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?”