Coaching Toolbox: How to Improve your briefings

The briefing is the first stage of learning a new skill, it lets our students know what to expect from the session, what the criteria for success is and how to achieve it.

In this post we are going to look at:

  • What makes a good briefing?
  • What do we need to include in a good briefing?

Implementing these things will put you in the best place to run safe and constructive session on the water.

What makes a good briefing?

There are plenty of aspects that can make a briefing good and these can change depending on who or what you’re briefing. But the three factors that should always be considered are: Making it visual, keeping it simple and Involving the sailors

What makes a good briefing?
What makes a good briefing?

Making it visual

This relates back to the fours learning styles (visual, audio, read/ write and kinesthetic) and makes sure all your sailors fully understand what’s being explained. This can range from simple techniques such as bullet pointing key words or phrases on a white board, through to using video demonstrations.

How you make your briefings more visual often depend on the resources on offer and the location of your briefing. But we should always have our waterproof note pads to revert to in the worst-case scenario.

Keep it simple

The second factor to consider is keeping it simple, easily remembered by the backronym KISS (keep it simple, stupid). In the early satges of skill development sailors will often get overwhelmed if you give too much technical information upfront. Its better to just cover the essential pullet points at this stage, then use on the water feedback can deliver the rest.

Using a clear structure in your briefing will help with this, but don’t be afraid to write your structure on a whiteboard to prompt you.

Involve the sailors

Including the sailors is something that a good coach or instructor should do throughout a session, but especially during the briefing. One technique to increase involvement is using collaborative learning strategies.

An example of this would be using a Think, Pair and Share exercise to answer the question “What makes a good roll tack?”. These exercises can be extremely beneficial to understand the sailor’s current knowledge and help maintain concentration.

Another example of sailor participation is to use open questions to check understanding. This can be particularly useful as a summary to the brief.

What do we need to include in a good briefing?

Briefings that don’t include everything that our sailors need to know or overload them with too much information, can often end in a poor session. So instead, keep it simple and include these six key points.

What do we need to include in a good briefing?
What do we need to include in a good briefing?
  1. Share the Reason for the aim

Firstly, by sharing the reason for the specific aim at the start of any briefing you are showing the importance of what is about to follow. This can often help motivate the sailors into giving their full concentration and effort during the briefing, resulting in a better session.

This only needs to take a few sentences but can help raise the quality of any briefing.

2. Identify the specific aim

Following on from that we now identify the specific aim, this can be aided by writing it onto on a whiteboard or wet notes. This now highlights what the coaching session is going to focus on and what we are going to break down.

By doing this the sailors will hopefully push aside the other areas of their sailing that are not relevant to this aim, focusing their attention on the skill we want them to practice.

3. Learning the specific theory/process

Next, we deliver the learning. This can be done in multiple different ways; discussion, explanation, images or video. However, at this stage we must remember to keep it simple and not overload the sailors.

4. Explain the exercises

We then must explain and outline the exercises that we are going to do on the water.

This not only shows the sailors what we are doing on the water, creating a structured and safe session, but it should link back to the aim and explain why we are doing the exercises.

5. Sailing area, signals and safety (and coming ashore)

Finally we need to make sure we are telling the sailors the basic safety information. The sailing area, any signals we are going to be using, other safety information, and how we are coming ashore.

This will ensure safe and well organised training, which must be our primary concern.

Hopefully these tips will help you polish your own briefing technique, leading to safer and more effective on the water sessions. Please comment below if you think of anything else that could be added to the list!

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