There are some four-letter words that coaches swear by. This quick guide is designed to help coaches dip their toes into the wonderful world of mnemonic acronyms, which provide a powerful framework for structuring your coaching sessions.
The entire cast of characters who make up the coaching system workforce will be familiar with mnemonic acronyms.
The esoteric term may be baffling to most – grass-roots coaches particularly – but to those involved in coach education, from thought leaders through to development officers, mnemonic acronyms can form a staple part of their role.
A mnemonic is a tool to help remember facts or large swathes of information in a certain order.
In the education and coaching industries they are used to great effect as a handy point of reference to help learners absorb, process and retain knowledge. Not only do they serve as an aid to understanding the ideas ingrained in a particular theory, they help coaches (whether you identify as a coach, or as an activator, facilitator, instructor, leader, volunteer, teacher or trainer) and participants put those ideas into action to stimulate change.
Mnemonic alphabetical acronyms are, in other words, frameworks for learning, and there are numerous examples.
As Kelly Brown, UK Coaching’s development lead officer (Learning Architecture), explains: ‘Mnemonic acronyms can be a great way to break down large amounts of complex information, aiding the learning process for individuals by helping them digest and remember information.
‘Learning can be reinforced further by ensuring that individuals are supported to make the connection between the content and the environment in which the information and skills will be applied.’
Here is a selection of our favourites, but let us know your own mnemonic model of choice in the comments box below.
Kicking off with…
Behaviour change theory consists of a mosaic of strategies which, arranged together in the form of a participation model, can nudge people into getting active, and staying active.
The EAST framework serves as a nifty support tool to help coaches enforce these nudge tactics.
It works on the principle that behaviour can be influenced if the changes are made easy, attractive, social and timely.
Easy: Reduce the hassle factor and simplify messages.
Attractive: Make it relevant and appealing; design incentives to start, and rewards to finish.
Social: Show that most people perform the desired behaviour. Promoting certain behaviours as social norms will encourage others to do the same; use the power of networks; encourage making a commitment to others.
Timely: Be mindful that intentions do not always convert to actual behaviour, so be willing to help participants plan their actions and prompt at appropriate times so they stick to their action plan.
This is another behaviour change model that helps coaches inspire people to become more active more often. The method consists of four simple steps to make your sessions more inclusive, encouraging coaches to change the space, task, equipment or people for a chosen activity.
Every coach should modify their areas of focus according to the specific skills, abilities and needs of the individuals in the group. This framework will help them do just that, with the four letters representing those specific areas of focus.
So, change the space in which the activity is taking place – making it smaller or larger for example – in order that each individual is able to participate and more easily achieve their personal goals.
The type of activity can also be changed to suit the different abilities of individual participants. For some this might involve making the task less complex, more complex or adapting elements of how the task is performed.
Coaches can change the type or size of the equipment being used, or offer participants a choice of equipment so each person in the group feels included and confident in taking part.
Finally, tweaking the number of people who are involved, or matching participants depending on ability, is another great way of helping them achieve their goals and keep them motivated throughout a session.
Which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based, or at least it does most of the time, with different people in different industries using different words from the same letters for different reasons! Sounds confusing but the framework is actually quite simple to follow.
By the way, for those who can remember the first line of the standfirst, yes, we know, this particular model contains five letters.
In short, SMART is a personal development aid. It assists people in setting and achieving goals by providing some structure to the systematic process. With goal-setting being an intrinsic part of sport and physical activity, little wonder that this model is popular with coaches.
Working from the premise that specific goals are preferable to general goals, participants are encouraged to highlight particular areas for improvement.
Making them measurable will allow coach and participant to more easily track the progress being made. Analysing your results, performances or levels of execution against the set criteria for success will allow you to tick off the minor and major milestones on your journey of improvement and easily observe areas that might need some extra work or refinement.
To maintain motivation, goals must be established that are achievable. And be realistic. Can you dedicate the time you need to practice; are you able to travel to training sessions and competitions; can you afford the cost of equipment.
Last but not least, it is important to establish a reasonable time frame for achieving your goal. A deadlines focuses the mind, minimises the risk of distractions and provides the right kind of stress – optimal adrenaline levels that help you maintain your impetus.
Barb Augustin, head coach of EPS Triathlon in Melbourne, eloquently sums up her own individualised approach to using the SMART framework:
‘The “T” has many connotations. In swimming, for example, it is expected that with the so-called ageing process that our Times will become slower but there are very few that could not improve by emphasising Training or Technique; thereby providing Targets to Transcend the norm Timely. Everybody knows that deadlines are what makes most people switch to action. So install deadlines, for yourself and your team, and go after them. Keep the timeline realistic and flexible, that way you can keep morale high.’
Or maybe the SMART model is not so smart after all. Ralph Samwell offers the ‘case against’ this tried and trusted coaching framework in this ConnectedCoaches conversation.
The consensus among educators is to imagine the GROW model as being like mapping out a journey.
The separate elements (Goal, current Reality, Options, Will) should be easy to spot as we examine the metaphor from the perspective of a coach.
First thing’s first, where is it you want your participant to travel to (Goal)? From which point on the map are they embarking on this journey (current Reality)? Different forms of transportation will be needed and there will be lots of available routes to consider that will take them from A to B (Options). Depending on the needs of the participant, you may opt for the direct route or a more circuitous route, stopping off to visit certain points of interest on the way. Finally, in terms establishing the Will, there must be a commitment to complete this journey, regardless of the road bumps that will inevitably be experienced.
Rather than telling their participants what to do, the coach’s job is to act as a facilitator in the learning process. As the journey planner, they will endeavour to ask the right questions to ensure the participant keeps heading in the right direction, does not run out of fuel and ultimately reaches their chosen destination on time.
UK Coaching’s ‘Behaviour Change Tactics’ workshop uses the EAST principle.
Organisations: Find out more about how to organise the UK Coaching ‘Behaviour Change Tactics’ workshop.
Read our blog on Behaviour Change theory here.