Steps to coaching decision making effectively!

Coaching decision making is a huge challenge. Speaking from experience, I think is difficult to do that without understanding learning process in first place. Without knowing how players learn is almost impossible. This is because any decisions we are making are part of past, present or future learning. I’ve outline simple steps to coach decisions effectively using some useful research.

Step 1: Make an effort to know how your players learn?
Each players learns diffrently. It is important to know what is the secret ingridient that helps players unlock their learning potential? That will help players learn quicker, thus their decisions potentially can be more effective. Althought is virtually impossible to help everyone on single training day, you can chose 3-4 players to support their decision making process. The simple idea from classroom base teaching may be useful to support you and players in this process.


Step 2: Understanding decision making process
Andres Iniesta once said, “Speed of thought and speed of the decision making separates the best players in the world from the rest.” I can’t argue with that.

The challnges for coaches is to understand how decisions are made before they support, coach and influence the players. Once coaches understanding the process , then they must identify what they need to improve and how? Have a look at the image below (source: This is logical explanation of decision making process which can help design practices and coaching decision making.

This is decision making process that players go through. Knowing learning process and how our players learn will positively influence their decisions. We then be able to create practice constraints with realistic game situations and tactical repetition (options), where players will be challenge to choose, act upon and evaluate their decision-making learning process.

Step 3: Extensive, early and playing experience in football but also related sports

In his blog: How important is an understanding of decision making to a sport psychologist interested in using it in their work with athletes? Thomas Buck outline research conducted by (Berry & Abernerthy 2009) and factors that may support players decision making process:

These factors are:

Now how these factors can support coaching decision-making process? I would like to point out: early experience of playing against older players. How often do we create an opportunity for players to experience that? I can see this very beneficial for younger players. They have to adapt to speed of thought and play of older kids, no other way around. This create competitive and challengeable practice situations under pressure and limited time. That means kids will be expose to tactical repetitions (options) where they have to choose, act upon and evaluate their decision-making outcomes quickly.

Step 4. Practical example

Why players made correct or wrong decisions? Decision making learning outcomes-measure of success
How many times player made correct decision to get the ball to end zone?
If players achieved a lot success or made to many wrong decisions, we may need to change practice constraints: situation, options, choose, act, evaluate?

Manipulate player extensive, early, playing experiences by create competitive and challengeable practice situations to meet player learning and decision-making needs.
Interconnections between learning, decision making and experience will have an impact on players learning. If we want to support player decision making effectively, we must make an effort to understand learning and decision-making process before we use players experiences.