I am taking it back to a session I coached last year that resonated with me and all of the athletes who showed up to work out that day. It sends an important message, not only to fellow coaches who may find themselves trying to give the athlete the answer as opposed to letting them find it for themselves, but also to the athlete who may find they rely too much on their coach and don’t truly “own” their development, or could simply be showing up and going through the motions. No matter what category you fall under, I hope you enjoy! 

“Something pretty cool happened today. At first it may sound boring, not fun, and couldn’t possibly be effective, but trust me when I say it left a lasting impression on everyone involved. This afternoon I coached our Learn to Play group (full of energetic, enthusiastic middle schoolers) without saying a single word. 

This initially started as a tactic to get everyone’s attention as it was time to begin our dynamic warm up and switch modes from bouncing off the walls to a little more structure (of course we still have fun!). Then it turned into something the kids got a chuckle out of. A little frustration began to set in on their part after I continued to stick with it, and refused to inject any verbal communication about what exercise we were doing or how many reps were supposed to be done, but this is when I started to see the light bulbs going off!

Obviously the only way for the athletes to do the exercises correctly was to keep a close eye on my demonstration, and to communicate with each other when one person realized what I was trying to get across. I was able to communicate the few areas I wanted them to focus on for each exercise through demonstration and gave visual feedback when they successfully figured out what I was looking for and executed! Needless to say it became fun, fast! The challenge of figuring out what I wanted out of them, and their attention to detail about whether or not they did it right was beyond rewarding.

In the coaching world this is an example (Extreme? Maybe.) of the minimal dose effect. The goal of getting the most out of the athlete with the least amount of cuing as possible. This leads to self-discovery and ownership over what is being asked of them. They felt accomplished as they solved the riddle of visual cues I was giving to encourage proper technique, and they would share it with their partner as they went through the set. “Keep your knees over your laces”, “Chest tall, and stick the landing”, “Opposite arm, opposite leg”, these are just a few of the cues they came up with as they were working through the exercises.

As the workout wrapped up, I called everyone in with energy and gave fist bumps all around as I asked them how they liked that session. They were all smiles as I asked what they took away from it and eager to share how they felt they bonded more as a group and owned the movements being asked of them in each exercise. I’ll admit I didn’t go into that session thinking I wouldn’t say a word, but boy am I glad I kept my mouth shut this time!”