Note taking. Perhaps one of the aspects of this work I need to develop most. It sounds simple, but I personally did not find it as easy as you might assume. It does not help to be unfortunate enough to have the terrible handwriting gene. So much so, that I often can’t even read my own notes and make typing up summaries difficult for myself.
As with most note taking, I started with a blank page and took notes as and when during consultations with athletes. I had my session agenda on my left side, my blank notes page on my right side and my laptop handy for any presentations, worksheets or anything I wanted to display.
I took notes of the clients responses to questions and our conversation in general. Most of what made it on to the notes page was any information that would help me to understand the other person better and anything I felt was necessary to come back to in the future. For example, one client had briefly mentioned (but didn’t want to discuss in depth) a personal relationship that ended badly and caused her great anxiety. I made notes of this as I wanted to discuss the relationship in greater detail when she felt more comfortable with me. I also wanted to gain a deeper understanding of how her anxiety developed and if it transferred to her performance and performance lifestyle. Deciding what is ‘important information’ is your own judgement.
I often tried to maintain eye contact with the client whilst writing as I didn’t want to give the impression I wasn’t listening at any point. This made it difficult to write coherent notes. Something I still battle with. It’s a lot of head down, head up, make eye contact, write, listen…write whilst listening and listen whilst writing. To do this at a high level and to produce solid notes by the end of it, will take practice. Be patient.
What did work well…as the order of conversation often accurately reflected the session agenda, this meant my notes reflected the session agenda. So if I couldn’t quite make out what I wrote or what it was in reference to, I could also turn to the session agenda and be reminded of the conversation through my prompts.
As I started doing regular one to one sessions, I found myself reflecting more and more on my note taking process. Over time I had repeatedly told myself I need to develop this skill, make some tweaks, try some new things to make it more efficient and effective. I decided to alter the layout of my notes page. Instead of just using a blank sheet, I gave the page sections, which reflected each topic of the session agenda. For example, If I wanted to discuss someone’s life outside of football and their sleep hygiene and education, I added box sections to my notes page and a numbered list identical to the session agenda. This helped a lot by giving my notes context.
I observed training sessions and competitive matches often. In fact, the first month of my second placement with BCFCW, consisted of only observation and integration. University assignments like case studies, also required observation and note taking. When taking notes for observations, again I started with a blank page and decided to note everything I saw that I felt was useful or could be discussed further. This was often behaviours such as hesitation on the ball, effort (or lack thereof), communication, leadership and roles within the group/team.
I did not want to observe with preconceived ideas or behaviours in mind, therefore I did not and do not begin an observation with a structured background (notes page) where you already have categories displayed e.g. positive behaviours, negative behaviours, reaction to adversity etc. as I believe I would be limiting myself to what I would consciously be observing. Whereas if I take notes on a blank canvas, I leave myself open to observing and processing all kinds of information that will eventually contribute toward change. As said in many posts, everyone works in their own way and has their own preferences. Perhaps you will find that you prefer to take notes with a structured page. Find what works for you.
One thing I will say that I had thought about often when observing is that it helps to understand the sport. The rules, the objectives, the morals and sportsmanship involved the game are on display during competition. Understanding these will help you to understand your athlete or client. For example, I have played and watched football all my life, this helps me to understand what confidence on the pitch looks like, what motivation looks like, what a leader looks like etc. However, in other sports where I’m not so familiar with the game e.g. athletics or gymnastics, I believe it would be more difficult to discern and unpick certain behaviours. So get to know the field of performance in which you are working. Make an effort and go beyond what is expected of you by learning in your time so that you able to do a better job.
It wasn’t ever part of my role to observe analysis specifically, but I took it upon myself to observe everything, as much as I could to understand how teams function and where they could improve from a psychological perspective. Analysis was a good insight into how the coaching staff implement learning, facilitate conversation and reflect on the previous game. I didn’t have anything specific in mind when taking notes on analysis, but they ended up revolving around communication and suggestions on other methods of learning. For example, most of analysis would be playing and replaying footage and explaining to the team or player what went wrong and what they need to do better. My notes for a session like this would often include a list of people who always speak up (the leaders), people who wouldn’t ever really say anything, positive things about the way the manager communicated his praise and concerns and things I felt could be improved e.g. asking the players what they think about their actions, what they think could have been better as opposed to telling them.
Other notes in analysis sessions may include things like who the main talker is. At times, all coaches would have something to say and players would have to listen to multiple voices and process a variety of unstructured information. I would note this down and then next to it, suggest ways in which this could be Improved. For example, the coaches could meet before hand, discuss each clip individually and then one person could relay the thoughts to the rest of the team.
Note taking for analysis was a lot more comfortable as it was more self-paced and I am only note taking, not note taking and having a conversation or note taking and trying not to miss any behaviours during training/matches.
Listening, responding and writing simultaneously and effectively is truly an artform.
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