Coaching is an art, a skill, and a constant case of behavioral science. A good coach needs to be a good scientist. He or she must take careful notes through observation and constantly test out hypotheses. To get an athlete to improve is a serious responsibility. The coach must incorporate different environments, various motivations, and a specific set of tools to ensure the athlete can reach their maximum potential. In my most recent post, The Art of Coaching: Part One, we looked at the tools of being a master, making it simple, and being as specific as possible.
Tools needed (part two):
The best teacher is the one that can demonstrate what is being taught. Literally, show the athlete what the skill should and can look like when done right. This does not mean, for example, the coach needs to be fast or faster then the sprinter, but what is important is for the coach to demonstrate the proper form, posture, and technique (even if in slow motion). This will give the athlete a visual to mirror. Being a demonstrator means you need to workout. The older I get the harder it is to demonstrate. I also talk more then I warm-up. So pulling muscles and ending the day sore is a common occurrence.
Try downloading the free app Ubersence. Your slow-motion video taping at practice has never been easier.
In part one, I called the coach a scientist. Observation is one of the key elements of any good science. The coach must learn how to watch their athletes. I video tape practice and meets, put it in slow motion at practice, and observe the movements of the athlete. This type of observation has helped me learn to can count an athlete’s steps in between the 300m hurdles. Good observers know where to place themselves physically to capture the correct movement. I once heard that John Wooden used to sit in the nose bleed section to observe and watch his team from a different perspective.
Practice to compete. This happens when you slow down and teach the correct movements. If the athlete hurdles, jumps, throws, vaults, or sprints in the wrong way, they will only learn how to continue to do it wrong. “Perfect practice makes perfect.” My warm-up is 35-45 minutes long and breaks down proper sprint drills. You have to walk before you can sprint. We walk our A-skips, C-Skips, straight leg bounds, etc. before the athletes go full speed.
7. Vision Plan
A good coach creates a vision plan with strategic goals for the season. If you want to get from point A to point B you must identify where point B is. For my athletes this season, it is the League Championship. We work to that end goal. I work backwards from that date and create a template for the work I would like the team to accomplish. Each week I write the specific workouts based on the needs for the team in light of my vision plan.
Too many coaches show up the day of and make up the workouts. This is preposterous. You will see so much more improvement you if you have a plan.