Friday, September 30, 2016

Coaching polyglot

How many languages do you speak as a coach/instructor? Seriously, are you able to approach your trainees in more than one way when it comes to conveying some information or trying to teach them something?

If you are still confused about my question, let me put it in another way, not necessarily related to martial arts. Have you ever been frustrated by someone who attempted to explain something to you, but if you didn't get it they kept repeating the exact same (unclear) thing they had been saying, only maybe louder or slower? There you have, don't allow yourself to be that person.

After all, no teaching ever, regardless of the subject, should be some sort of mechanical process. The art of teaching is not the same thing as packaging some product, even if it is intangible in nature, such as information or knowledge (even those two are not the same).

As instructors, we must be aware that different people learn in different manners, having different cognitive setups, learning habits, attention spans, motivation levels etc.Therefore, if we are sincere in our desire to really instill something valuable in them, having more than one tool on your disposal comes in handy. Essentially, it boils down to your teaching methodology and philosophy. Having a well defined curriculum is one thing, but being able to pass it on is another.

Without going too much in depth (there are whole tomes dedicated to the matter at hand), make sure to understand that in learning a physical skill some trainees have better odds of accomplishing better results when seeing it demonstrated. Others may learn better by feel, maybe being used as a demo dummy (myself included). There are those who need a lot of verbal explanation. Some need to be touched, i.e. literally put into positions and guided through motions in a hands on manner. I have met students who respond better to stick, while others really craved the carrot... Not to mention that all those may change within a same person from one session to another.

The tip of the iceberg

Good coaches should be aware of and handy with the cuing methods, constraints and affordances, adding or removing pressure etc. To me, it equals to talking many different languages, i.e. being a good communicator, more than just having a huge toolbox. Why do I say that? Because being a good interpreter means really talking a language, not just a few phrases. On the other hand, you can have a shed full of equipment and be clueless about how to use it. strive to know what to say (and what NOT to say), how to say it and when. Those are all relevant aspects of the craft of teaching and coaching, along with so much more.

So, how do we achieve that competence? The answer is simple even if not easy - always be a student yourself! Study the "meta" level of your art, how to teach it. Being an insatiable reader is always a plus, curiosity for the field is a must, passion for what you do an essential prerequisite. And just accept the fact that it never ends :-) 

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