How to Be a More Effective Teacher: The Core of Coaching

November 11, 2013

Over the last few weeks, we have been discussing a coach's job description. Ultimately, it comes down to producing results, but there are a few components that must be in place for this to be possible.

Last week we talked about the importance of programming; planning and developing a framework for progression. Today we will dig into the next step which is teaching movement.

Good Movement must Have a Goal

We have a lot of coaches visit us here at Sparta, and for these outsiders who get a quick glimpse of what we do, our reputation is based on how our athletes look performing their movements. Sloppy movement sticks out like a sore thumb. We are firm believers that the measure of a coach is in how their athlete's move.

Every coach will tell you that technique is important, and every personal trainer will tell you that they are a stickler for "form", but what is good movement? Good form and good technique depends on the goal. Move more weight? Build more muscle? Burn fat? The goal plays a large role in how you should move. At Sparta, our goal is to build more efficient ATHLETES. We use the force plate to produce a Sparta signature, giving us validated evidence into both performance needs and injury risks.

Three Steps to Teaching Movement

1. EXPLAIN the Movement

Teaching is like performing. You must be able to give simple, precise instructions in about 10 seconds or less. Over time you start to develop a short "script" for each movement using the cues that have been the most effective and discarding those that have not worked as well.

Another key to introducing new movements is to start with basic expectations. As athletes show competency with the basic movement demands, you can start to teach the finer points of the movement. If you start with the details too early, they can get bogged down with too many things to think about and they will end up not doing any of it very well.

2. SEE the Dysfunction

As a coach you should have a blueprint of a "perfect rep" for each movement that you coach. Coaching movement comes down to comparing what you see with the pattern burned into your mind. Over time, you will develop your "eye" for movement through learning from more experienced coaches and spending hours performing the movement yourself. Faster movements like sprints and Olympic lifts are more difficult to "see" because there are so many things happening simultaneously.

One of the best ways to learn to see these movement (and to teach them to your athletes) is to break them down into smaller pieces. For example, when teaching athletes sprint technique we start with wall drills and progress to resisted marching before introducing full speed sprints.

3. FIX the Problem

The art of feedback is one hallmark of a great teacher. The goal is to bring an athlete closer to the blueprint of a perfect rep and increases their chances of success. One great method for giving feedback is the "Sandwich Model". With this approach, you start with some positive feedback, then insert a simple correction, and finish with more positive feedback or a bit of encouragement. This method produces great results because of the psychological ability for an athlete to make changes when they are framed in a positive way. Another great approach is the "GPS Method". Short, simple, targeted feedback given one step at a time. After the correction is made, you can follow up for understanding; "Do you understand what I mean when I say...?

Using Sparta Signatures to Make You a Better Coach

Whether you are teaching yourself or teaching others, an objective way to measure results can transform your understanding. An example would be a Weak Drive signature that validates what you are seeing with an athlete who struggles to get extension when accelerating. Over time, this validation improves your "eye" as a teacher and builds confidence in the athlete.

Another key component of effective teaching is explaining the "why" behind everything that you do. When athletes understand why they are doing a movement, it increases their awareness and accelerates the learning curve. Sparta signatures are the objective link between what you are doing and why you are doing it, which is ultimately to improve performance at each athlete's specific sport and position.

Great coaches know how to program an effective framework, and teach movement. In order to effectively teach movement, you must be able to EXPLAIN, SEE, and FIX. Just like any skill, becoming a great coach involves learning from experienced mentors and dedicating hours of practice to refine your craft. Next week we will wrap up our series on coaching with the final component - motivating.

Passionate about coaching? Want to be a part of Sparta's network? Contact us about internship opportunities, coaching mentorships, and part-time coaching positions.

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