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Conrad Tetley
Organising and Planning

Eight Recommendations for Coaching Decision Making in Sport

Encouraging athletes to make and have confidence in their decisions is an important part of developing their skills. Coaches should seek to maximise decision-making opportunities inside and outside of formal coaching sessions

With the advent of the professionalisation of sport over recent decades the topic of decision making has been become a major area for discussion. Decision making - or makers in the case of individual sports - are integral to the success of any sporting endeavour.

Whether it is Kevin Sinfield taking a strategic attacking kick to put opponents under pressure, or Rory McIlroy plotting his way around the Augusta National course in pursuit of the Masters green jacket, decisions are being made constantly during games.

Whilst some believe excellent decision makers are born, in most cases effective decision-making comes from many hours of deliberate practice.

Therefore, coaches should seek to maximise decision making opportunities in their coaching both inside and outside of formal coaching sessions.

Below are eight suggestions that coaches can use to stimulate decision making:

  1. Involve players by empowering them to develop creative training activities.
  2. Create training sessions that put players in unfamiliar situations so they have to develop solutions to the problems posed.
  3. Create situations where players have to negotiate the actions of opponents. Rather than using static markers use players who move around to create continually changing situations that require a range of decisions to be made.
  4. Encourage players to question each other and provide feedback on their performance
  5. Encourage deliberate practice with feedback. Apply four times the amount of praise to criticism and use positive reinforcement to challenge players. Warning…make deliberate practice player-centred and enjoyable!
  6. Maximise players’ exposure to as many playing situations as possible. Constant reinforcement of playing scenarios improves intuitive decision making
  7. Avoid too much structure with younger players and encourage them with deliberate play in a wide range of sports to improve pattern recall and recognition in later stages of development (pattern recall and recognition is the ability of a player to access information stored in memory and then reconstruct in response to a given event).
  8. Playing sports of a similar type - e.g. invasion games such as hockey and basketball – will develop core sports skills and has been found to enhance all-round decision making ability.

Related Resources

  • Making Sense of 'Game Sense'

  • Developing Team Decision-Making

  • Safeguarding and Protecting Children and Young People Renewal


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Conrad Tetley