Monday, April 11, 2011

Developing Our Coaching Language

As modern day strength and conditioning coaches we seek out our information in many places… Journal articles, colleagues, blogs, magazines, YouTube, Google, and countless others. Our ability to share and acquire new training techniques is greater than it has ever been before. As a result, we must be more critical than ever in planning to ensure that the exercises we choose for our athletes are appropriate, effective, and taught correctly.

Last month, I read a blog post by Vern Gambetta titled, “Pedagogy – The Foundation of Coaching” (; March 8, 2011). In summary, Coach Gambetta believes that coaching and teaching are synonymous, and that his generation of coaches, before ours, benefitted from being trained and assessed as teachers and instructors. For those who don’t know, Coach Gambetta was trained to be a physical education teacher and has published a variety of articles on teaching speed mechanics to athletes. Being taught to teach (i.e. lesson planning, organizing groups, where to stand, speaking effectively, and demonstrating exercises systematically) is an area that many young coaches have scarcely covered in today’s exercise science based curriculums. In any philosophy of coaching, choosing effective language is the key to portraying the importance and goals of the methods we implement.

One challenge we face is that the professional language of the strength and conditioning field (used in journals and text books) is over-scientific for most of the players, hitting coaches, and pitching coaches who we work with on a daily basis. Over-coaching athletes with lengthy scientific exercise descriptions and difficult to read training programs can create confusion among players who are seeking simple solutions to improve their performance and technique.

Every year players bring me programs from their off-season trainers which are difficult to read and implement in any setting other than the facility where they were designed. Sadly, the players who pay for these routines often do not fully understand the programs themselves and are coming to ask what a particular exercise is or why they are performing it. Is this confusion really necessary, or would we all be better served by choosing simpler and more consistent language with our athletes?

My advice for coaches is to use the simplest and most efficient training cues possible. Most coaches can write programs for developing strength, losing body fat, and/or improving speed and agility. However, all effectiveness will be lost if the coaching verbiage does not resonate with the athlete. I would like to conclude this post with a quote.

“How you coach is as important as what you coach.” –Vern Gambetta

Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS
Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coach
Texas Rangers

No comments:

Post a Comment