Everything that we do in our lives is based on learning that we have done at some point. Even if you are attempting something that you have never done before, you will base your actions on what you have done and learned to that point. No matter how much we have drilled an action, and conditioned our bodies to take that action without thinking we had to learn that technique somewhere along the way.
Over time, much of what we have learned we want to pass on to others through coaching and teaching. Whether that is formally or informally it happens on a regular basis. I spend about 5 hours a week teaching martial arts. I spend an incalculable amount of time every week teaching my children. These are two very different approaches and coaching settings. One is very formalized, and the other is informal but the common thread here is the communication channels.
One of the key aspects of high performance in anything that you do, is how you mentally prepare and approach an event. I could go on and on about this topic and there are a large number of formal studies (and books) out there that cover it in great detail. Today I ran across an article that addresses the mental impact of the phrasing that we use in our approach to coaching.
The short version is: How you direct the mind, through your choice of words, can impact the effectiveness of your coaching.
I think we all know that everyone’s learning style and ability is different. As a result this recommendation may only work for some of your students.
Maybe it is me, and my mental process but I always want to know the details and mechanics of a technique. To have those comments that are categorized as “internal focus” is important and it is where my thought process automatically goes when I am coaching. There is a difference however between having the mechanics of a technique in mind as you are learning it, and being focused on the external clues during execution. In the article, Greg gives some great examples.
Internal focus- “Focus on the front sight”
External focus- “Watch the front sight stay in the center of your target as you complete your trigger press.”
Think about those two phrases for a second. The first very mechanical, very narrow focus. The second is more complete this is what you are trying to accomplish not, the how of accomplishing it. As you work through a technique I think both approaches are going to be beneficial. You have to communicate the “how to do it” at some point early in the coaching process but, how you apply those how to’s to the external world is going to be the key to success.
I can teach you the mechanics of how to do “x” all day long until we are both frustrated and angry with each other. But the path to success, as both a student and an instructor, is going to come from communicating how to apply those mechanics to the external environment. Think about the external clues of the entire technique and what is being achieved. That is the communication that we need to give our students in order for them to be successful in taking the detailed mechanics to the next level, more quickly.