Skip to main content

Telephone 015395 60060

Positive Pedagogy for Sport Coaching: Athlete-centred coaching for individual sports by Professor Richard Light and Stephen Harvey

by Nick Hill (Book Reviewer), September 2020

This is a part of an excellent series of books by Professor Richard Light on the pedagogy for sports coaching from his coaching experiences and extensive research in the field over a prolonged period of time. This book is an evolution from his book Game Sense: Pedagogy for performance, participation and enjoyment which focused on team sports as he felt something was missing for individual sports like Swimming and follows on from Advances in rugby coaching: An holistic approach.

“In regard to team sport, technical approaches to coaching assume that learning to play team games requires a level of technical competence before playing them. Assuming that there is one ideal form of technical execution that learners must strive to master, this approach focuses upon reducing errors and moving the athlete closer to the ‘correct’ performance of the technique. This view of learning as a process of correcting mistakes highlights what athletes cannot do and is exacerbated when less confident young athletes attempt to perform these skills under the gaze of their peers and their coach. Conversely, in GBAs [Games Based Approaches] such as Game Sense, mistakes actually provide opportunities for learning rather than being something used to control and pressure athletes (Renshaw et al., 2012) and should be seen as constructive errors that play an important role in learning (Light, 2013a,; Light et al., 2015).” pp. 13 and 14

The Positive Pedagogy approach sees a paradigm shift away from what could be classed as the traditional way of doing things where there is lots of telling by the coach, lots of repetitive drills given to the players, sees passive learners and the learning involved promotes of a fear of failure to a more learner/athlete-centred, inquiry-based pedagogy that emphasises reflection, collaboration, dialogue, collective inquiry and see active learners. Another way to put it is that the power moves from the coach and is given to the players/athletes to take ownership of their development and helps them learn to learn. The coach is more a facilitator rather than the dictator thinking that they have to pass on all their knowledge over to their players/athletes.

“Positive Pedagogy emphasises what the learner can do and how s/he can draw on existing individual and social resources to meet learning challenges through reflection and dialogue. It is forward focused.” p.16

The pedagogical features of Positive Pedagogy are that:-

  • It emphasizes engagement with the physical learning environment or experience;
  • The coach asks questions that generate dialogue and thinking in preference to telling players/athletes what to do;
  • It adopts an inquiry-based approach to provide opportunities for athletes to collectively formulate, test and evaluate solutions to problems supported by a socio-moral environment in which making mistakes is accepted as an essential part of learning.

“...designing practice activities and managing them through the analysis of performance is probably the biggest challenge facing coaches in implementing a Positive Pedagogy approach.” p.17

This book is for any Physical Education teacher and Sports Coach, and for that matter teachers in general, that wish to provide the best possible environment for their players and/or athletes to become the best that they can be using an holistic approach to their teaching and/or coaching to foster positive personal, social and more development in their students. The book will help you apply the principles that are used in Games Based Approaches in team sports like Rugby, Soccer and Hockey to individual sports like Swimming, Athletics and Badminton which involves providing learning experiences that place constraints on the athlete to create problems to be solved and processes of non-conscious thinking and conscious thinking.

“The main aim of Positive Pedagogy is to provide positive experiences of practice that maximise learning outcomes (improvement), promote motivation and develop the athlete’s ability and inclination to be an active and self-directed learner – regardless of the sport and the level it is played at.” p. 40

  1. Light, R. (2012) Game Sense: Pedagogy for performance, participation and enjoyment
  2. Light, R., Evans, J., Harvey, S. & Hassanin, R. (2015) Advances in rugby coaching: An holistic approach
  3. Light, R. (2016) Positive Pedagogy: Athlete centred coaching for individual sports (1st Edition)
  4. Light, R. & Harvey, S. (2019) Positive Pedagogy for Sports Coaching (2nd Edition)
  5. Light, R. & Harvey, S. (2020) Applied Positive Pedagogy for Sports Coaching: International Cases