Dogfooding your coaching

In the August 2013 Wired, Clive Thompson introduced me to a term that I had never heard: Dogfooding. Thompson wrote that Microsoft coders invented the term in the 1980s, as it described coders having to use their own products day in and day out. The idea was that if you use your own product, you will find the bugs and be more motivated to fix them and create a better product. Thompson introduced the idea in his article “Mr. Senator, Eat Your Own Dog Food” as a way to encourage the federal government to get more done.

However, what about coaches? How can coaches use their own products day in and day out to improve them? It is hard to coach oneself. I cannot imagine a notorious screamer like Bob Knight teaching himself how to golf and continually screaming at himself every time that he missed a putt. Who knows? Maybe he does.

Is there a way for coaches to embrace this idea? Video would be one attempt. Coaches can videotape themselves coaching and re-watch to see their interactions with players, their body language, their feedback, etc. However, that’s not exactly the same thing.

I have tried to learn new things as I coach. I have picked up new activities or sports over the years. One reason is to put myself in the same position as the players who I coach. The instructor for jiujitsu may not coach exactly like myself – so I am not dogfooding per se – but I can see my reaction to different coaching styles.

Years back, when I took up boxing and kick boxing, there were different instructors for both, and they were very different. I saw the way that I reacted to different types of instructions. I remember learning a new combination one time, and the instructor stopped me after every repetition to tell me what was wrong. I hardly had any time to practice. It was frustrating. If it was frustrating for me as a 30-year-old recreational athlete trying to get some exercise, how would a 12-year-old react to the same type of instruction in a more competitive environment?

Video and learning something new are not exactly dogfooding, but they may be as close as a coach can get, and they will provide lessons that a coach can transfer to his or her own coaching.

Please suggest any other ideas to replicate the dogfooding concept in the comments.

By Brian McCormick, M.S.S., PES
Coach/Clinician, Brian McCormick Basketball
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

  • What Is A Playmaker?

    Who decided that a point guard has to be small? More importantly, what is a point guard? We expect a point guard to be a leader and have a high basketball I.Q. Why don’t we expect or challenge all players to develop this game awareness? Why rely on only one player? Read more →
  • The PBDL Concept

    English soccer academies wait until players are 11 to play full 11v11 soccer; in Italy, youth basketball players participate in skill-oriented clinics at 6-years-old, but start competitive games at 12. In the United States, kids play 5v5 full court games and compete for national championships when they are 8-years-old.

    Read more →

  • Starting A PBDL

    The PBDL emphasizes learning and development. Presently, players and parents have numerous recreation options - leagues based on fun and equal participation, typically for beginners - and numerous competitive opportunities - teams focused on strategy, game preparation and winning. There are few true development leagues - until now.

    Read more →