My readers will know I absolutely love the idea of deliberate practice. Daniel Coyle even made a great acronym for it in his last post, R.E.P.S..
R-Reach and Repeat
S-Strong, direct, immediate feedback
As I learn more and more about deliberate practice I think of ways to apply it to improving as a coach. How can I deliberately practice coaching better? It's not a very easy question to answer. Practicing a sport, instrument, or new skill can be much easier to find ways to deliberately practice better. But how can we do it as a coach? Of course we can read books about new drills and progressions, and constantly look to improve our program. What I want to talk about is how can we deliberately practice communication. We must take a proactive approach, and figure out where we need improvement.
Step 1: Have a notebook with you at all times during the workout.
I have to thank fitness pioneer Alwyn Cosgrove (picture left) for truly waking me up to this idea. Everyone knows it's a good idea to have something handy to write down ideas but he put it in a whole new context for me. When Alwyn started training and coaching he would write down 100 words for every session. He had 30 sessions a week (30x100=3,000 words) x 50 weeks? He literally wrote 150,000 words per year. If a average book is 250 words per page, he wrote a 600 page book every year.
Now I don't always write 100 words per session but I always keep a notebook handy for new ways I coached a drills, things I see that need to
be improved, areas of weakness with my communication, or a joke that wasn't funny (which is probably in the 90% range). This is the utilizing reach and repeat method for communication. Push yourself to find weaknesses! Once again thank you Alwyn, this significantly improved me as a coach.
Step 2: Ask Athletes for Honest Feedback
The best part of coaching is the relationships you build with your athletes. Having them on a friendship, but I'll still do anything necessary to improve you even if that means breaking you, bond is unparalleled. Asking your athletes at the end of sessions of what they liked or disliked, what areas were unclear, what parts do you think could be improved. The better the relationship, the more honest the feedback will become.
Step 3: Ask other Coaches to Critique
This is hard for me as I am the only coach now at my school and getting another coach to come watch isn't always easy. However, this is a very powerful tool that can really be beneficial. In the sport performance industry we always talk about how important it is to go to watch other coaches, usually the experts. How often could we ask a fellow coach down the street to just come observe and see if he finds any areas that need sharpening? I certainly don't have coaches emailing me that often about coming to watch my small program develop, time to go find them. However I do live in San Diego aka a whales..... oops I mean "America's Finest City", what they $%*^ are you guys waiting for!
Having a coach who is from a whole different sport is probably even better. They look at it with a beginners eye, but still with the eye of a coach. Use that to your advantage. In fact I need to get on that now, have a great 4th of July weekend. My beer of choice will be Leinenkugel. A great summer wheat!