VARK Learning Styles and Coaching

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Instruction is Important, but Effective Communication only make things Better (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a coach one of the starting points for evaluating the effectiveness of your coaching can be to evaluate what learning styles you cater for in your team’s development. Learning styles refer to the most effective and efficient way in which an individual receives and understands information. For this piece the VARK Learning Styles guide will be examined as developed by Fleming and Mills (1992).


The VARK Learning Styles Theory groups individuals into four different areas of preference for receiving messages. These are:



These four areas are utilised in providing some guidelines in dealing with individuals and making the time they have when studying or learning as effective as possible. As a coach think of utlising your team training sessions in a more meaningful way for your students. It would be unwise to spend an hour teaching a play if you could teach it in half the time but to the same standard. Understanding learning styles can do just that for you.


A visual learner has a preference for learning by pictures or watching what is going on. You might recognise these athletes as those who sit back when a new training drill is introduced and like to see what happens first before stepping on the floor. Another alternative teaching strategy is to have a whiteboard on the side of the court and during drink breaks or when groups of players are off the floor, diagraming and describing the desired outcome of the drill using drawings. This can be done by Assistant Coaches, Team Managers or even the players themselves.


Auditory learners have a want for useful direction. These athletes can step onto the floor when the drill is introduced but they focus on what the coach is saying and the instruction given.


Reading or writing learners have the roughest time when it comes to training sessions as often then have very little preferred stimuli. A suggestion for coaches here is to give all athletes a session plan during your pre training team meeting with the activities and possibly even the teaching points so your reading or writing learners are catered for. Reading and writing learners could also be included into the Whiteboard example discussed earlier with Visual learners. Key words can be added to the diagrams to help in promoting understanding and retention of key teaching points.


Your team’s kinesthetic learners love to do the activity at the same time as they are learning. You can see these athletes being the first to jump into an activity and often learn the sequence or teaching points fastest. For these athletes rehearsal of the drills or situation is vital.


The advantages of being aware of how we coach when applied to learning a style is that you have the opportunity make better use of your time. This is a very powerful thought as one of the constant issues we hear when we speak with coaches, especially those on tight deadlines or on a short turnaround is that they do not have enough time.


By focusing on learning styles you will see that sometimes the simplest things are the best.




Fleming, N.D. and Mills, C. (1992), Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection, To Improve the Academy, Vol. 11, 1992., page 137

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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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