There has been a lot of past research focusing on developing the reflective skills of coaches through a technique called reflective practice. However, there’s now a growing body of evidence that suggests the use of reflective principles and frameworks will contribute towards the successful development of players.

But what is reflective practice? In essence, these are mental practices through which individuals revisit and learn from their own experiences. Reflective practice pioneer Donald Schon defined the reflective learner as someone who explores their own experiences of learning through a questioning approach, to better understand how they learn and therefore improve how they learn in the future.

We know that ongoing learning and development is essential in football. The ability to learn a new move, skill or tactical framework is crucial to becoming, and remaining, an elite player. Consider, for example, Steven Gerrard at Liverpool and his late-career shift to a deeper-lying midfield role. But learning isn’t just about accumulating information, it’s also about how new knowledge is processed and combined with experience and knowledge we’ve gained in the past. And this is where reflection comes in – it’s the crucial link between processing new information, making sense of it in relation to existing knowledge and gaining a better understanding. For the footballer, reflection allows players to clarify their thoughts, gain insights and deepen their understanding of decision-making skills and tactical frameworks. With that in mind, the ability to inspire reflection could represent the most important modern innovation in player development.

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Sean Douglas
Sean Douglas
Sean is the National Coach Education Manager at Football Federation Australia.
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