The sport educational value has traditionally been justified by three main reasons:
- it leads to the development of discipline, altruism and the sense of fair play;
- competing helps to improve, and
- it prepares a person for life since it teaches them to compete.1
Unfortunately, this is not true. Or at least, not for every athlete and training situation. It is always better to consider sports as not having any magic virtue. It may help develop a feeling of solidarity and cooperation as well as an individualistic spirit. It may foster respect to the norm as well as the sense of cheating.2
The educational value of sports practise depends on how the coach manages the conditions under which people learn that sport. The educational part is not the learning of techniques or tactics. Not even the physical or psychological benefits of good physical training. The only real educational part is the conditions under which the training sessions and the learning tasks are carried out. 3- 5
How to foster self-improvement
The key is in the internal processes manifested in the athlete whenever they get involved in a training environment that forces them to actively engage and take decisions freely. Improving a player’s performance has to do with the active engagement of all the mental, cognitive, coordinative, conditional, socio/affective, emotive-volitional, creative-expressive and biological structures that support the players’ individual actions. The situations designed by the coach must enable self-reflection and self-knowledge to create a personal vision of each training experience. It is about helping the athlete to self-improve. That is why this is not about choosing one method or another, or one type of exercise or the other. The key is not deciding whether to use a global or analytical methodology or guided discovery. We must think about the player and design tasks conditions that help them to self-improve. Practise should be understood as a global activity that allows the athlete to be a real participant and not somebody subjected to compliance with the obligations proposed by the coach. It is about creating a training environment in which there is information exchange between the player and the coach but, moreover, about a motor activity in which the players’ own contribution and their interpretation of what is happening are key. The better the athlete can interpret the competition environment signals and the more varied and faster the solutions they can take based on their teammates’ needs, the better their performance level will be. The coach’s job is to modify the training environment to guide the players’ personal interpretation towards the direction they wish.
Conditions for evolution as an athlete
How can we create training conditions in tasks that allow athletes to evolve? At least four conditions should be met:
- The learning situations should enable the identification and prioritization of self and environmental stimuli to perform the desired behaviour.
- Players should propose varied decision-making strategies adapted to the demands of the situation to be solved.
- Varied programming and implementation strategies must be involved based on each player’s personal resources.
- Athletes must evaluate and control themselves through the evaluation of their own task implementation and result.
Two final ideas. It seems to be necessary to eradicate the phrase that is normally used to justify the sport practise in young people: What matters is participating. That is not enough to improve. In fact, it is about engaging in each exercise to be able to adjust their own motor skills to the environmental training needs and thus understand which are the available possibilities to improve and be successful. Secondly, training experienced players or a child who is just starting to play a sport is not that different. In both cases, the coach should pay attention to the internal processes generated in the training session. The difference has to do with the organization of the training conditions to foster self-improvement from the highest or lowest level the athlete has.
Training means exchanging information to help athletes self-improvement.7
1 Devís, J. (1996). Physical Education, Sports and Curriculum. Madrid: Visor.
2 Parlebas, P. (1988): Elementos de Sociología del Deporte. Málaga: Unisport.
3 Seirul.lo, F. (2009). Una línea de trabajo distinta. Revista de Entrenamiento Deportivo, 23(4): 13- 18.
4 Seirul.lo, F. (1998): Valores educativos del deporte en D. Blázquez (ed): La iniciación deportiva y el deporte escolar (2ª edición), pp. 61-75, Barcelona: INDE.
5 Seirul.lo, F. (2010). Estructura sociafectiva. Document INEFC – Barcelona Taken from: http://www.motricidadhumana.com/estructura_socioafectiva_doc_seirul_lo_Outline_drn.pdf
7 Lago Peñas, C. and , Seirul.lo, F. (2021). La dirección del entrenamiento y el partido en el Fútbol y los Deportes de Equipo. Forthcoming publication.