Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Coaching is an Art

Yes it is. It requires a basis of science to be applied, but that science is useless without the artfullness to apply it. Coaching isn't about writing a program and analyzing needs. Its how you interact with the athlete, choose what to act on in the coaching moment, and the manner in which you do it.

Much like any artists, all of the best coaches I know have been influenced by other masters before them. Some have apprenticed with years of working directly with, and studying, a more experienced coach. Others, such as myself, had to seek out various mentors and do intensive study of methods. This includes looking beyond the confines of speed or strength, but looking to coaches in many realms.

Another element of becoming a great artist is practice. The reading, studying, listening, and all else is great, but it has to be practiced. That means coaching. In todays age of internet gurus, seminars, and dvds, there are far to many of them that are great at marketing and talking about coaching, the problem is they haven't done enough to master their art. Choose your mentors carefully, and above all else seek some out!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Webinars in New year

I've been doing some initial webinars on coaching topics recently. Its a little strange at first not being able to see the coaches you are talking to, but the response has been good and coaches have been getting useful info. So I decided to venture forward and commit to doing at least 6 webinars in the coming year.

One of the keys are the video tools available now. Coaching movement is a highly visual process, so tools like online video and Dartfish make it practical. Coaches can discuss technique and watch movement and demonstrations.

Stay tuned for dates and topics to be announced!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

NFL Combine Prep

Well it's that time again. The beginning of what is in many ways a very strange process. NFL Draft prep. Getting guys ready for the all-star games, combine, and their pro days. We just started with guys from Michigan, Louisville and Central Arkansas.

It has become the "big show" of speed training for non-track athletes. Get them ready for that 40 yd dash and other tests. Every coach and their mother claims to "be the best" or "have the secret". I think it was Vern Gambetta who posted a few years back that each of the major training facilities should slap logos on their athletes like NASCAR.

We can debate the validity of the combine, 40, 5-10-5 and so on till we drop, but currently it's part of the job interview for these guys. That means we need to help them, or in many cases, not hurt them.

The reality is this process is so short, you have to really decide what you can positively impact and be very careful not to negatively impact anything. Whatever you do, don't try to do everything. These guys aren't training to be football players at this point and its not about a long term view of athletic development. I shake my head every year, because its soooo much about what I am usually denouncing in training athletes.

The upside, is that I find it a great challenge to my skills as a coach to get the maximum results in this environment with these constraints. They are tired and beat-up from the season that just finished. Often we a rehabbibg injuries. We will have some guys for less than 3 weeks before they go to the Senior Bowl for a week. Then they come back and we have about 3 weeks or a little more until the combine. Some will go right back to school for a quick Pro day, and some will come back for up to another month of training.

All in all, we don't have much time to impact change. So we try to optimize everything. One of those elements is deciding what to do about their speed training. What is their strength & power profile, how is their technique, what does their start look like, how about their acceleration vs. their maximum velocity (and yes they reach maximum velocity in the 40).

In coming weeks I'll keep you updated on what we are doing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Art of Coaching

I had been told for years that I should do blogs, dvds, books etc... But being a guru just isn't my thing. I have spent the last 15 years focused on 1) being a great coach, and 2) improving my system and philosophy. However in recent years I have become very passionate about another area. The mentoring of coaches.

Personally, I enjoy it. As a business owner, it's critical for success. It's also an exciting professional and intellectual challenge. How can I help coaches learn their craft? While the is no substitute for experience, I want to explore ways I can deliver that experience more effectively and efficiently.

Yes, the science is very important and the proper training techniques key for long term and lasting results, BUT, one of the things I've also come to learn through the years is that the delivery of that science, THE ART OF COACHING, is just as important or more so.

If you can't get the athlete to listen or buy in, they aren't going to follow your system, so the system is mute. The Art is knowing when to use which techniques and the optimum way to deliver it for that athlete or group.

Coaches need to be developed like artists. I now believe that a coach should start by building a base of scientific knowledge in school, but then they need the experience with a mentor. Its an apprenticeship. You gradually expand your ability to craft on your own, and that process itself can be the teacher.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Developing Your Coaching Eye

One of the biggest challenges I see new coaches have is seeing whats in front of them. I mean literally. Watching and athlete move in real time and analyzing their technique is a highly refined skill. Its your coaching eye.

Over time, I have looked back on that process for myself and recognized how long it took. I want to speed it up. I want my coaches to be able to do it now! So I thought long and hard about what the keys were and how we could accelerate the process.

First, I watched lots of movement. I was a strength coach before a speed coach. I first learned to watch slower motions like squats, deadlifts, etc… Then I learned how to watch the Olympic lifts. They are faster. Then I could watch acceleration, before maximum velocity. So the first lesson is progressive development from slow to fast movements.

Next, like most things, I found mentors who were better than me and learned from them. I stood in the gym and on the track and watched the same movements them, and tried to see what they saw. Often times, I was entirely lost as they picked out technique details, and I saw nothing near the level of detail. They gave me feedback and pointed me in the right direction. The next lesson is to compare yourself with a more trained eye who can guide you.

I have studied the movements using video (yes it includes many vcr tapes and dare I admit a little film). A big part of this is studying expert movement. Skilled performers. Watching them again and again. Getting my hands on everything I could. I distinctly remember when I first got access to a vcr with slow motion and a thumb wheel control. It was heaven! The lesson is that you have to watch and study the movement over and over. You need to have a proper technical model in your head if you are going to compare what you see.

An easy to overlook element is that I have watched thousands upon thousands of movements. Not “looked at” or “saw”, but watched. Its an active process. You can go to the track meet and see the race, or you can watch the movement of an athlete. In the weight room, or out on the track and field, I watch movements. This may be the most important lesson of all, WATCH ACTIVELY.

In coming posts I’ll talk more about each of these steps, but if you want to be a great movement coach, ask yourself; “which are you doing?”