that you did. Often it is a good idea to watch the footage through once and take a note of any general impressions that you have. For your second watch through you can then focus on the areas you identified that you want to examine.
The information that you collect can be either objective or subjective. Objective data involve measuring what occurs in the session. Subjective data are your impressions of what you observe and of your delivery. The objective data could be the number of times you say specific words, who you provide feedback to and how often, how long you spend talking, or how many questions you ask. The subjective data could be to identify areas you think you could do better, comments on the quality of aspects such as your demonstrations or instructions, or simply to identify areas of your coaching that you wish to reflect further on.
From the earlier example of Coach Gary, the objective data he identified was the number of times he provided feedback, the time he spent giving instructions, and the type of feedback he used. The subjective examples were the clarity and volume of his voice.
Having collected your data from the observation, you now need to try and understand it. This will involve analysing what you have collected and deciding what it is telling you. If you are working with a mentor, then they will be able to help you here, by asking questions and discussing what the data means.
If you have collected objective data, then you need to firstly perform some analysis. For example, you may want to convert the data into percentages or ratios. So if you measured how long you talked for, and you talked for 20 minutes during a 60 minute session, you would have talked for 33% of the session. Performing this analysis allows you to then evaluate the data.
To evaluate the data you will decide which aspects you are happy with and which you need to address. This evaluation will depend on the context. If you spent those 20 minutes talking to the whole group, then your evaluation would probably be that you spent too long talking. Alternatively, if those 20 minutes were spent talking to individual players while the rest of the group were engaged in activity, you may decide that 20 minutes was all right, or maybe not enough. The important thing is to evaluate the data in light of the context of the session and what you were trying to achieve.
If the data show that you are using the focus area appropriately, then great – make a note to keep doing what you are doing. If the evaluation highlights areas that you are underperforming in, then you have an opportunity to address these. Having evaluated the data, you need to decide what actions to take based on your evaluation.
Prior to identifying actions to take, you may wish to reflect on what the data tells you. If you identify that you are talking too long, it may be a good idea to reflect on why this is before you look at actions to change. If you have subjective data that you move around too much when giving instructions, spending some time reflecting on why you do this will make it a lot easier to identify appropriate actions to take to correct it. Just observing yourself on film can be a good way to raise your awareness, and reflecting on your observations will deepen your awareness further.
To improve your coaching you need to take action on what you observe. Setting goals based on your observations, and the outcome of your reflection, is an important step in the process. These goals should become part of your Coach Development Plan and you should work at trying to achieve them.
One reason that it is useful to collect objective data is that it is easier to set goals from. If you currently talk for 33% of a session, then reducing this to 15% is an easy goal to set and you have a clear way of measuring your progress. Setting a goal to “move around less while giving instructions” is a much harder goal to work towards, as it is vague and difficult to measure.
Once you identify what you want to achieve, you need to determine what actions you will take to get there. Each time that you use a video observation, it is important that you set some action points to complete. This will allow you to make progress, resulting in the video observation being a success. These action points should be detailed in your Coach Development Plan, helping you to improve your coaching effectiveness.
Like a lot of areas of coach development, it isn’t until the rubber hits the road that real improvements will be made. To benefit from video observation you need to apply what you learn, which means taking your action points and using them in your day-to-day coaching practice.
If you take action on what you have observed, and actively work towards addressing the issues it raises, you will become a better coach.
A video observation will be much more effective if you follow it up with a second observation. Video observation is similar to mentoring in that it is a cycle. You should think of it in terms of observing your current practice, determining and implementing your action points, and then observing your practice again to see if you have improved. If you have improved, you can then use the footage from the second video observation to identify another area to develop, or to reflect on to deepen your awareness. If you have not improved, you can identify alternative actions to take.
Using video successfully
I’d like to finish this article with some pointers on using video effectively as a coach development tool. It is best to just focus on one or two aspects when you perform a video observation. If you notice a number of other areas, then by all means jot them down, but look to address them at a future date.
Video can be a really useful tool to use with a mentor, and often they will be able to film the session for you. A mentor can help during your evaluation of the footage, asking targeted questions and suggesting alternative ways of looking at how you coach. The video footage can be a good discussion point, and greatly adds to the value you will get from a mentoring relationship.
One of the strengths of video is that it is a record of how you have coached. Make use of the ability to pause and playback specific scenes. A good idea is to make a note of the timing of points of interest. This will allow you to return to them later, and can help build up a picture of when certain things occur across a session.
When reviewing your footage it is easy to be critical of yourself; make sure that you also identify some positive aspects of your coaching. This is important for raising your awareness, and helps you to repeat these actions in the future. Identify some actions to take following the observation, which should be a mixture of maintenance (keep-doing) and improvements (work-ons).
Video observation is a great tool for raising your awareness and improving your coaching. By following a structured approach you will get the most out of the process, and learn a lot about yourself. With video observation your own coaching is the focus. You can also learn a lot by observing other coaches delivering. In the next issue of Taking charge of your coach development we will examine how to develop by observing other coaches.