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Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

12.10.14Practice Perfect Podcast with Athlete By Design

Did a really interesting interview about Practice Perfect with Jeremy Boone, who runs Athlete By Design.  He does podcasts on coaching with a variety of folks generally smarter and more glamorous than me.  Now I see why. He was meticulously prepared for the interview and the result was that 1) We ended up talking about a lot of things that are likely to be useful to coaches within a short period of time and 2) I ended up having a ton of insights that are already starting to show up in my work.

We talked a lot about feedback, especially the power and limitations of positive feedback.  We talked about tools for keeping feedback to-the-point.  We talked about how to make feedback applicable.  We talked about building expectations that feedback would get used not just “taken.” We talked about efficiency.  It ended up being kind of an executive summary of the feedback portion of the book, targeted to coaches.

The podcast is here: 

There were also, to be honest, a couple of things I wish I’d said a bit more clearly.  For example, I wish I’d made it clear in the first Q-and-A bit that a “metaphorical whistle”–i.e. a consistent cue to tell players you want their attention or that you want them to start a drill on cue–is as good as a literal whistle–the value is in the consistency and the efficiency of the signal.  But generally, with Jeremy’s guidance, I didn’t stray too badly.

That said I thought it would be useful to offer a forum for follow up.  If folks who listened want to make comments, provide other ideas, ask for clarifications or throw me some follow-up questions, I’ll be happy to answer them…  so please feel encouraged to comment in response to this post. I’ll respond as quickly as I can.

2 Responses to “Practice Perfect Podcast with Athlete By Design”

  1. Brendan Bayew
    December 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Hi Doug,

    A massive thank you to yourself and Jeremy for this podcast. The enthusiasm you both have for sport is infectious and made me want to go play! My background is teaching and I loved the crossover between teaching and coaching which I have not really considered before. Your ideas work on multiple levels and make me think about how I coach/teach the pupils in my class and how I would like to be coached as a teacher.

    I really like you calling teaching a performing art, something which I noticed as soon as I started. I have spoken my own poetry on stages before and it really is very similar being in the classroom. And it is a very personal performance and teachers can get defensive about others observing and coaching them which is why it has to be done extra sensitively. And one way we can win teachers over is by focusing on the idea that we practice things BECAUSE we’re good at them in order to get great at them.

    I have been following your blog on tacit accountability and was thinking of it in terms of holding teachers accountable but hearing you talk about it also made me think about how I hold my students accountable for their behaviour and how private corrections can be so important and how powerful it is when you notice them doing it right afterwards and give that positive feedback.

    I also really liked the idea of changing the mode of the praise you give. I have come across many pupils who are suspicious of praise and it resonated when you described their experience of praise as coming when they are failing in an attempt by a teacher/coach/parent to make them feel better rather than being genuine. I really like your idea of changing the mode to make genuine praise sound more real and if I take one thing away from the post at into my classroom next week I think it will be that.

    Thanks again,


    • Doug Lemov
      December 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks for the insights, Brendan. Your description of how students often feel about praise–suspicious of it–is better than mine. It captures the sense that they often don’t quite know what our praise means–is it genuine? are we pandering and really trying to encourage them when they are failing by saying “nice job”–and so they are often looking at us as and just after we praise for cues to tell them how to take our words… ironically that’s often the moment we turn our focus away.

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