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How To Coach

I’m undertaking a L1 qualification in a new discipline, so I’m going back over the tips on how to be a good coach. Here’s a few of the tips and pointers I’ve come across in part one of the course.

Communication

To be a good coach, you need to be an effective communicator. It’s not just a one way street though, you need to be able to send and receive a message successfully. This includes being aware of potential communication barriers that could prevent your message getting across. To ensure communication is effective, you’ll be wanting to check with questioning and feedback if your communication was effective.

Are you able to get your message across without misunderstanding in a simple, succinct way? Are you able to vary the types of communication you use in order to increase effectiveness and engagement?

There are 3 types of communication: Verbal, Non-verbal and Questions. Some examples of each which you might use in your coaching include:

Verbal- Giving an instruction of what you would like the gymnast to do.

Non-Verbal – Show gymnasts a video demonstration of the skill or technique you are looking for, or employ a ‘Bendy Wendy doll’ (below) to assist!

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Questions – after a demonstration by one performer, question others for feedback and greater understanding of the skill executed.

Communication Barriers

Reasons your communication could be misunderstood or misheard include the environment, a disability, expectations of what is being communicated, attention and the language used to communicate in the first place.

In working with preschoolers I’d assume lack of attention is a significant barrier in a child knowing what you want them to do. It’s too easy to be distracted in a big hall with lots of interesting things to do and play with!

Someone with a disability such as sight loss isn’t going to be able to learn through a demonstration or video, so that’s disabilities should form a key part of your session planning – have you thought of an alternative way form that person to learn?

Using Instructions Effectively

Stop and gain everyone’s attention, outline your Aims, explain What you will be doing, give a reason Why we’re doing it, explain How and Who will be doing it, define When or for how long and Check everyone understood.
Good coaches are good listeners! Don’t just use instructions, define and explain the relevance of an activity – when was the last time your gymnasts were reminded why they warm up?

Don’t make assumptions
Be clear and specific
Give examples and alternatives
Set Boundaries
Combine instructions with different coaching styles

The three main coaching styles utilised in gymnastics are:

  1. Show and tell – ideal when a skill is new or more risky
  2. Set up and stand back – Great for experiementation and gives gymnasts some freedom/ control
  3. Question and involve – A great motivator and encourages thinking and self-development  NB. Open questions are often more useful as coaching tools

Coaching Styles work hand in hand with different Learning Styles. These include: Visual – learning through watching a demonstration. Kinaesthetic – learning through physical practice or experience. Auditory – listening to instructions. Adapt your style to meet not only the needs of the participants but also the requirement of the activity. Most coaches will develop a general style that works in certain situations, but try to vary it a little to keep everyone engaged.

Below are some really good examples about how the language and types of questions we use as coaches can help to better the types of responses we are looking for from an athlete. Examples of Open versus Closed Questions:

Closed: Are you happy with…

Open: How could you have improved…

… your performance today?

Open: What did you enjoy about…

Closed: Did you enjoy…

… today’s session?

Closed: Please can you…

Open: Why do you think we…

… do it this way?

There are times when open questions can be less helpful due to their less specific, abstract nature. If you’ve noticed a specific part of a skill that you would like the participant to think about, you may need to be more specific when referring to it to get the desired response. Specific questions or feedback are best for encouraging thought and encouraging motivation for a positive change. Questions which cater for preschool aged children and individuals with a learning difficulty would be different to those for older children or adults.

Try to include all participants, especially those who are quieter or easily distracted

Take time to practice good listening behaviours

Make a note in your session plan of relevant open questions you might ask participants

If feedback is always positive or always negative the participant can become demotivated

Good feedback should help to reinforce or change what we do – it is most useful with both positives and negatives as well as reflection and planning for next time.

Look for positive outcomes when presented with negative feedback. Give your own feedback in a sandwich- positive, negative, positive.

In the next post: Session Planning and Safety! I hope you’ve found this insightful, and if nothing else, it’ll make a great revision aid for me.

In the meantime, keep bouncing! Bella ~ 😉

 

Competition Ettiquette

On the evening or Supporting Sunday and ahead of one of the busiest competitive couple of months I thought I’d lay out a few suggestions about how Coaches, Parents and Athletes can set a good example at competitions!

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Athletes: Do

  • Applaud teammates and other athletes who do well.
  • Respect other teams and individuals.
  • Respect the judges’ decisions.
  • Applaud other team’s successes

Athletes: Don’t

  • Be aggressive or abuse the opposition.
  • Vocalise negativity or disappointment.
  • Question the judges marks or decisions.

Coaches: Do

  • Applaud a good performance, whether it’s your athlete or not.
  • Give encouragement and positive feedback on the competition floor, especially between routines.
  • Manage team and individual expectations.
  • Manage your own club’s parents and athletes!

Coaches: Don’t

  • Shout instructions during a performance, practice or warm up.
  • Instruct athletes how to do their routine.
  • Give negative reactions to a judge’s decision or mark.

Parents: Do

  • Applaud for all athletes, especially the ones who step back up after a fall- they’re the ones that need the most encouragement of all.
  • Applaud all the team placings, not just your own teams success.
  • Encourage your athletes to be pleased, whatever the result.

Parents: Don’t

  • Shout loudly and interfere with athletes’ performances.
  • Instruct coaches, athletes or officials on what they should be doing – it’s not your job!
  • Give negative reactions to the judges scores, accept their decision.
  • Speak badly of other athletes regardless of your thoughts on their performance, if you’re supporting someone else, your opinion is biased and unwarranted.

#SupportingSunday

Happy competing everyone! ~Bella 😉

Stretching: Help or Harm?

I’ve recently been taking a good look at stretching, specifically the benefits and when during a training session you should or shouldn’t be stretching. Some of my findings were new to me, so I thought I’d share a general overview and some of what I learned.

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What is stretching?

The movement of your muscles through their complete range of motion. There are two types of stretches: Dynamic and Static. Dynamic is the continuous movement of a muscle smoothly through its complete range of motion, for example leg swings. Static stretching is placing a muscle in a stretch and holding it in that position, for example if you were to raise your leg at a height and fold your body over it, holding the stretch for a fixed amount of time.

Dynamic Stretching is great at the beginning of a session because it helps to improve metabolic activity and blood flow to the muscle. This in turn helps with the muscles range of motion and power output, as well as preventing injury.

Static Stretches initially cause muscles to contract, and are proven to decrease the power available in the muscle for a short period – not what you want before a training session requiring maximum power. However when held for around 20 seconds post-workout, static stretches are effective at helping muscles to recover and heal, gently increase your flexibility and relax your muscles.

When is it best to stretch?

Based on my research, Dynamic activation stretches are great to include in your warm up. Static stretching in a fixed position for 20 seconds are most effective after exercise, during your cool down.

For a brief dynamic warm up, check out the video below from 13’07”. This video also really makes you think about the best use of a training session, especially when as Nath discusses (11′ in) the most ‘efficient use of time for optimal training’ doesn’t include static stretching, which can be done anywhere at any time, instead of getting onto the equipment you’re there to work on. He also makes a good point when it comes to young kids and the lack of ‘fun’ in stretching as opposed to using the equipment in the gym.

I hope you found this interesting and informative. I know it’s helped to inform what stretches I use in my training and coaching sessions. I’d really appreciate your thoughts below. On a side note, I was taught a warm up is for both the body and mind, do you think shortening the warm up could pose a risk to a athlete being less mentally prepared? Comment below with your opinion, I’d love to hear it!

~ Bella