This is the second guest post on the blog, reaching out to some new resources. You'll see interviews, guest posts, and some more fun stuff over the coming months.
This blog post comes from my longest running client, and now Head Coach at Courage Performance East, Andrew Whitener. "Whitey" had always been one of the hardest working athletes I ever had. His passion to improve his baseball game was infectious and it was always a joy to train him. When he expressed interest in getting into the training/coaching world, it was a pretty seamless transition. Now, as Head Coach at the East Coast branch, he has taken the responsibility of being the only employee of a portion of this company that I have spent 10 years building; needless to say he jumped right into the deep end, and has been doing a wonderful job! Here is his second post, of many to come!
The Malleable Coach
A common theme in many arenas in life, but particularly among sports coaches, is a tendency to get comfortable with coaching a certain way and then being resistant to change. Coaches learn a lot when they start out, often working underneath some sort of mentor, and as they move up and start to be in control of their own players/team/gym/whatever, they develop habits.
These habits range from how practices are planned, to how you interact with players, to how specific techniques are taught (think: fielding a ground ball, shooting a jumper, or executing a clean). Once they learn how to do or how to teach something, many coaches end up using the exact same techniques and principles with every athlete. Now, that alone isn’t negative, especially if you know how to teach things efficiently and correctly. Obviously, if you don’t know how to field a ground ball, shoot a jumper, or clean, then you aren’t going to be a very good coach. But even if you do, there’s more to it than that.
What’s important is twofold:
1) keeping an open mind with regard to learning more about whatever it is you’re coaching, and
2) being able to adjust the way you coach to fit your athletes.
Every athlete is not the same (not by a long shot), so instead of trying to mold them all to fit you, mold yourself to fit them. My freshman year of college, we traveled south to play a weekend series as we usually did to get ready for our conference schedule. In watching the other team take batting practice, I was struck with the fact that EVERY player’s swing looked the same. It was obvious that this team’s coaches had decided there was one best way to swing a baseball bat, and every one of their players was going to swing that way. That makes no sense! At that level of baseball, a lot of high level ballplayers come to play at your school and have developed somewhere between 12-15 years worth of their own habits. Not only that, they have clearly had enough success to get recruited to play Division 1 baseball! That doesn’t indicate to me that every one of them needs their swing to be completely re-tooled. Furthermore, I’m sure that each athlete learns in a slightly different way. Some may respond well to being told exactly how to swing, some may react negatively to the process of making wholesale changes (especially if they have had a lot of success with the technique they currently have), some may simply not be very good at this technique. If you turn on any Major League Baseball game, you’re going to see a lot of different looking swings and pitching mechanics.
Now, I want to be clear that I do believe there are universal tenets of different techniques – some things are just wrong, and you can’t let big problems slide in the name of individuality. But what I’m talking about is truly understanding what you’re trying to accomplish – for example, building a baseball player’s explosive power in a technical range of motion via the power clean – and then developing a deep understanding of the specific techniques you want to use to achieve that goal. If you study the snatch, the baseball swing, the crossover, or the slap shot so much that you understand it on the most basic level (which often gets lost in pursuit of high level performance), then you can slightly alter how you teach it based on each individual athlete. You can adjust the cues you use based on the person in front of you so as to most efficiently achieve results.
I don’t know how many times in my short coaching career I’ve seen one cue or one drill work perfectly for one person, and completely baffle another. Some athletes naturally create more arm bend and thus a higher bar contact position during the second pull on the clean. Some athletes need to be cued on what their hips are doing on the back squat, some on where the pressure should be on their feet, some on where their eyes are looking! The malleable coach is the coach with the deepest understanding of his or her subject matter, and thus the coach that can most effectively communicate with his or her athletes. Everyone is different, so why coach them all the same?
Head Coach at Courage Performance East
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