This article was written and submitted to me by Björn Galjaardt. The article has application to coaching regardless of the sport that you coach.
With a flirt to water polo…
Game [noun]: 1) A form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules; 2)An activity that one engages in for enjoyment.
By focussing on the above explanation we don’t need to go ‘hunting’ and using it as an adjective or verb. We then need to define understanding and awareness. In sport and business due diligence will help to gain knowledge about the tactics of our competitors. Therefore, different strategies can be implemented or adjusted. The understanding of the game can be seen in the word comprehension, the ability to understand. For example, a certain system is set in place, the people executing a system must understand how they operate and what their tasks are. That’s the power of abstract thoughts or intellect. In water polo it could be a tactical system like an ‘extra’ situation. In business it could be a finance model or assembly process.
Awareness is knowledge or perception of a situation or fact. Timing of action and actual adjustment must cross each other at the right level in order to anticipate. This is where awareness comes in play. Another definition of awareness is; a concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development. In this case some may argue that experience is needed. However, one must first understand the foundation of the system, the tasks and its purpose.
“When well executed, that’s where game understanding meets game awareness”.
Taking initiative and adapting to a certain situation requires some skills. First, one must read the situation and then go quickly through a library of options. Secondly, a decision must be made instantly to apply and execute. In water polo a defensive play could go from press to a simple zone (game understanding). The timing could be an initiative to react upon a certain move from an offensive play (game awareness). When well executed, that’s where game understanding meets game awareness.
Comparing a theory from Chris Argyris, in a 1977 published article, that describes double loop learning. In a simple example explained: “A thermostat that automatically turns on the heat when the temperature drops below a certain degree, is an example of single loop learning. A thermostat that could ask why it’s set to a certain degree and whether this is more economically to achieve the goal of heating the room, is an example of double loop learning”.
“Double loop learning is the process that narrows down both paths until they cross”.
While a thermostat is a single apparatus, a team will work together as one. Game understanding, purely the execution in a certain situation, set by continuously practice, observation and perhaps experience could be seen as single loop learning. Gameawareness would then be the timing, adjustment and anticipation to a certain situation that may require ‘more’ than purely the execution of a certain system. Double loop learning is the process that narrows down both paths until they cross. Providing feedback and higher level thinking in a process to reach a certain outcome eliminates mistakes and improves the result. This is no different in sport or in business. Sometimes people come up with bright revolutionary or innovative ideas in business. In a water polo game for example, an athlete decides to steal a misplaced pass in a full press system.
With double loop learning the process for a positive or negative outcome must be clear. An employee shouldn’t fear that his job is on the line and an athlete shouldn’t fear being permanently substituted. Everyone interpret or view something in a particular way. Once the criteria are set there is still opportunity for self-initiative. Clear rules and expectations in the process will see businessmen and sportsmen achieve more than they are capable of. This is where game understanding successfully meets game awareness in conjunction with double loop learning.