#coachlearninginsport: turning up the heat



I am a member of the Braidwood Rural Fire Service.
Yesterday I took part in a CFA CSIRO grassfire research project.
Historically, there has been variation in the ways states and territories measure the curing (senescence) of grassland. These variations impact upon the calculation of a Grassland Fire Danger Index.
The CFA CSIRO project is design to offer a standard approach to the Index and to provide more robust models of fire behaviour.
I was fascinated to see their fieldwork in action.

The Fire Ground

The field setting was an extensive grass paddock near to Mulloon, NSW.
The satellite view is:
At ground level:
I had lots of time to think about the connections between fire fighting and coaching during the day. I was particularly interested in the research team’s commitment to authentic behaviour and careful observation and data collection/triangulation.
To put the day in context, it had all the characteristics of an early season fire day:

  • Temperatures in excess of 30 degree centigrade
  • Gusting north westerly winds
  • Low relative humidity
  • Grassland cured in the range of 70% to 100%.

It was a day for not lighting fires without the most careful attention to detail. We had twelve members of the research team who had three years of experience of conducting such trials. There were five fire crews in attendance.
Throughout the day, we conducted six controlled burns. One of them took over an hour to prepare. It was the most difficult test of the day and the risk of the fire escaping was significant.
This particular burn was the most successful of the day and came at the end of a day of burns. Everyone was very alert for the ten minutes of fire activity.


It was great to be part of the day. I had lots of opportunities to talk with the research team members. This added to my linking of fire ground and coaching.
I wondered how we might develop and share these kind of experiences in coach learning environments.
A key to this is situational awareness. In a daily training environment it is possible to observe players’ verbal and non-verbal behaviour as well as measure precisely performance parameters.
This awareness enables us to modulate training and develop an agile approach to athlete learning.
It connects the coaching group too.
Most of all the day encouraged me to think about how we support coaches who are keen to manage the risk of challenging players to extend their zones of proximal development.
I think this support involves:

  • Explicit discussion of risk
  • Considered discussions of the ecological validity (fidelity) of training environments
  • Sensitivity to critical incidents
  • The sharing of experience and examples of better practice
  • Long-term monitoring of performances of understanding in competition environments

I wondered how a #coachlearning report about such environments might be structured to encourage conversations about meta-learning.
This is what the CFA CSIRO team came up with recently in regard to their research:

The capacity to predict fire dynamics in fuel beds comprised of live and dead fuel components is constrained by our limited understanding of the effects of live fuels on fire propagation. A field-based experimental burning program was conducted to specifically address the effect of the degree of curing, the proportion of dead fuels in the fuel bed, on fire propagation in grasslands. Experimental fires were conducted at two sites characterised by structurally distinct fuels with curing levels varying between 20% and 100%. Fire sustainability experiments showed that fire propagation can occur down to curing levels as low as 20%. Rate of fire spread varied between 41.7 and 102 m min–1 in fully cured fuels and between 2.8 and 43.5 m min–1 in partially cured grasslands. The degree of curing was found to be the best variable describing the damping effect of live fuels in a natural, senescing grassland. Live fuel moisture content by itself was not found to be related to the damping effect of live fuels on the rate of fire spread. Existing models for the effect of grass curing on fire behaviour presently used in Australia were found to under-predict the rate of forward fire spread in partially cured grasslands. A new curing relationship for southern Australian grasslands derived from the study results is proposed.

I think we have the resources to do this in sport and might encourage us to think about performance processes and outcomes … and our construction of learning environments and opportunities.



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