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  • Nick Levett

Techniques to encourage learning…

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Ultimately, we are all there to help the kids. Sometimes we help the children with football stuff, sometimes we help them learn to tie their laces – it varies on different days and at different ages. However, our chosen methods to draw out learning from the people in front of you can make a difference on the effectiveness.

I’m sure you have all been in the same situation: you have just called the players in after a twenty minute ‘practice’ on something specific and are ready to ask them some questions to see what they have learnt. Then what happens? Well, I observe this a lot, we fire out a problem for them to consider and…

a) the same hands go up first

b) you try a few answers and skip on past the incorrect ones

c) you go to the kid you know will answer correctly

or…the question isn’t quite clear enough so there are no forthcoming answers immediately from the players. To avoid awkward silence you ask the question again and slightly rephrase it, hoping to get a response this time. Recognise being in that position?

Research from education suggests that if teachers haven’t got the answer they were looking for within 2 seconds they ask it again. Two seconds?! That isn’t a very long time for children to think about something! And this is something I see coaches doing also.

So, in order to aid learning, here are a few things to consider doing or not doing. This blog ( offers some great points to think about including:

Asking for hands up

Be cautious with this approach. The players who’s hands go straight up often know the answer so I’m not sure if this extends their learning?

It can also have negative effects to the self-esteem of players that really don’t know too.

Does this encourage the children more naturally introverted to answer? Will they be willing to risk putting their hand in front of others with more self-confidence in case they get it wrong? What if the answer involves ‘showing’ something? Does this just encourage the more technically proficient to answer?

Have a read of the blog link as this offers further ideas.

Asking for a no-hands up approach

I have often used a method that is about not putting their hands up after a group question. With a well constructed question that really focuses on learning, this makes every child think of answer. This means there is a chance I will ask a child that might not be right, but that’s ok. It can spark discussion.

I’m also comfortable to wait longer, four or five seconds (which might seem like forever) in order to let players have time to think. You can play around with this method, to get them answering in pairs so half the group answer rather than one in front of everyone etc.

Also…Don’t miss the wrong answers!! The wrong answer from a player doesn’t mean you keep asking kids until you get the right answer. The wrong answer also tells you exactly where that person is with their level of understanding, and a starting point of where you can extend them from.

The crux of coaching is beyond the X’s and O’s – it is about the meaningful interactions between coach (more capable other) and the learner. This is a key place we need to invest our own time in to get better at. Follow good blogs such as the one quoted above and read things like for more ideas.

Then try new stuff out!! We ask the players to be brave and try new things, we have to do the same as coaches…


Blog first published: 10 April 2015

Section: Coaching, learning, sport Views: 2,914

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