Thursday, 24 October 2013

Physical literacy and group coaching techniques

 Presentation for the UBC Strength and Conditioning Club, Sat Oct 25th, 2013

Physical literacy and group coaching techniques


As many of you embark into the practical world of working with clients, you will most likely be tossed into either group classes/boot camps or team settings as an instructor or helper.  Working with a group dynamic is a far cry from working with individuals or smaller groups.  Sessions will quite often end up being a mixture of triage with performance work.  This industry is far from practical and we can only do what is best given our current situation.  The ability to adapt and have foresight is imperative. 

The collection of thoughts below are some of the issues I have encountered over the years and I hope that by sharing them with you today you will be able to bypass some of the mistakes I have made.


·         What is the audience’s perception of you and what is your perception of the audience?

·         What is the physical and training age of the group you will be working with?  Quite often it can be a mix of young and old, experienced and novice yet the expectations on the coach are still very high for a session to run perfectly.

o    Do you have a clear understanding of generation gaps?

·         How much space do you have and what equipment do you have access to

·         Are you indoors or outside?  If outside are you prepared for the elements both physically yourself and for how it may change your session?

·         Is the person contracting you out going to be there?  Quite often the logistics are in the hands of someone that has no clue as to what you will be doing with the group.  If they are going to be on hand are they willing to help out and learn with the group?

·         If you will be doing programs for your groups/team what are the limitations you will face when unable to be present when they are working on their own?

·         What are the barriers you may face when dealing with past traditions?



·         Your message is clear, concise and consistent.   The entire group should understand your message regardless of age, skill or experience. If they do not, chances are you are the one that is unclear of the message

·         COACH and OBSERVE.  Standing on the outskirts with your arms crossed barking orders is not coaching.  If working with a group doesn’t exhaust you chances are you are doing it wrong

·         Disguise repetition. We all have a clear understanding of adaptation, but in the private industry we have far more to consider.  This is a terrible part of being a contractor for a team, but at the end of the day, your sessions must have an impact on the group and be memorable

·         Do not put other coaches, philosophies or specific techniques, movements or skills on a pedestal.  Your situation is always unique, like the group you are working with.  Ask yourself “why” for everything and if you don’t have an intelligent answer you shouldn’t be doing it

·         Keep things as simple as possible.  Your audience doesn’t care about the stretch shortening cycle, but if you have to incorporate it as a point, you best know it like the back of your hand.  Always keep your message clear and void of any potential confusion

·         Instruction time for movements or new skills should be kept to a minimum.  This does not mean withhold information, it means the longer you talk, the less likely people are listening (age specific).  Learning a skill is a long process, I like to break it up as needed and use the demo, drill, demo, drill technique until I am happy with the result

o   Every instruction session is a learning tool for the coach.  Rarely do things run smoothly and you can bet that a new issue you have not seen before will arise.  Your ability to learn from those issues are what make you a better coach (every time you speak, you should be the one gaining the most benefit)

·         Exude confidence, not arrogance.  The second you show uncertainty is the second you lose the attention of the group.  The same can be said about arrogance

o   Leading through influence is infinitely more effective than leading through authority! True power comes from influencing others to do something because they want to do it

·         Surround yourself with as many coaches as you can.  Not just within your profession, coaches are coaches and will all have some useful tidbits you can use

o   Great coaches take a little from everyone and make it their own. Once you grasp the concept that very little is “new” in this profession, you will be on the right path

·         Your understanding of progressions and regressions must go beyond knowledge of different exercises.  When and why to change or modify on the fly is a skill

o    Understanding the common dysfunctions of a group before you start will put you one step ahead of your clientele. 

§  Boot camps, bariatric, youth, throwing, aquatic, contact, multi-directional, skating, jumping, snow (uni or bi-lateral), age, ability, surroundings, prior coaching etc.

o   It is also important to understand the common movement errors for your exercise prescription well in advance to your session.  The easiest way to understand movement is to observe movement….ALWAYS

o   Progressions should not be forced

·         Have empathy.  This seems quite simple yet it is lost on many young coaches.  Anyone can make a hard workout for your client, group or team.  BUT and this is a big BUT, is that always the goal?  And are you willing to risk burnout or potential injury so you can tell people how you shit kicked a bunch of housewives or pre-teen soccer players?  Put yourself in the athlete or clients shoes and have a clear understanding of what the goal(s) of your sessions are

o   How would empathy play a role in your programming for a women’s only boot camp, overhead or contact athletes etc…

·         Write notes after every session.  What went well, what sucked, who the leaders and cancers were/are, what could have been better etc.

·         If you can’t get your message across so that a 5 year old can understand it and an academic or someone that is experienced is not offended by it, you don’t know what you’re talking about. 

o   Educate coaches, parents, athletes etc

·         If you raise your voice when speaking to groups it means you are talking over someone or you don’t have the groups attention 

o   There is a time and place to change your tone-showing emotion, encouraging, in a loud environment etc.  If you raise your voice in this setting where there are no distractions, you are not commanding respect

o   Silence can be golden when used correctly

o   Whisper technique for large groups

·         If you come in looking disheveled, confused, late or unprepared you will have a tough time rebounding into a good session.               

o   Many team or group sessions are usually done off site.  Being familiar with the surroundings gives you a leg up on not only being prepared by being professional.

o   If you are in a gym setting, there are many variables you may need to contend with (other gym users, space etc)

o   How can you maximize the space you have while minimizing distractions? Specifically when working with younger populations

·         Your understanding of your audience is imperative.  It is tough to program and individualize for large groups so the better prepared you are the easier it becomes.

o   We should be able to surmise many of the issues that we will be confronted with well in advance to any sessions if you follow up on your due diligence

·         There is a fine line between being a cheer leader and energetic.  Dependent on the group(s) you will be working with you will need to change your levels of enthusiasm

·         Explain “why” without turning it into a 30 minute monologue.  The more educated your clients, coaches and parents are the better

·         Do the basics well

·         Keep professionalism on the forefront at all times!


·         ENERGY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

·         Disguising Repetition

·         What is a hip hinge and why does all great movement start from here?

·         There are no set rules, only guidelines.  Anyone that speaks in absolutes is a salesman, not a coach

·         Run, Jump, Throw, Kick, Pass, Shuffle, Balance, React, FUNdamentals

·         Finding your center and understanding the relationship between creating tension in yourself and manipulating it in others

·         Why do we need to “find our center” for athletic development

o   Key point: Put yourself in the most opportune position to be successful

·         The importance of building better athletes not just better weight lifters

o   Tennis ball and athletic drills

o   Weight transfer/shifts



No comments:

Post a Comment