Planning for the Year Ahead

Written by Dr Craig Harrison

As we approach the end of the summer holiday and our kids return to sport for another year, a lot of time and energy is about to go into planning. A recent conversation I had with one of my athletes focused on exactly that; he asked “what should I do and when should I do it to best prepare for the upcoming football season?”

To begin with, maybe a word of caution:

Awareness Drives Action

Imminent games, tournaments and competitions can lead to much training without a clear understanding of what actually determines performance. I don’t like this approach so much. A belief that “more is better” is fairly typical in the minds of coaches, parents and young athletes with big goals in sport. You will know you are doing it when just putting the work in becomes more important than what type of work is being done. Instead, help your athletes move towards a place of understanding. What actually influences performance? Getting clear on this first means the work being done will be much more likely to have the impact you are looking for.

So, now a way to better help your athletes.

Say Less, Notice More

To react by doing is human. To take away the pain, fix the problem, or make the road traveled by our kids less fraught with struggle. Yet when we do, we miss the chance to learn, and thus be of greater help and guidance. We respond based on what is true to us at the time, on what we think and have previously experienced. But it’s impossible to know it all. Expand what you know by taking the first moment just to observe. What do you notice? Why might you be seeing it? Then, rather than responding with an instruction, get curious. Read up. Ask for help. Listen carefully. Seek to understand what is truly responsible for the goals your athletes are wanting.

And now, perhaps a way to take action:

Ask Considerate Questions

There is a subtle aspect to learning often neglected. The learner’s perception of events (not yours) is what affects change. It’s easy to attribute a behaviour you see to a particular way of being. For instance, the mistakes made on court are the result of a lazy work ethic in practice. But judgements are often misguided, and thus dangerous. So the question is – how best to help? I like using a simple framework based on Bloom’s taxonomy for learning1.

  • Remembering – What took place during the game/competition? What surprised you about what happened?
  • Understanding – What was important about what you did/noticed today?
  • Applying – What could you do with what happened today?
  • Analysing – What did you do differently today? Did you see any patterns in what you did today?
  • Evaluating – How well did you do today? What did you learn about your strengths and areas where you can improve?
  • Creating – What could you do next? What specific steps can you take to overcome your challenges? What do you need help with?

This framework is a hierarchical order of cognitive skills that, when combined with ‘considerate’ questions from you, can help athletes make sense of their own experiences. It also helps you understand what your kids need to keep learning.

So happy New year… 2022 will be full of opportunities to help your athletes learn and develop. Curious, resourceful and resilient young people is something that the world needs more of right now than ever before.

I’ll see you next week,

Craig —


  1. Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., Airasian, P., Cruikshank, K. A., Mayer, R. E., Pintrich, P. R., . . . & Wittrock, M. C. (2013). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives (abridged edition). Harlow, UK: Pearson Education.
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