Are you teaching your athletes the best way?

Contributed by Coach Ron McKeefery, http://ronmckeefery.com

Most of us coaches were once athletes, try to remember back to when you learned a new skill.  Chances are that you learned one way, while one teammate learned differently, and another teammate learned a third way.  As coaches we know that all athletes are not the same, but yet we often use one method of teaching.  Typically it goes something like this:

Coach – “Have you ever squatted before?”

Athlete – “No”

Coach – “Grab the bar and then squat down”.

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Sound about right?  Maybe we get crazy and actually just get in and show them.  The reality is that there are three ways athletes learn: Auditory, Visually, and Kinesthetically.  When teaching our athletes we make sure to use all three methods when introducing them to a new stimulus.

Sticking with our squat example, we first use verbal information.

Non-Verbal-Communication

We break down exercises into their most basic elements “Ready, Set, Go”.  We tell the athlete to grab a 45lb Bar like they would grab it to do a Bench Press, and pull the bar back towards them to feel the shelf they create with your shoulder blades and traps.  Duck under the bar and place it on that shelf.  In a good athletic position, lift the bar off the hooks and walk out 1-2 steps.  This is the ready position.  Set, place your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and take a deep breath squeezing your shoulder blades together keeping your chest up and head neutral.  Go, hinge your hips first and descend to two inches below parallel, brief pause and then forcefully return to the start position exhaling as you do.

Once they are able to talk through the “Ready”, “Set”, “Go” steps we have them call out the commands as the coach visually demonstrates the lift.  This serves to reinforce what they heard as well as allow them to see the lift.  Most athletes are visual learners.  It is what is reinforced from an early age.  Coaches even at the little league level will practice and then have film sessions to teach.  We can then take it a step further by introducing video analysis as they require more information or advanced coaching.

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Lastly we use touch and feel to teach them kinesthetically.  Where there body is in space.  This could be as simple as applying pressure to their back and chest (shoulders for female athletes) to keep their chest up.  Hands on the hips and a little pull to make sure the hinge at the hip first, or a tap on the forehead to keep their head up.  If they are having trouble with valgus/varus knees we can use bands to provide the same information.  An athlete must feel the correct position to best understand it.

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 For all you die hard squatters out there this is not intended to be a thesis on squat technique, rather demonstrating how you can use Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic coaching cues to better your athletes understanding when teaching them a new skill.  Once you have introduced the lifts and they have effectively learned the basics then you can proceed with more advanced coaching cues and techniques.  Additionally, the three methods outlined are not an either/or.  Rather they should be used in conjunction to identify the best method to use with each of your athletes.  By using all three methods you will give your athletes the best chance at success.

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