A New 26: D is for Debrief

          Activities are a big part of what I do in working with classes and teams.  Very few young people, after sitting and listening to adults talk for the majority of the last eight hours, are interested in a 30 minute lecture when it's time to be out on the field/court/etc.  With most sessions I try to balance activity and discussion.  This is something I learned through teaching and relearned as a mental coach during a summer with IMG Academy.  Most of the time I use the activity to start the session.  This has proven futile at times.  There are some groups who once we go to a high energy activity have no chance of settling down for a discussion (maybe an impromptu lesson on energy management).  Overall, I find activities to be really valuable.  They can be at least.  Experiential learning is more enjoyable and more effective than just listening to someone talk.  Few activities can stand on their own though.  It's not enough to do an activity just for doing an activity's sake.  The activity needs purpose, and a good debrief can be a great collaborator in driving home that purpose.
          Not all debriefs are created equally.  I've found there to be two very different types that have each brought about really cool lessons learned and helped with the idea of the students/athletes/performers driving the learning experience.  The first is very purposeful.  This is when I've taken the time to think through what I'm hoping they will get from an activity and guide them to those answers with the questions asked.  For example, today we did a team building activity with the cheer team that involved using each other's names.  I asked them after the activity how many of them where confident they knew all of their teammates names.  Not everyone raised their hand.  This led to a good discussion, driven by other questions, on the power of really knowing each other as people and why it's important to know and use peoples' names.  The second type of debrief is one I'll leave very open-ended.  We play some different sports in class.  Many students don't actually play a sport, and all will play a sport within the class that they don't play.  I really want them thinking about how they can use the concepts from class beyond our 45 minutes together and may simply ask, "What'd you learn that you can apply to what you do?" This has led to some really cool thoughts.  It's amazing what young people will say when we stop talking every now and again and just listen.  In reality, both purposeful and open-ended debriefs end up changing as we go because I really challenge myself to listen and trust myself to go where the discussion leads.  This is something that has come with experience and reflection.  When I started with teams I'd feel so often like I left some really cool questions and answers on the table.  While it still happens, I find it happening less as I obsess less with, "Did I get my point across?" and go more with "Did we get a point across?"  That's the fun of mixing science with art.  That's the fun of coaching.

- Coach Ehrlich


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