Coaches, Athletes, and Dominance Profiles in Sport: Addressing the Learning Styles of Athletes to Improve Performance

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to examine the background and purpose of using dominance profiles to assist coaches in determining learning preferences for themselves and their athletes. Dominance profiles can provide information that will help coaches understand the differences in how athletes think, act, and learn. Dominance profiles can help coaches anticipate how students will respond in different sport situations. Learning inefficiencies can be addressed and strategies can be developed to enable athletes to adequately learn to process all types of information without undue stress. This paper's focus is on the practical application of dominance profiles in coaching that can positively affect placement and positioning of athletes, teaching for skill enhancement, and the impact of dominance on athletic performance.

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Each season, athletes participate in sport with vast differences in ability, understanding, and performance that make coaching a big challenge. The coach is able to observe daily the diverse levels of fitness and skill performance of individual athletes. Diversity among athletes adds a significant level of personality and depth to each team. One question that is often ignored in the athlete's assessment involves an understanding of how they learn and process cognitive information.

Learning styles are various approaches or ways of learning. Coffield, Moseley, Hall, and Ecclestone (2004) state "they involve educating methods, particular to an individual, that are presumed to allow that individual to learn best." Learning style theorists continue to be controversial regarding the impact that learning styles can have on the teaching and learning process. The learning style approach comes from the shared notion that students prefer to learn differently (Diaz & Cartnal, 1999; Fleming & Bonwell, 2001; Fleming & Mills, 1995; Snyder, 2000). Coffield et al. identified a continuum of learning style theory. Theories at one end were considered to be fixed (a trait) and at the other end were considered to be produced styles that considered learning to be mutable (a state), where learners are able to move between learning styles. The question of whether learning can be fixed or mutable is important because the answer enables us to determine if teaching and learning styles can be matched and truly individualized.

Although, limited evidence exists on the value and validity of learning style assessments in regard to athletes, the research (Dunn, 2008; Dunn, 2009; Fleming & Bonwell, 2001) implies that students and athletes learn best when both the teaching style and the learning style match. If previous learning experiences and environmental factors create varying learning preferences for students in school, then coaches may also experience similar differences in their athletes. Recent research in the area of coaching has also shown evidence of differences between the learning style preferences of coaches and athletes (Dunn, 2008). The difference in these preferences are greatest at the high school and college level, but as athletes rise to elite levels of performance, the differences between the two diminish (Dunn, 2008). Coaches need to be skilled communicators and technically sound in their knowledge of sport (Danish, Petitpas, & Hale, 2007), and an understanding of learning preferences can assist them in this area.

Coaches with an awareness of learning style approaches can include these techniques in the teaching environment to enrich the athlete's learning and possibly impact performance in a positive way. Coaches must be careful not to use learning preferences to stereotype or label athletes to a fixed style of learning, but rather they must use them as an option to augment the teaching and learning process. If learning is mutable, then coaches need to be aware that different situations will call for different preferences for learning. …