Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quality Control Coaching (2)

This is the second talk I gave at the Sanford Power Strength and Conditioning Clinic. A special thanks to their (Sanford Power) director Randy Martin for inviting me to give 2 presentations and a practical session.

I really enjoyed giving both of my presentations, but this one below was my favorite because I feel the pedagogy side of coaching is where training is made, or broken. I also see coaching pedagogy as severely lacking in the athletic development profession (in my opinion, and at least here in the U.S.), so I felt I would give my my take on it.

I have a teaching degree in physical education (I've blogged about some of my background in it before) and I recommend for any aspiring coach to get a degree in physical education; especially from a reputable program that puts students through the rigor as far as requiring the lesson planning, but specifically having to actually teach elementary, middle, and high school students, along with the final semester of 'student teaching'. In my undergrad program, we spent a few semesters teaching at local schools, and were graded by not only our instructor, but our peers... along with being filmed for us to review. At least at the time, I thought it was pretty demanding, but am so thankful to have been challenged to teach to a high level.

It's my opinion that the exercise physiology and mechanics is the easy part, and it's the attempt to communicate the methods and truly teach that is the ultimate difference maker. Having been in coaching for a few years now, I continually see the need for a teacher education background, because regardless of how much you know about what you are trying to do, it only matters if it is learned by the athletes.

The second half of the talk below is about being fully present when coaching - paying attention to the smallest of details; things that the athletes or no other person would likely see. From getting to know your athletes to them getting to know you, and the ability to decipher subtleties like that of a very in-tune mother and her awareness of her own child. As you will see, I also put a high premium on the warm-up and have the opinion that a quality and accurate warm-up is the best path to post-workout and inter-workout recovery (something to think about), and some of the different things I watch for throughout the warm-up component. Along with that, I also touched on how I try to instill an increased self-awareness in to the athletes; something I think is paramount of all that I do.

I finished up with how I try to evaluate myself, and how I approach each training session - just as I am trying to get athletes to improve their abilities and skills, so am I.

The following old blog posts do explain some of the concepts in the slides:
Physical Education 101
Quality Control Coaching
Warming up

I understand without audio it is hard to convey the entire message, so as with the other presentation slides please post any questions in the comments below.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Inquiry of the status quo

This past month I was fortunate enough to be asked to present at two different local conferences. Below is one of the presentations I gave, taking a critical look at some of the more popular methods, systems, and claims on the current landscape. Basically, the presentation was loaded with questions I have, and hoped to convey to the audience. I don't have a vendetta for anyone or anything, just a desire for free thinking and reality.

Throughout the presentation I was adamantly clear when I was interjecting my opinion, and was certain to not leave anything 'off the table'; myself and my philosophy of training too. The summation of my message was how I try to exercise logic and reason.

Maybe certain movement screens, corrective exercises, prehabilitation, dietary recommendations, methods, and systems really are flawless and are the panacea (I doubt it). But if I am never asking any tough questions, and just turning a blind eye, I would say I am awfully credulous, and would likely be struggling to navigate my way... compass-less.

Please post any questions in the comments below. I also have a list of references that went with this presentation that I would be more than happy to share.


Friday, April 5, 2013

The All-Purpose Ringmaster

Earlier this week, Margo and I took our two oldest kids (6 and 3... old I know) to the local circus, put on by a small, local circus company. It was a humble, low budget circus. The type that can perform in the smallest of venues. It was a circus of only a few performers, five dogs, and a little horse that the kids could stand next to for their picture: "$5 with your camera, $10 with mine".

The acts were simple (not necessarily easy) and traditional. Some of the performers looked beyond their prime, yet gave an effort and performance that I could completely respect (as if I am the expert circus talent identifier).

I also felt as if I should have purchased one of the generic circus coloring books, a few large balloons, and some cotton candy they were selling, in hopes that they didn't go broke and would be able to perform another day.

Even with all the antiquated props and sets, and a scant audience, they put on a show. And what really caught my attention and resonated with me was the ringmaster. As we were finding our seats, he was making his rounds making sure everything was in order, helping with the sets and performers. After opening with the classic, "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages...", he was over adjusting the lights for the performers. Later, he was selling popcorn. Then selling souvenirs - no job too large or small. And with great dignity. His all-purpose-ness reminded me of one of my coaches when I was younger...

I grew up in a small community that paired with a couple local small towns for school and sports. This meant we had to often travel 10-15 miles to school or to practice at different times throughout the year. I had a junior high coach who would drive us by bus at 5:30 for our 6 am practices (not to mention he, himself, lived another 20+ miles away... in another state!). He would also drive the bus to and from games. He was the 'equipment manager'. He taped ankles. He got the water bottles filled. He coached us in multiple sports. He cut the football field grass and painted it's lines. He swept the basketball floor before and after practice. All the while teaching us discipline, humility, and the fundamentals of the games. I am sure... no, I know, he did a hell of lot more than we ever knew.

I know that some days after practices, he would be refereeing girls volleyball or basketball games. He also scouted high school football games, prepping scouting reports for the varsity team and coaches.

Not to mention, having to deal with all the damn parents who thought they were the coaching experts or thought their child was getting shafted in some way. Thinking of those parents that bitched or scoffed, pisses me off even more today than ever. We weren't elite athletes, and we didn't need elite coaching. We needed the basics and to be taught discipline and humility. My coach had the thankless job of being Mr. Utility, just so many of us could have the opportunity to play on the... small-time stage. I completely get it now.

He is still coaching junior high kids today - 20 years later - having had coached something like 20 years prior to me. All the while teaching at the high school, and raising and supporting his own family.

I deeply appreciate my junior high coach (as I did the ringmaster). Definitely way more now than I should have in my younger days, when all my thoughts were dreaming of the big leagues. Today, I call him one my coaching heroes.

No job too large or too small.

Thank you, Coach Keller.

And thank you to all the youth, junior high, and high school (usually multiple sports) coaches who have done, and are doing (often unrecognized) a great job teaching and leading. Especially those doing all the extra coaching 'dirty work' because of limited resources, but made up for with tremendous resourcefulness.

There's more to coaching than just being an expert in the X's and O's or techniques of a sport. More than the sets and reps. More than the programming. More than just the practice or training session.

I don't care what kind of salary a coach makes, what status they hold, or what 'big-time' school they are at; a coach is a person, and no person is beyond any job that must be done.

Even if that means driving the bus, filling the water bottles, or painting the field... and to me, that's a bad-ass coach and a leader who I want to follow.