MBSC Internship with Sam Leahey: Positioning while Coaching
This week’s coaching revelation comes by way of another “big timer” at MBSC. His name is Coach Brad Stoffers the Great. Throughout the summer I’ve been privileged to work side by side with him and get his constructive criticism on my coaching development. This week he offered up a gem in terms of my ability to optimally handle a group of athletes at once. Allow me to explain. . .
There we were out on the tennis courts as I was taking the group through dynamic warm-up. Provided there was enough room, I typically would line up my athletes along the singles or doubles line and proceed to carry them through drills all at once. My rationale for this setup was the time factor involved. I knew if everyone did the drill at once we could get through the warm-up faster.
After I had them in position, I would demonstrate each drill accordingly, and they would perform the warm up in the width of the tennis court, continuing on for about 8 drills like high knees, skips, spidermans, buttkickers, etc. Here’s where it gets interesting though. I found myself having to weave through the athletes as they came across the court trying to coach every person at once. I would see Billy on one end of the court not doing something right and then Susan at the other end doing something entirely different than what I said. Surprisingly though, I didn’t mind it at all. I guess I liked the rush of coaching on your feet and having to pace up and down the court quickly. Plus it was pleasing to me how fast we got through the warm-up. This was my normal routine, but this week Coach Brad called me over for a little mano y mano. “You got to think a little more about coaching positioning,” he said. “This method is ok, but for beginners especially you’d be better served to have them go in lines of 3 or 4 at a time, so you can pay more attention to each individual person”. To him the time factor wasn’t as important as the individual coaching each athlete would get using this “new” method. So, I called up headquarters, readjusted the battle plan, and attacked it the next day with the following setup.
As usual, it’s the small things that come crashing down over me with an after feeling of “How the heck did I miss that?!?!? How come I didn’t think of that before????” The change was so simple, yet to me the implications were profound. Coach Brad encouraged me to take this thought process even further. So I did. When the group finally reached ladder drills I realized I never considered the focal point of my athletes. Rather, i assumed if they saw me demonstrate from one angle, they could abstractly understand the drill and put together what it’s supposed to look like from the other side. For example, if I demonstrate a ladder drill facing only one direction the lines of athletes on my left and right will see the side view of me, and the line in front of me will get the front view of the drill.
I’d like to tell you that the results were so overwhelming that every one of my athletes did things so perfectly they all went straight to being professional athletes with a 5 billion dollar signing bonus. In reality, I noticed much more technical soundness from my athletes when I demonstrated things twice from two different angles. I had to coach less because they had a better idea of what drills were supposed to look like.
Continuing on into the weightroom, there’s one more aspect of positioning I’d like to touch on. It’s the idea that when you’re coaching a group in the weightroom your time is best spent on the big things rather than the little ones. For example, if my group is doing a tri-set of trap bar deadlift, physioball rollouts, and a chest stretch, my time is better spent circulating around the deadlift area rather than where people are doing the chest stretch and rollouts. In his book, Coach Boyle talks about doing one coaching intensive lift per day. This is so you can really hammer down on technique and get athletes or clients to do things right while you don’t have to worry as much about them doing the chest stretch wrong. Think of it like this: Imagine you had on a backpack full of flour during the entire workout and you poked a hole on the bottom so that it was slowly but surely leaking out onto floor until the bag was empty. After the course of an hour or so, there should be flour ALL OVER the deadlift/bench/squat/pullup area and only light dustings around the YTWL or plank stations. With this strategy in place I can rest assured that my athletes will be competent lifters and my efficiency as a coach will go WAY up.
As usual, I realize that at face value my examples and thoughts presented here are pretty basic and dare I say common sense for some coaches, but we’ve all heard the saying “common sense isn’t so common now a days.” These coaching strategies may seem somewhat trivial to you yet the implications discussed here have value for up and coming coaches like myself, especially when working with large groups. Sometimes, I sit back at the end of the work day and think about how group management and efficiency really play into things. It’s funny how simple my epiphanies can be, and yet they always have me thinking for hours afterward.
Sam Leahey CSCS, CPT