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Coaching – the fab four

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There are some four-letter words that coaches swear by. This quick guide is designed to help coaches dip their toes into the wonderful world of mnemonic acronyms, which provide a powerful framework for structuring your coaching sessions.

The entire cast of characters who make up the coaching system workforce will be familiar with mnemonic acronyms.

The esoteric term may be baffling to most – including those new to coaches particularly – but to those involved in coach education, from thought leaders through to development officers, mnemonic acronyms can form a staple part of their role.

A mnemonic is a tool to help remember facts or large swathes of information in a certain order.

In the education and coaching industries they are used to great effect as a handy point of reference to help learners absorb, process and retain knowledge. Not only do they serve as an aid to understanding the ideas ingrained in a particular theory, they help coaches (whether you identify as a coach, or as an activator, facilitator, instructor, leader, volunteer, teacher or trainer) and participants put those ideas into action to stimulate change.

Mnemonic alphabetical acronyms are, in other words, frameworks for learning, and there are numerous examples.

Here is a selection of our favourites that we use in our education & training programmes, but let us know your own mnemonic model of choice in the comments box below.

Kicking off with what most educators have been taught….


Which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based, or at least it does most of the time, with different people in different industries using different words from the same letters for different reasons!  Sounds confusing but the framework is actually quite simple to follow..

In short, SMART is a personal development aid. It assists people in setting and achieving goals by providing some structure to the systematic process. With goal-setting being an intrinsic part of sport and physical activity, little wonder that this model is popular with coaches.

Working from the premise that specific goals are preferable to general goals, participants are encouraged to highlight particular areas for improvement.

Making them measurable will allow coach and participant to more easily track the progress being made. Analysing your results, performances or levels of execution against the set criteria for success will allow you to tick off the minor and major milestones on your journey of improvement and easily observe areas that might need some extra work or refinement.

To maintain motivation, goals must be established that are achievable. And be realistic. Do you dedicate the time you need to allow your participants time to practice; are your training aids relevant, are your students motivated.

Last but not least, it is important to establish a reasonable time frame for achieving your learners goal. A deadline focuses their mind, minimises the risk of distractions and provides the right kind learning environment – optimal learning levels that help you maintain your impetus as a coach.


Behaviour change theory consists of a mosaic of strategies which, arranged together in the form of a participation model, can nudge people into the direction your seeking them to travel. Such as performing a task in the accepted manner.

The EAST framework serves as a nifty support tool to help coaches enforce these nudge tactics.

It works on the principle that behaviour can be influenced if the changes are made easy, attractive, social and timely.

Easy: Reduce the hassle factor and simplify messages.

Attractive: Make it relevant and appealing; design incentives to start, and rewards to finish.

Social: Show that most people perform the desired behaviour. Promoting certain behaviours as social norms will encourage others to do the same; use the power of networks; encourage making a commitment to others.

Timely: Be mindful that intentions do not always convert to actual behaviour, so be willing to help participants plan their actions and prompt at appropriate times so they stick to their action plan.

EAST model


This method consists of four simple steps to help you make your sessions more inclusive, encouraging coaches to change the space, task, equipment or people for a chosen activity.

Every coach should modify their areas of focus according to the specific skills, abilities and needs of the individuals in the group. This framework will help them do just that, with the four letters representing those specific areas of focus.

So, change the space in which the activity is taking place – making it smaller or larger for example – in order that each individual is able to participate and more easily achieve their personal goals.

The type of activity can also be changed to suit the different abilities of individual participants. For some this might involve making the task less complex, more complex or adapting elements of how the task is performed.

Coaches can change the type or size of the equipment being used, or offer participants a choice of equipment so each person in the group feels included and confident in taking part.

Finally, tweaking the number of people who are involved, or matching participants depending on ability, is another great way of helping them achieve their goals and keep them motivated throughout a session.

STEP model


The consensus among educators is to imagine the GROW model as being like mapping out a journey.

The separate elements (Goal, current Reality, Options, Will) should be easy to spot as we examine the metaphor from the perspective of a coach.

First thing’s first, where is it you want your participant to travel to (Goal)? From which point on the map are they embarking on this journey (current Reality)? Different forms of transportation will be needed and there will be lots of available routes to consider that will take them from A to B (Options). Depending on the needs of the participant, you may opt for the direct route or a more circuitous route, stopping off to visit certain points of interest on the way. Finally, in terms establishing the Will, there must be a commitment to complete this journey, regardless of the road bumps that will inevitably be experienced.

Rather than telling their participants what to do, the coach’s job is to act as a facilitator in the learning process. As the journey planner, they will endeavour to ask the right questions to ensure the participant keeps heading in the right direction, does not run out of fuel and ultimately reaches their chosen destination on time.


We look forward to reading your comments and the tactics you use to enable your learners to develop when with you.


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