Monday, June 20, 2011

Building into the Structure

The word coaching is often very misunderstood by the masses. Many times a coach substitutes coaching with telling, and even worse yelling. In the movies, television, and media we have forever associated good coaching with who can do the best job of telling their players what they're doing wrong. It's about time we challenge this idea.

I've been fortunate to learn from some very good teachers and coaches as an intern as well as through mentors, certifications and volunteering on my own. One of the biggest concepts I've learned in my early career is the idea of "Building Into the Structure." I took this phrase from Nancy Green at Brain Highways in Encinitas, CA.

When I first started out I would become very frustrated with young athletes doing things wrong or not listening to directions. Over time, I've realized this was 100% my own damn fault. The drills I used were too advanced, I would give directions at the wrong time, I would place myself in the wrong position to demonstrate, and I wouldn't have proper progressions that would've led to correct technique, and so on and so on.

By no means have I figured a perfect way to teach all drills and techniques, but I quit putting the blame on my young athletes and instead looked at the man in the mirror (I apologize if Michael Jackson is now stuck in your head for the rest of the day). I now realize I must build the desired result into the structure. The structure being the drills, how I ask them to position themselves, how I position myself as the coach, EVERYTHING! Fine tuning the little things can turn a good program into a great program.

Coach Wooden and his assistants used to spend just as much time planning the practice as they would actually practicing. It got down to the details of where the ball racks would be for each drill before it started. They built efficiency into their structure.

This applies to athletic development training by how you use your progressions, and create a logistical flow to your facility. Simply throwing a complex movement on a new athlete then getting mad that they "didn't listen well enough," or "weren't paying attention" is simply awful coaching. Instead, designing new progressions that will lead them to actually learning the movement correctly might be a different route. Again, if your athlete's aren't doing what you want, look in the mirror and take the blame or nothing will ever change.

At TPI's Junior Level 2 certification, Denis McDade led us in a youth coaching oath. I wish I remembered this verbatim but it went something like this...

"I (your name here)..... will not blame or get frustrated with..... a young athlete..... for my inability to teach.... a basic skill..... that I thought I just tell them once but they didn't do it right so now I need to re-evaluate everything I know about coaching."

A good way to figure out what part of your programs need more built into your structure is to have a notebook or print out of your daily plan. Every time you notice you get frustrated, note what drill or exercise that was on and why you're frustrated. Go back after practice, or at night, and break down the drill to it's inner core. Read, call another coach, watch DVD's on how others have taught that particular skill and figure out what will work best in your situation. Deliberate practice at it's core for coaching....

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