By Craig Johns

Are you asking the right questions and how are you interpreting the answers?

Asking the right questions provides a powerful tool for a leader, manager or coach. The following piece provides an insight into how questioning impacts both the person asking and those answering the question, through a coach/athlete relationship. It is applicable to all industries and aspects of life.

“There is more learning in the question itself, than the answer.” 

Andrew Weremy

Utilizing questioning as a coach can provide a greater insight into the athlete in how they learn, understand and perform. Questioning encourages athletes to think for themselves and increases their involvement, responsibility, creativity, motivation and interest in learning.

A positive benefit of questioning is that it promotes increased levels of communication (2-way communication) between athlete and coach. Enhanced communication then leads to developing mutual respect and trust between athlete and coach. This “helps the coach understand the athlete better through enhanced communication, which could lead to recognizing the athletes emotional, social and life variables that are/were affecting performance.” [ITU2]

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.” 

Albert Einstein

Questioning “helps athletes become more autonomous and continue to learn and explore when the coach isn’t there.” [ITU2] The athlete will learn to problem solve more effectively, have “confidence in their ability to analyze situations” [ITU2] and improve their decision making ability under pressure in a competition.

There are various types of questioning including closed (‘Yes’ or ‘No’, provides limited information), open (requires explaining in-depth) and leading (contains information the person asking wants to hear in the question) questions. Open questioning provides greater opportunities for understanding and learning due to the more detailed response. Questioning can also be classified further into [ITU2]

• Knowledge (attending to and remembering facts)
• Understanding (Interpreting meaning, translating into the athletes own words)
• Application (using information and solving problems by applying information in new and different ways)
• Analysis (Breaking things into parts: examining relationships; asking why)
• Synthesis (Create something new; construct; design)
• Evaluation (judging, assigning value, justifying opinions)

It has been found that “using bandwidth feedback with questioning maintains communication with athlete, allows the coach to gain a greater understanding of what the athlete is concentrating on and encourages athlete autonomy for their learning.” Bandwidth feedback sets an acceptable zone of performance and only provides feedback when the athlete falls below or excels above. Another way to create more effective results from questioning involves the use of a pause or waiting time to allow them to think before answering.

“Sometimes quiet people really do have a lot to say. They’re just being careful about who they open up to.”

Susan Gale

Reference – [ITU2] ITU Competitive Coaching Level II Coaches Manual pg 170, 171, 172

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