Level 2 Educational Resource

1. Coaching Philosophy

What is a coaching philosophy?

Your coaching philosophy is what makes you the coach you are, it is what you believe coaching should be and how coaches should behave. In essence it is what you value about coaching and what you believe in as a coach. These values and beliefs is what guides you in your decision-making as a coach, steers you to work in a coaching environment that supports what you believe in and explains why sometimes the coaching situation just doesn’t quite work for you. Coaching is complex, difficult and messy; your coaching philosophy will help guide you on your coaching journey which will inevitably be challenging!

4. What are your coaching values and beliefs?

  • Empowering
  • Caring
  • Active
  • Creative
  • Controlling
  • Power
  • Freedom
  • Competitive
  • Recognition
  • Success
  • Honest
  • Supportive
  • Integrity
  • Being Important
  • Being the best
  • Enjoyment
  • Dominance
  • Perfection
  • Acceptance
  • Disempowering
Choose three of the following words that you feel best describe you as a coach, reflect on them and write a sentence explaining why they each describe you as a coach.

Why it describes me as a coach

Use the words you selected to write a sentence for each one on why it describes you as a coach.

British Canoeing Coaching Philosophy

British Canoeing has evolved their own philosophy that underpins the way they support and run their coach education courses, along with the way they develop and support coaches and leaders: 

British Canoeing believes in a participant led approach when creating and enabling experience from which people will enjoy, learn and develop through paddlesport. These experiences will be delivered in an individualised way that also supports the inherent social aspects of the sport and fosters a sense of a paddling community. Through this paddlers will achieve success, this success being focused on the journey and not the destination. The experience will be safe, engaging and enjoyable, with the paddler at the heart of the process involving them in their own learning and development. This will be delivered by a supportive and empowering approach to instil an active passion for the sport of canoeing, alongside developing understanding and respect for the environment in which it takes place.


Think about bits of the philosophy that best fit with your own values and beliefs already identified previously.


Are there any bits of the philosophy that do not match with your values and beliefs?

Developing Your own Coaching Philosophy

Being able to write down a sentence or two that describes what you value and believe in as a coach is the starting point to evolving your own coaching philosophy. Once it is started it then allows you to reflect on it and check if it really does represent what you do as a coach, along with allow you to evolve it as you develop as a coach. It will stay with you, develop with you and guide you throughout your coaching life. Have a go at writing a couple of sentences below:

2. How Learners/Athletes Learn

How Athletes Learn

The ethos behind this approach is that the learner/athlete is at the heart of the process, as a coach everything we do is in response to their needs, goals and aspirations. We can be led by them or we can lead them to these goals and aspirations, but their learning and performance needs to direct our decision-making.

A learner/athlete centred approach

  • This is what works for me, so that is what I am going to coach to my learner/athlete.
  • I enjoy coaching in this way, so that’s how I will deliver my sessions.
  • I am going to observe and discuss with my learner/athlete what technique is working best for them.
  • Good coaching is all about being in control of the learners/athletes.
  • I need to find out how my learners/athletes like to learn, then monitor if it is working when I coach them
  • I need to share the process with the learners/athletes, they need to be in control of their own learning/performing.
  • I learnt this stroke this way, so that’s how they will learn it.
  • We need to discuss what they want from the session and how it will support them in achieving their goals.
  • I need to ensure I see things from the learner/athletes perspective.
  • They are my learners/athletes.
  • I am their coach.

Have a look at the statements below, which are learner/athlete centred?

A coach centred approach

  • This is what works for me, so that is what I am going to coach to my learner/athlete.
  • I enjoy coaching in this way, so that’s how I will deliver my sessions.
  • I am going to observe and discuss with my learner/athlete what technique is working best for them.
  • Good coaching is all about being in control of the learners/athletes.
  • I need to find out how my learners/athletes like to learn, then monitor if it is working when I coach them
  • I need to share the process with the learners/athletes, they need to be in control of their own learning/performing.
  • I learnt this stroke this way, so that’s how they will learn it.
  • We need to discuss what they want from the session and how it will support them in achieving their goals.
  • I need to ensure I see things from the learner/athletes perspective.
  • They are my learners/athletes.
  • I am their coach.

Have a look at the statements below, which are coach centred?

Supporting learners’/athlete’s learning needs and preferences

Depending on the skill being learnt and/or the context it is being learnt in, learners/athletes may well have a preference to how they want to learn, or they may need to learn in a certain way to achieve success. Coaches need to structure their sessions in a way that will meet a range of learning needs and preferences, then monitor and adapt in response to how the learners are getting on.

How the learners/athletes respond when they are learning will constantly change, they will not have one ‘style’ and should not be ‘labeled’ as a certain type of learner. It requires an observant coach to ‘notice’ how the learners/athletes are getting on and respond accordingly, either changing how they are coaching to support or developing the learner/athlete in the ways they go about their learning.

Constructivist & behaviourist approaches to coaching and learning

A behaviourist approach relies on rewards, praise and coach given feedback to enable learning to happen. It focuses on the ways in which the consequences of a coach’s actions subsequently modify behaviour.

A constructivist approach relies on the coach creating experiences where the learners must transform new information to create their own unique knowledge.

Here is an example of the two approaches below, see if you can match the examples with the right approach for the skill of breaking into a flow:

  • Behaviourist
    - Coach provides constant praise after every attempt. - Coach offers a reward for three successful attempts. - Coach gives constant feedback on each attempt to improve performance.
  • Constructivist
    Define your answer...

There are pro’s and con’s of both learning approaches

Click on the pro's of the  Behviourist approach

There are pro’s and con’s of both learning approaches

Click on the pro's of the  Constructivist approach

Sensory Preferences (how learners/athletes are preferring to receive information)

Whatever approach to learning we use learners will often have sensory preferences to how they receive information (often depending on the skill being learnt and always changeable). Some skill may also require a certain sensory preference to be utilized more than others to allow learning to happen (e.g. kinaesthetic when learning to roll). As a coach to be able to deliver in a range of ways to meet differing sensory preferences is key, as well as being able to observe when a learner is responding in a certain sensory way.

Sensory Preferences

Drag and drop an example of a skill or action to the relevant learning style and an example observation to go with it:
  • Watching Demonstrations
  • Noise of the paddle
  • Trying to link strokes
  • Prefer to learning by watching a demonstration
  • Prefer learning by listening to explanations, often using data or graphs to figure a favoured way to try
  • Prefer learning by having a go by trial and error


Background theories and references:

Behaviourist learning theories: Pavlov (1836-1849), Thorndike (1874-1949) and Skinner (1904-1990).

Constructivist learning theories: Piaget (1896-1980) and Vygotsky (1896-1934).

Kolb’s (1976, 1984) Experiential Learning Model – Simplified to Plan-Do-Review.

Honey & Mumford (1992) Learning styles (theorist, activist, pragmatist, reflector).

 Gardner’s (1993) Multiple Intelligences (verbal/linguistic, mathematical, musical/rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal).

3. Stages of Learning

The learner/athlete’s stage of learning

To help know where to start as a coach, what goals are appropriate and how best to support the learner/athlete, we must consider their ability at performing the skill. This ability is known as their ‘Stage of Learning’. This can be broadly separated into three stages, novice, improver and expert.

What learning look likes a)

Match what the performance of a paddlesport skill would look like in the different stages of learning:
  • Novice (Cognitive)
    Major errors such as lack of rotation, little forward reach, poor paddle feathering, inconsistent blade angle in the water. High amount of effort going in, but not much drive coming out. Boat not travelling in a straight line, correction strokes needed.
  • Practising/ Improver (Associative)
    Paddlers know what they are supposed to do, but performance maybe inconsistent. Performance looks good when in familiar conditions and when able to concentrate, but may fall down when under pressure, or in a new situation.
  • Skilled/Expert (Autonomous)
    Boat glides steadily through the water, generally looks relaxed/effortless, upper body movements are smooth, controlled, and efficient. They respond to external factors with ease, and can cope with changes in their stride.

What learning look likes b)

How would the stage of learning impact on how you would coach the skill described in the previous questions? Match the learning stage with the learning impact:
  • Cognitive (novice)
    The learner requires coaches to deliver basic tasks. Challenges include how to hold a paddle or position a boat. Learners are not aware of what they did wrong and need basic, specific instruction and feedback during this phase.
  • Associative (Improver)
    The learner is in the process of refining skills. Fewer errors occur, can detect some of them on their own. Begin to know what is relevant and what is not. Coaches are required to refine practice. Use questioning more and offer more detailed feedback
  • Autonomous (Expert)
    At this point the skill is well learned. Skills are refined, there are few errors and learners know how to correct them. Coaches diversify instruction and practice conditions. For open skills, varying the conditions under which the skill is being learned

How we improve

A key concept to understand as a coach and support or learner/athletes in understanding that to improve we must go back a stage of learning to then move on. In fact as a coach it is our job to challenge a skill so that it breaks down, we then can work with the learner/athlete to build it back up – stronger. No matter how ‘expert’ the performance, they have to go back a stage (or two!) to improve. Click on the sections that require coach input.

4. Enabling Learners to Learn

Importance of Feedback

Learners can only learn through gaining feedback on what they are trying to achieve, it could be how well it worked, was it successful, what happened. It is through this feedback that they will know what to keep, what to change and how to adapt to get better and more skillful. This feedback also ensures understanding of what happened, and why it happened, which again allows for development. It is our job as coaches to ensure there is a ready supply of feedback to our learners/athletes as some will want small amounts but some will want bucket loads. It is our way of enabling their learning.

Feedback comes from three sources:

Coach given feedback

Here’s a list of ways to consider and ways to avoid giving feedback, see if you can pick out the best ways to give feedback. Click as many as you like:

Peer given and self-gained feedback

Peer given feedback

If facilitated well by the coach (thinking about the ways we want to consider giving feedback), the feedback coming from peers (fellow learners/performers) can be extremely valuable.

Self-gained feedback

Ultimately we want to empower our learners to be able to learn for themselves, to do this they have to learn how to get feedback for themselves, this is self-gained feedback. This is done by being able to evaluate your own performance by seeing, feeling or hearing how you have done, this might be linked to the final outcome of the skill or the process’s that were being played with to do the skill. Have a think of when you are forward paddling and consider the following questions – they will give you an insight on how you gain your feedback…

how you gain your feedback

  • Define your key...
    Define your answer...
  • Define your key...
    Define your answer...

Pro's and Con's of Different types of feedback- Coach

  • Quick
  • Can limit understanding
  • Learner becomes coach dependent
  • Accurate

By answering the previous question you see how you gain your own feedback – as a coach we need to support our learners in being able to do this as well.

All feedback is valuable, but are there pro’s and con’s?

Have a go at selecting the Pro's of coach given feedback:

Pro's and Con's of Different types of feedback- Peer

  • Accuracy
  • Social
  • Validity
  • Readily Available

All feedback is valuable, but are there pro’s and con’s?

Have a go at selecting the Pro's of peer given feedback:

Pro's and Con's of Different types of feedback- Self

  • Needs support to be accurate
  • Independent learning
  • Can be time consuming
  • Promotes understanding

All feedback is valuable, but are there pro’s and con’s?

Have a go at selecting the Pro's of self given feedback:

Feedback about what?

Every learner needs a balance of what they get their feedback about, but similar to learning preferences depending on the context, task etc., the learner may have a preference to what they get their feedback on. There are two main areas we get feedback on:


Using the skill of paddling forward as an example, pick the right graphic that describes the feedback type Knowledge of Result. Don't forget to look at both pictures.

5. Coaching to Develop Learners’/Athletes’ Learning

Ethos of adapting & responding to learners’/athletes’ needs

With our learner centred approach the starting point is identifying the learners needs, our coaching is all about then responding to these and supporting the learner/athlete in their learning. Underpinning all of this however there must be the following:

Safety – Enjoyment – Learning (SEL)

Have a think how you ensure your sessions are underpinned by SEL. Use the graphic below as a guide to make sure your sessions are safe, enjoyable and a place where learning happens.

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Coaching Styles Part 1

As coaches we can coach in a variety of ways, to meet our learners’ needs one way is not the best way, but variety is the spice of life! By understanding the coaching styles we can use them for variety and in response to our learners; or we can use them strategically to develop our learners’ decision-making and to hand over the learning control to them. There are eight coaching styles to explore to get us going here are the first 4, have a read through the explanation of the styles and see if you can match the explanation with the styles. 

  • Command
  • Practice
  • Reciprocal
  • Self Check

Coaching Styles Part 2

Continued, there are four more coaching styles to explore to get us going, have a read through the explanation of the styles and see if you can match the explanation with the styles. 

  • Convergent Discovery
  • Divergent Discovery
  • Guided Discovery
  • Inclusion

Structuring coaching sessions

Every coaching session must have a clear beginning, middle and end. To help with this there is are some coaching models to help. Think about a session you might be planning to run in the near future, see if you can use the IDEAS model below to help you structure it. Think of an example for each section:

Another model to help us structure our sessions is WASP. Have a go at structuring a session using WASP and the table below.

Food for thought?

How does all this theory fit together with learners learning styles etc? Have a look at some questions posed below. For further reference have a look at Mosston & Ashworth (2002) Teaching Styles.

6. Coaches Decision Making

Coaches' Decision making

For a half-hour coaching session how many decisions must a coach make, before, during and after? If you took time to break it all down it would amaze, no doubt there would be many decisions made that you were not even aware were made! It is a well-established fact that coaching is essentially a decision making process – so when do we make them, how do we do it and how do we know if we have made the right decisions?

We can perhaps identify three key reasons/times that decisions are made, to know that a decision is required however is a key coaching skill – it all comes down to observational triggers that we see in our learners/performers.

Decision Making

Have a go at matching  with some examples to bring this to life. Can you match the Decisions to support learner/athlete needs as well as coaching behaviours with the Observational triggers
  • Group look tired, performance is dropping
    Have a break, take a time out from the session
  • Group are concerned about capsizing and worried about getting too cold
    Organize a pool session to build confidence
  • Group are looking disinterested and fidgeting
    Make the session more active and talk less
  • Group are wanting to become independent paddlers and are prepared to put in the time
    Ensure the session involves lots of learner centered coaching styles

Decision making continued

Can you make a see the observational trigger based on the effectiveness of what is happening? Drag and drop the right text into the right box to make sure you can observe the effectivness of the activity.
  • Some of the group are capsizing or looking unstable
  • A learner is not understanding what I am telling them

How we make decisions

Classic Decision Making (CDM) – The ‘Mr Spock’ way.

This is thinking in slow time, when we have time to process all the options and come out with what we believe to be the best decision.

Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM) – The ‘Dr McKoy (Bones)’ way.

This is thinking in fast time, when the brain doesn’t have time to process all the options and it just relies on previous experiences to make super fast decisions. The more experience we have the more we are able to make these fast decisions.

In the coaching context we may well start out as ‘Mr Spock’ in our initial planning stage, but no doubt once the session starts most of our decisions are happening pretty fast and we will be more like ‘Bones’. To support this thinking in fast time we often use ‘rules of thumb’ to help shortcut the decision making process, these are known as heuristics. Have a look at some examples below. Lets see if we can come up with some examples:

Decision Making Traps

When thinking fast, using Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM) and it’s associated heuristics there are two key traps we can fall into with our decision making. As coaches if we are aware of them we can look to avoid them, match up the Decision making trap with the example then come up with some of your own:

  • Heuristic Bias’s - experienced practitioners are at most at risk to heuristic bias or an over reliance on a more ‘intuitive’ fast thinking style. Key decision-making clues are missed due to them always doing it a certain way.
    When I observe forward paddling I always start with looking at the path of the top hand.
  • Satisficing - an element of compromise is inevitable in most decisions, the question is how early are we allowing this – are we just ‘taking the first’ option to satisfy a desire? This is when ‘thinking fast’ it is an easy route to take.
    It was more hassle than it was worth to deal with performers poor posture – so I let it go.

Check and Challenge Approach

A check and challenge approach to decision making – ensuring optimum decisions

It’s about ‘thinking fast’ AND ‘thinking slow’

No matter what our level of experience there is strong evidence to support the need for us to use our ‘slow thinking’ (CDM) to check and challenge our ‘fast thinking’ (NDM). So for the experienced practitioner who is thinking fast, using their intuition, got a bucketful of ‘rules of thumb’ to use heuristically and is seamlessly making fast decisions – they need to make the time to ‘slow think’. In doing this it well check and challenge the process to avoid biases or things being missed. For our less experienced practitioner they need to develop the skills to effectively ‘fast think’ as their overall experience grows, and with this again use their slow thinking to check their fast thinking.

Decision-making is essentially a skill, and therefore one we have to develop, nurture and evolve. Along with the strategies already outlined to do this we could try simply taking the ‘if and then’ approach to our future decisions. Before jumping in to the decision just consider every now and again asking ‘IF I do that THEN what will happen’ and give our ‘slow thinking’ a chance to work whilst developing our ‘fast thinking’. As Captain Kirk always new, it is about listening to Mr Spock and Dr McKoy (Bones).

Background theories and references:

Klein (1989) Naturalistic Decision Making

Tversky & Kahneman (1974) Heuristics and Biases

Kahneman (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow

Martindale & Collins (2005) Professional Judgment and Decision Making (using classic decision making to check and challenge naturalistic decision making)

Simon (1956) Satisficing

7. Information Gathering

Questioning and Discussion

To ensure good coaching decisions are made then good information must be gathered. This information comes from two main sources – questioning/discussion and observation and feeds decisions about two main areas – what we coach (skill questioning/discussion and observation) and how we coach (learner/athlete questioning/discussion and observation).


Questioning and discussion

Let’s have a look at some key questions and discussion areas, which help gather information about what we coach and how we coach it. Look at the examples and then come up with a few of your own:


Now have a look at questions related to How we Coach.


There are three main ways we go about observing, these in turn influencing the way in which we make our decisions – have a look at the definitions of observational methods and  selected the correct definition from the dropdown menus: this is the ‘big picture’ approach, watching the whole skill in action and seeing what ‘jumps out’. This will be fast thinking decision making

this focuses on the outcome and if something jumps out as not working as expected it then deduces why not with more focused observation. This starts as fast thinking and then becomes slow thinking decision making.

this works through a systematic list of things to check off in observation. Once everything has been observed decisions are then made. This will be slow thinking decision making.

Observation continued

Below are some examples of what we coach and how we coach. They correspond with the previous examples we looked at in the last section. Can you match the Observational Method with the examples?
  • Hollistic Observation
  • Deductive Observation
  • Systematic Observation

Observational tools and considerations

There are a number of things that can help us observe better, one is understanding how we make decisions and the traps we can fall into, the rest are far more practical. Here are a few, see if you can think of some of your own:

8. Creating an optimum learning environment

Optimum Learning

Consider the following:

When reflecting on why the above experiences were positive or poor, was the main reason linked to how the coach made you feel? Was it all linked to the learning environment set and whether it worked for you or not, thus allowing you to learn/perform in an optimal way?

This is all the ‘interpersonal’ side of coaching, which could be argued is the ‘glue’ that holds the whole coaching process together and will lead to success or failure.

The 4C's of Coaching

The 4C’s

Feeling competent has been identified as a basic human need. To learn/perform optimally we need be feel competent at what we are doing, or competent enough to be trying new challenges.

This can be defined as the degree of certainty individuals possess about their ability to be successful. It is about how they perceive their ‘self-worth’ in relation to what they are doing. To learn/perform optimally we need to be confident that we will cope and improve.

We all have a need to form and maintain lasting, positive interpersonal relationships, which come from a fundamental need for belonging. To learn/perform optimally we need to know those around us see things from our perspective and that there is a sense of belonging.

Experiences need to be ‘character building’ as opposed to ‘sole destroying’. To build individuals character to feel cared for and in a ‘safe’ environment is key. To learn/perform optimally we need to ‘grow’ as individuals and develop our character in a caring environment.

Motivating people to learn/perform

Looking at the above what type of goals do you set yourself and what types of goals do you set your learners/athletes. There is of course a need for both types of goal, but overwhelming evidence would suggest that to focus of mastery goals and thus create a more mastery based motivational climate is optimal.

The goals we set as coaches, or the goals our learners/performers set themselves is what motivates things to happen. The question is what type of goals are they as there are two types. The type of goals used will in turn influence the motivational climate created:


Features of Mastery and Performance Motivational Climates are listed in the table below.  Drag and drop the right Motivational climate onto the right column (red or blue) 

  • Mastery
  • Performance

Empowering our learners

Coaching is about empowering our learners/athletes

To develop independent learners/performers we need to empower them in our coaching. If we consider and deliver the 4C’s along with focus on mastery based goals we will be well on our way. To capture all of this there are four things we can consider in our coaching behaviours to promote an optimal empowerment based motivational climate. Have a look at what they are and come up with what you can do in your next coaching session to ensure you are empowering to your learners/performers.

What I can do in my next session to promote an empowering climate?While looking at these think about 

Background theories and references:

Côté et al’s (2006) 4C’s Model

Ames (1992), Nicholls (1984) & Dweck (1986) Achievement Goal Theory – mastery and performance motivation

Deci & Ryan (2000) Self-determination theory – basic psychological needs and motivation

Duda (2013) Empowering Coaching

9. Structuring Practice Sessions

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What do you think about the above statements – we all know practice is important, but do we plan and deliver the perfect practice sessions to meet our learners/athletes needs? 

Here are 5 ways we can go about delivering practice sessions, have a look at them and then discover what they are good for can you come up come up with example from you own coaching for each type?: