New Coach, Listen Up!

Coaching is more than telling athletes what movements to do. That can be done with something as simple as a whiteboard. Coaching at its core is a transfer of knowledge and experience while being able to articulate that knowledge and experience in a way the athlete will understand. While we as coaches may have a great deal of technical knowledge it must be relayed in a way the athlete can understand rather than in a way that makes us as the coach come across as overly technical and critical. New coaches seem to do this often to try and get respect by showing how much they know.

*Spoiler alert, you don’t know shit*. 

‘one of the most common cues I hear is “stabilize your midline”. That is freaking meaningless to the athlete.’

If they have no lifting background they don’t have a clue what you mean and often won’t speak up to say so. Coaches must not only be mindful of what they say, but also how an athlete perceives the instruction. Never over-educate and do not make them paralyzed by analysis. Think you’re smart? Awesome, prove it by educating them on their level. If you can’t explain it in a way a child can understand you really don’t know the subject as well as you think. If you can only explain it with technical language perhaps you don’t truly understand the mechanism at work.

Coaches at my gyms must use what is referred to as ‘Positive Coaching’. This is a core component of the USAW L1 course. Too often coaches only focus on error correction, which always leads to the athlete having negative feelings about their performance because negative feedback is what they get most of. Don’t do that.  Instead we point out something they are doing correctly, emphasise it, add information on how to fix the negative and re-emphasise the positive.

emember the term “compliment sandwich”? An example is if an athlete is performing the clean and their weight is on their toes. We would tell this athlete energetically “Hey you’re are doing a fantastic job at getting under the bar (or another cue they are doing properly), shift your weight back to your mid-sole and heels before you drive so you can get more force in it. Keep getting under the bar like that, it looks great!” In delivering the information that way we have complemented the athlete about something they did well which will give them more motivation to correct the flaw to see more of this progress.

The Most Important Corrections

Corrections that affect safety are the most important to address first. In the case of a safety error, correct it quickly and do not leave the athlete until you are know the correction has been made. If the correction cannot be made in one class, change the movement for that athlete so they are no longer in danger of injury.

And Next?

If there are no safety concerns focus on correcting fundamental errors and start with the easiest to correct. If an athlete has two or more errors it may be tempting to try and fix them all at once. Don’t do that either. Focus on one, don’t over educate. Focus on the simplest error, fix it and address the other errors during the next training session.

Leave a Comment