The Art of Coaching
THE COACH'S TOOLBOX
The Coach's Toolbox
As coach's we essentially have 3 main tools in our tool box. They are:
- Auditory feedback
- Visual feedback
- Tactile feedback
Auditory feedback is the use of verbal cuing or other things that the athlete can hear. This is probably the most commonly used strategy of all exercise professionals. The language we use is very powerful. We know the language we use as health professionals is important in patient outcomes. We have the capacity to build confidence and self belief as well as the ability to create fear and anxiety. Additionally, consider not only the language you use, but also the tone and volume that you use to deliver your message.
Visual feedback is anything the athlete can see, including the demonstrations of the coaches. If a picture tells 1000 words then how many does a demonstration tell? This is why we generally have a rule that if you can't demonstrate an exercise, then you can't prescribe it (like every rule there are exceptions to this (e.g. if you are injured)). A trend we see with junior coaches is that they over-rely on verbal cuing to describe an exercise/movement, when a good demonstration can be much more efficient to set the context. Imagine the following hypothetical: a client had previously hit their head and now has no idea what or how to "walk". How many words would be required to tell someone how to walk, versus how much could be communicated by simply showing them what walking looks like? Why should teaching gym/field movements be any different?
Tactile feedback is the touch and guidance that a coach can provide to instruct a movement. We know that in the hospitality industry waiters who touch more get tipped more because of the rapport that it helps to build with their clients. It is a very powerful tool. We also have a population that is generally becoming more and more poor in terms of their body awareness as a result of increased physical inactivity levels. The ability to provide tactile feedback effectively, to help show the athlete what you want to achieve, or where they should be aiming to drive etc. is very useful with a wide variety of populations.
Consider the integrity behind the message. As a coach, if we are delivering a message to our group, about work ethic and application, and we ourselves are unprepared or late all the time, will our message have it's desired impact or create buy in? No chance. Similarly, if we are telling an athlete the benefits of a particular exercise, but we can't do it or demonstrate it ourselves, are we likely to get the buy in from our athletes? If we can't do it ourselves, do we truly know what it feels like to do the exercise well, to feel strong or stable in that position etc. This is why we say you generally can't prescribe an exercise you can't do well yourself! You don't have to be an expert at that exercise, but generally speaking you should at least aim to stay 1 step ahead of the client!
As per the previous sections within module 1, effective communication, and therefore effective coaching is the deliberate utilisation of all three of these tools at the appropriate time to elicit the response we desire as coaches. Beginner coaches often get caught only using 1 or 2 of these, but effectively using all three to help achieve the outcome you desire will help make you a good coach.