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May 8, 2012
Can You Coach Yourself?
The age of data is upon us, and the industry of sports is no exception. There have been so many improvements in athlete assessments, whether it is the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) to evaluate basic patterns or the Sparta Scan we use to objectively measure the athletes’ nervous system. Such evaluations provide important information, but have become the centerpiece of training programs, leaving the actual coaching to younger interns or inexperienced athletes themselves. I cannot help but feel we have lost something in this “technological” age, an intervention that has shown in research to be the single most important factor in higher quality movements, coaching, whether it is yourself or others. A 2008 study of the Department of Physical Therapy in Eastern Washington examined 37 female collegiate athletes and their effects on landing, which is considered the most critical phase of avoiding ACL injuries (see Sparta Point). The authors found that a brief instructional session promoted short-term improvements in the landing patterns. Specifically, these athletes significantly increased their force absorption DRIVE by flexing (bending) more at the knees and decreased their peak EXPLODE. The study also found that in this isolated trial, muscular strength was a poor predictor of the improvements. The research is not intended to discount the proven effects of strength training reducing injury. Rather this study highlights that all movement is a skill, which must be cultivated by a good coaching eye. Coaching can be defined as the transfer of experience and education, whether it is to athletes or within yourself. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers suggests 10,000 hours as a baseline requirement for excellence. Such suggestions are understood when we discuss the Beatles or budding Russian tennis stars, yet we cannot discount this skill acquisition within the craft of coaching (see Sparta Point).
We encourage our coaches and athletes to follow a few proven principles, a couple of which were discussed in Daniel Coyle’s Talent Code. In this book, researchers documented John Wooden as he went on to win an unprecedented 10 national champions for UCLA basketball. 1. Feedback should be like a GPS system
  • Clinical and urgent
  • > 75% should be information
    • what to do
    • how to do it
    • when to intensify
2. Demonstrate the movement
  • Show the right way
  • Show the wrong way
  • Show the right way again
3. Athletes should love the movement
  • How relevant to their sport
  • Inspire their “rage to master”
But perhaps the hardest lesson is the difference between a good coach and a great coach; the great coach doesn’t say everything. Fortunately, you and your coach will know the difference after 10,000 hours.
May 8, 2012
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