Miscellaneous Coaching Musings: Instalment 1

“Tell your athletes what they need to know, not everything you know.” – Charlie Francis

The above quote has long been a pillar in my coaching philosophy. We need to be short, sweet, and to the point. We need to give clear cues that provide the athlete actionable feedback. In the trenches (on the floor, in practice, or in a game situation) this is paramount. The last thing an athlete needs is a coach bombarding them with different cues which can lead to paralysis by analysis.

With that said, is there a time when an emphasis on simplicity can be problematic?

Certainly there are times where it merits going in-depth when breaking down an athlete’s video with them. Even in longer discussions though, it’s crucial to communicate things in a way where the athlete is going to walk away with an understanding. Don’t be a charlatan. Always keep the goal, the goal.

The goal is helping the athlete get better.

Here’s an example: a pitcher may ask me about the function of the rotator cuff. I’m going to use layman’s terms; its job is to keep the ball in the socket – to avoid translating too far forward and/or too far upward as we go through our throwing motion.

If I wanted, I could say, “the job of the rotator cuff is to keep the humeral head centred in the glenoid fossa – to avoid excessive anterior and/or superior translation as you throw. I don’t need to say that. Again, the goal needs to remain the goal.

With all that said, here’s where a mindset of keeping things simple becomes a problem. If a coach is employing an arm care routine for his pitchers and his understanding isn’t deeper than the cuff needs to keep the ball in the socket – that is a problem. How we communicate with our peers needs to be far different than how we communicate with our athletes. Even more importantly, a prerequisite to effective communication is foundational knowledge.

Deep Understanding = Simple Effective Coaching Cues

As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

I had a High School baseball coach who would constantly say that you needed to have an intimate understanding of your swing and delivery. Only with that level of understanding would you be able to make on the fly adjustments in a game.

As a coach this principle holds true. A deep, intimate knowledge base will allow you to adjust on the fly in the trenches with how you coach up your athletes. You’ll be better equipped to give clear, concise feedback to help your athletes make those adjustments when they need to.