Associate Professor Emeritus, Teaching Stream, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) at the University of Toronto, Canada
 Associate Professor in Health and Physical Education at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
How many times have you thought as a coach or spectator if only player Y or athlete X had made a different in-game decision, then the outcome may have been positive?
This blog will give you a brief insight to the contents of the book.
Every coach at some point must have wished that their athlete or athletes had made a better in-game decision. Listening to interviews of coaches after a loss, many have wished that if only their players had made better choices in various important situations, the result might have been different. In every competitive event, match or game, once the event begins, the coach’s ability to influence the outcome of in-game play may be limited.
In some sports, the coach can try to change the game by calling a timeout or making a substitution. In sports that have significant breaks between action, such as basketball, volleyball and hockey, the coach has a chance to communicate tactical changes to the players, if the game has not been going according to plan. In soccer and rugby, there is a considerable period of game play before and after halftime happens, so players must be able to make their own in-game tactical decisions without being influenced by the coach.
In other sports, such as squash, the coach may only get a few seconds to talk to their athlete. In sports that consist of races, such as athletics and swimming, once the race begins, the coach cannot speak to their athletes until the end of the event. Regardless of how many opportunities a coach may have to talk to their athletes during breaks in the event, the reality is that once the referee, umpire or official starts the contest, the athlete is left to their own decision-making ability to navigate the event.
The purpose of Tactical Decision Making in Sport: How can Coaches Help Athletes Make Better In-Game Decisions? is to address the complex challenge of how to encourage athletes to become better in-game tactical decision-makers. When using an Athlete Centred-Coaching approach, the coach views their athlete more holistically and tries to empower them to become an active participant in the development of their athletic career. Traditionally coaches have been responsible for enhancing the physical abilities, technical skills, and tactical knowledge of their athletes. Athlete-centred coaches are committed to involving their athletes into a holistic development process. The pursuit of performance excellence is enhanced when coaches and athletes work together to learn how to make better in-game decisions. This book encourages coaches to create a practice environment where the athlete can learn how to make better in-game tactical decisions.
The book is divided into five parts. Part A chapter 1 is written by David Cooper and serves as an Introduction to the book. In it he examines and explains the close links between Athlete-Centered Coaching and Game-Centered Approaches to teaching and coaching that encourage the practice of empowering athletes to make in-game decisions.
In Part B, Tactical Decision-Making – Ideas, Theories and Thoughts consists of chapters 2 to 6. Chapter 2 is written by Barrie Gordon and explains his theory behind the concept of Developing Thinking Players which has its roots in Teaching Games for Understanding, Play Practice and Game Sense.
Chapter 3 by Kaleigh Ferdinand Pinnock examines the theoretical considerations of athlete decision-making. Research in this area stems from a complex, interdisciplinary perspective with roots in neuroscience, economics and psychology. Sport is an ideal setting in which to examine decision-making behaviours and processes.
Chapter 4, written by the late Guido Geisler, explores the common considerations within the four pillars of coaching with reference to territory games. These four pillars of coaching are the technical, tactical, physical and psychological foundations upon which coaching is founded. Guido introduces the concept of the “tactical triangle” that players try to develop. These are reading the play, acquisition of the required knowledge to make appropriate tactical decisions and the application of the player’s decision-making ability to solve the problem.
In chapter 5, Karlene Headley-Cooper draws on her own playing, coaching, research and teaching experiences to present some of the challenges that coaches’ face in empowering athletes to “think for themselves”.
Rounding out Part B is chapter 6, written by Tom Williams and examines the question “Can game data measure the effectiveness of the athlete decision-making process?”. Tom’s position as Head of Strength of Fitness at Toronto Football Club and currently at LA Galaxy FC brings him into daily contact with all types of data collected from the players. It is up to him to evaluate this data and plan the training accordingly.
In Part C, 13 coaches from a variety of different sports share their insight as to how they encourage their athletes to think for themselves.
Chapters 7 to 13 focus on Territory games as described in Teaching Games for Understanding. Chapter 14 focusses on Over the Net games. Chapters 15 and 16 looks at Striking and Fielding games. Chapter 17 is a generic chapter about Strategies for Target games. Chapter 18 examines Individual Sports that are Wall and Racquet games, and Chapter 19 is about decision-making in Combat sport.
Chapter 7 focusses on soccer (North America) or football (rest of the world) and is written by Guido Geisler and James Wallis.
Chapter 8 is written by Barrie Gordon and introduces touch rugby.
Chapter 9, written by Darren Lowe. is about the fast-moving sport of ice hockey,
Chapter 10 is written by John Campbell and is about basketball.
Nathalie Williams, in chapter 11, shares her insight into how netball players can be encouraged to make their own in-game tactical decisions.
In chapter 12, John McCarthy and Dave Brunner explain how the seemingly coach-controlled sport of football (in North America) can become a game where players have an input into the decision-making process.
In chapter 13, David Cooper shares some of the ways “End Zone Games” can be played as small-sided games within the Game Centred Approach model of teaching and coaching Territory games.
Chapter 14, written by John Barrett, looks at the way an outside hitter in volleyball can be coached to be able to recognise different plays and decide where is the best court location is to attack.
Barrie Gordon, in chapter 15, looks at decision-making scenarios faced by baseball and softball players as to where to hit the ball and when to run the bases.
Chapter 16, written by David Cooper, focusses on the sport of cricket and how making poor in-game decisions can change the game and how coaches can work with their players to avoid them.
Barrie Gordon, in chapter 17 describes generic decision-making strategies that feature in Target games such as golf, archery and bowls.
In chapter 18, Mike Way explains how he coaches his varsity squash players to become better in-game tactical decision-makers.
Gerard Lauziere closes out Part C of the book with chapter 19, which focuses on the combat sport of karate.
Part D of the book is entitled Through the Lens of a Coach.
In chapter 20, David Cooper reflects on a lifetime of coaching from club, high school, county and university teams. He shares experiences that have shaped his philosophy as a coach and seen him change from being a coach who focussed on developing the technical ability of his athletes’ using skills and drills to an athlete-centered coach who has seen the benefit of a Game Centred Approach to teaching and coaching.
Greg Gary writes about his journey in chapter 21, from being a professional football player with the Los Angeles Rams in the National Football League (in America), to the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the Canadian Football League, to the head coach of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.
Part E of the book provides insight into how coaches can translate decision-making theory into practice thereby empowering athletes to become better in-game tactical decision-makers?
In Chapter 22 Barrie Gordon provides a summary of the previous chapters and draws some conclusions that should help coaches develop new ideas that will help them encourage their players to become more independent and think for themselves.
Good decision-making is a key skill that impacts many aspects of day to day life and is particularly important for athletes and coaches in the ever changing world of competitive sport. Whether you coach high school, club sport or a professional team, developing the ability of your athletes to make good in-game decisions is vital. For athletes to become better in-game tactical decision makers, the coach must create an environment where athletes are empowered to be active participants in their coaching and learning experience. Focussing on how Athlete-Centred Coaching and Game Centred Approaches to teaching and coaching sport contribute to athletes taking responsibility for their own in-game tactical decision-making, this book explains the theory and practice of developing thinking players. This book is based on the belief that the implementation of these student and athlete-centred approaches create more opportunities for athletes to understand their sport, improves their ability to think for themselves and to learn to make better in-game decisions.
John Barrett is the Head Coach of the Varsity Blues Men's volleyball team program since 2011. In the spring of 2018, he was voted President of the Canadian U SPORTS men's volleyball coaches association. John competed at the 1984 Olympic Games, the 1983 Pan Am Games and at the 1990 world championships for Canada. He played professional basketball in Europe for 14 seasons where he made history as the first volleyball player in the world to exclusively employ the spike serve in matches. He was head coach for both the men's and women's beach volleyball teams at the 2003 Pan Am Games and is currently the 2019 Canadian senior B men’s team head coach.
Dave Brunner has served the United States Army for the past 10 years as a Human Performance Team manager in the field of sport and performance psychology. His team has developed and delivered holistic human performance training to Special Operators, Intelligence Analysts and Aviators. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Idaho in the Philosophy, Pedagogy, and Psychology of Sport. Before affiliating with the Army he spent 25 years as a football coach and teacher at the university and secondary school level. His career in coaching includes positions as a head football coach at three different high schools in North and South Carolina, and as an assistant coach and coordinator at two different NCAA Division I university football program
John Campbell is the Head Coach Men’s Varsity Blues basketball team at the University of Toronto. He has been a head coach in post-secondary basketball in Canada for over 25 years. John has been an assistant coach at the international level for both Canada and Great Britain. He attended the National Coaching Institute at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and is a Learning Facilitator for the NCCP course of “Train to Compete – Tactics and Strategies”.
David Cooper is an Associate Professor Emeritus, Teaching Stream, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) at the University of Toronto, Canada. Currently his teaching includes two Theory of Coaching courses and a course focused on the Pedagogy of Playing Games. He is a Learning Facilitator for the Canadian National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). He was Head Coach (1998-2015) of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s squash team and coach of the 2005 women’s squash team that was inducted into the Varsity Blues Hall of Fame in 2018. He was named Ontario University Association’s Coach of the Year on five occasions. Prior to coming to Canada, David was qualified by the National Coaching Association (NCA) as the youngest Advanced Cricket Coach in the UK. He played three seasons for the Middlesex County 2nd XI cricket team. He coached both London and Middlesex U19 county school teams. Upon arriving in Canada, he was appointed Technical Director of both the Ontario and Canadian Cricket Associations.
Greg Gary is the former Head Coach of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team (2010-2017) and a faculty member in Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto, Canada. Greg attended California State University Fullerton (CSUF), Greg signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Rams in the National Football League. After a short stay with the Rams, he came to the Canadian Football League and played four seasons with the Hamilton Tiger Cats and was a member of the 1986 Grey Cup winning team.
Guido Geisler was an Associate Professor at the Tsukuba International Academy for Sport Studies (TIAS) at the University of Tsukuba, Japan. Guido obtained his UEFA-B football-coaching license from the German Football Federation (DFB) in 2016. He coached varsity soccer at the University of Toronto and at club level in Japan. He designed and conducted soccer coaching courses for the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Sadly, Guido passed away on October 26th, 2018 after contributing two chapters to this book.
Barrie Gordon is an Associate Professor in Health and Physical Education at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His current areas of interest and research are in Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) in physical education and teaching games for Understanding (TGfU). Barrie has written two books, Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) in physical education (2010); and Developing Thinking players: Baseball/Softball Edition (2015). Barrie has been involved in playing fastpitch softball in the New Zealand national league and currently represents New Zealand in the over 55 years TAG football team.
Karlene Headley-Cooper is a teacher at Crofton House School in Vancouver B.C, Canada. Prior to moving to Crofton House School, Karlene was a Senior Instructor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto where she taught fundamentals in fitness, exercise, physical activity and communication. Karlene is a recipient of a 2017 University of Toronto KPE Award of Excellence in Teaching. She was an Ontario University Association women’s squash all star on six occasions and a member of the 2005 women’s team that was inducted into the Varsity Blues Hall of Fame in 2018. Karlene was also a member of Great Britain women’s softball team for ten years (2005-2014) playing in four World Cups and has coached various GB national teams from U13 to women’s (2007-2016).
Gerard Lauziere is a Senior High Performance Coaching Consultant with the Coaching Association of Canada. He has also been the High Performance Director of both the Canadian Fencing Association (2010-11) and Taekwondo Canada (2009-10). Between 1985 and 1996, Gerard represented Canada in various international karate competitions around the world, including two Pan Am Championships (Brazil, 1985, and Curacao, 2000) and 2 world championships (Peru 1990 and Spain 1992).
Darren Lowe is the former Head Coach of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s ice hockey team (1995-2016). He represented Canada at the 1984 Winter Olympics and played in the NHL for the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1983-1984 season. Darren was the OUA Coach of the Year in 2000-2001, 2002-2003 and 2011-2012. A full time member of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Darren is currently involved in the development of a Master’s of Coach Education course.
John McCarthy is the Director of the Boston University Athletic Coach Education Institute. He is a clinical associate professor in the Wheelock College of Education and Applied Human Development and oversees the Coaching Specialization in Counseling and Applied Human Development program. His area of engaged scholarly work includes coach development, positive youth development through physical activity and trauma-informed coaching. He is a strong advocate for designing socially just sport systems that are equitable, diverse and inclusive. As a former high school and college football coach for 15 years and a father who has coached children in youth basketball, he places a high value on the importance of the role of the coach in society.
Tabitha McKenzie is a lecturer in Te Kura Māori at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Tabitha has represented New Zealand in the Open Women’s touch team as well as the Open Mixed touch team where she was also captain.
Kaleigh Ferdinand Pennock is a PHD candidate in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto. She completed a double Master’s degree from the European Masters in Sports and Exercise Psychology (EMSEP) program, earning a Master of Sports Science in Sport Psychology from Lund University, Sweden, and a Master of Science with a specialization in Diagnostics and Intervention from Leipzig University, Germany. Her dissertation addresses sport-related concussion under-reporting and how adolescent athletes make concussion-related decisions. Her research interests include sport and performance psychology, psychology of athletic injury and perfectionism in sport and dance.
James Wallis is a Principal Lecturer in Sport, Coaching and Exercise Science at the University of Brighton, England. He started his career as a PE teacher before completing his MSc in Sport and Exercise Science and doctorate in education. He has worked for many years in youth performance and in international sport for development settings where he specializes in the design and delivery of age-appropriate and ecologically valid coaching practice. His University teaching commitments focus on pedagogy in sport coaching, youth sport programmes and reflective practice. He has numerous publications in the field, including the 2016 Routledge text, Becoming a Sport Coach.
Mike Way is the Head Squash Coach of the men and women’s Harvard University squash teams. His women’s team has won the USA national university squash championship for five successive years (2015-2019). In 2019 his men’s team won the national championships for the first time since 2014. Mike was the coach of squash world champion and Commonwealth gold medallist Jonathon Power from 1995-2005. More recently Mike coached Ali Farag at Harvard who is currently the world squash champion.
Nathalie Williams is a lecturer in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto, Canada. She earned her qualified teacher status in Physical Education at Loughborough University, UK, and has been in the profession for 9 years. She represented the U16 and U18 Welsh netball squads, Welsh colleges field hockey and Welsh schools track and field.
Tom Williams is the Head of Strength and Conditioning at Toronto Football Club (TFC). In 2017, TFC won the Major League Soccer Championship. Tom was also with Leicester City Football Club during the 2015-16 season when they surprised everyone by winning the English Premier League. Tom also has his UEFA B license in coaching. He coached at Derby County FC and Nottingham Forest FC while studying Sport Science at Loughborough University, England. Tom holds a Masters in High Performance Sport from the Australian Catholic University (ACU).