If you haven’t yet read, The Coach’s Guide to Teaching from Doug Lemov, I highly recommend adding it to your summer reading list. In one word, it is fantastic! There were so many light bulb moments for me while reading it.
Doug’s an expert in the science of teaching and learning. He’s previously authored Teach Like a Champion, which describes techniques used by exceptional teachers. It has sold more than a million copies and been translated into a dozen languages. His other books include Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better, Teaching in the Online Classroom and Reading Reconsidered.
Doug is also the Founder and Managing Director of Uncommon Schools, an organization that operates more than 55 outstanding urban public schools in the US that close the achievement gap and prepare students from low-income communities to graduate from college.
Bringing the Science of Learning to Coaching
In this book, Doug brings his immense knowledge from the classroom to the gym. As Doug notes, coaches are after all teachers. And while there are no shortages of technical and tactical books on coaching basketball, there isn’t a book quite like this one that dives into the science of how we learn (and hence how we should teach to improve learning)
Here are some of the key concepts he dives deep into:
- Working Memory and Long-Term Memory: When we first teach our players something new, they are holding it in their working memory during the time on the court when they are learning it. Let’s use for example, a post move like the drop step. Even if a player is executing it well during that first practice it doesn’t mean that they have learned it. Far from it. To learn it, they need to store the intricate series of moves (jump hop on the catch, peek over their shoulder to see which side to attack, drop and seal the correct leg, one dribble, and finish while protecting the ball) in their long-term memory and be able to retrieve them during the intensity of a game. Doug talks about critical concepts such as the forgetting curve and interleaving that enable us to facilitate transfer to long-term memory. Major light bulb moments for me here!
- Vocabulary: Doug writes a lot about the importance of a shared technical vocabulary and its significant correlation to accelerating learning. When a team has a shared vocabulary for certain skills (e.g., “dip” the arm to create shooting rhythm), offensive actions and defensive coverage (e.g., sagging) they become more proficient at seeing it and hence learning it.
- Feedback: Doug dives into a lot of detail on how to provide proper feedback. He discusses the importance of focus (feedback on one thing only to not overwhelm working memory), specificity (instead of “good job” its “you were able to get the right amount of arc on the ball because your hand was under the ball at your set point”), and speed (keep your feedback brief so that the recipient can incorporate it right away). He discusses why it’s so important that we do not provide feedback during the play in a game, and shares insights on tone, modelling, and player-led feedback.
These are just three of the many excellent topics that Doug addresses. Building culture, what we should be specifically looking at when observing learning, and special topics in player development are the focus of three other extensive chapters.
More from Doug Lemov
Doug has also appeared recently on a couple of our favourite coaching podcasts, The Hardwood Hustle and The Basketball Podcast. Take a listen to get a sense for how transformative his concepts are and how he might be able to further help your coaching.