Tricks of the trade are really suggestions that are used to enhance learning when trying to get your points across. You may already practice a few of these techniques without even knowing it, but its always good to know them consciously as techniques of teaching.
That’s Right! Kneel down when coaching younger children. Get to their height as much as possible. It can be intimidating to shorter smaller kids to be talked down to by a towering adult 3 or 4 times their weight and over twice their height. Lowering your voice and controlling your tone of voice and how you say it may also help. Remember, for younger children, they are there because their parents want them there. It may not be an, “I love judo” situation. However, you might be able to make it so in the long run if you don’t scare them away as the “Giant Ogre”.
Coaches are often in stress filled situations and blurt out commands. Sometimes it’s a time sensitive issue and there isn’t any time for niceties. Some coaches get into the habit of retaining this composure of gruffness as a part of their persona because it saves time for them. A social technician would take a different tact and usually have more success.
Let’s see. Let’s begin with the #1 first. This is a part of the ratio of things to say to an athlete who has a hard time taking criticism. Start your critique session by being a friend. During a match as an example there are situations that are good and bad. Pick out the good one first and start with what the person did right, “You did a great job taking your opponent to the mat as we had discussed earlier. He’s good standing but knows very little on the mat. That was good thinking because he was worried once he hit the floor. You could see it in his eyes, he didn’t want to be there.” Now you have established you’re on his side. Now for the 2 critiques, “If you want to know what you could have done after that here’s what it is. (Critique #1) Keep working him on the mat as long as you can, he found an opening and used it to get up. You should have grabbed his bracing arm and not let go. He would have fought harder to get out rather than just stand up un-opposed. It makes him look bad because it’s a defensive act. (Critique #2) You should have tried to take him down to the mat again. He was tiring on the mat but when you let him up he came in for that funny haraigoshi for a wazari as the match ended.
The ratio of 2 critiques are allowed for every 1 positive comment given first. Thus 2 to 1, but start with the best one first and make friends.
Sometime used along with positive reinforcement. It is usually an uplifting statement with the intent to better the individual who may not know how good he may be. Stating something that is known to be true, a praise given in admiration. In our case as coaches it is a statement of truth stated to the athlete to let them know they are admired in some special way. “Jacob, your okuri-ashi-barai was fantastic. It was 1,2,3, zip and he was horizontal for ippon!” “.Michael, you’re doing great, you are winning over 80% of your matches.” “Congratulations! I really liked the way the way you bowed respectfully to Sammy after you beat him, even if he was bullying you Georgia, Good job!”
What did you notice about the last three affirmations? – Stop and think. Did you notice each were mentioned by name? Did you notice that of course they were positive reinforcements, ”was fantastic” “you’re doing great.” “I like the way,” were positive reinforcements, but what really sets these affirmations apart is that they tell you why they were fantastic, great, or liked. Praise becomes more noteworthy to the athlete if they know exactly what they did, be specific. Don’t just say,” good job,” or “that’s the way Sam.” Tell why it was a good job or what you mean by “that’s the way Sam.”
In Japanese fencing (kendo) at the end of every practice session Kenshi students 3rd degree black belt and below will sit in the formal seated kneeling position and bow to each instructor, then the instructor will impart his advice on how to improve his or her kendo. The exercise imparts a sense of humility as the student bows appreciatively towards the sensei and goes on to the next sensei down the line. If one listens to the short tidbits of advice by each sensei; they seem to call for the same types of corrections. This goes on for weeks, months and even years for some, its redundancy at its best. The instructors vary their instructions as the student makes the corrections and get better. The idea is that when the student is ready the instructions will make sense to them. Until then, redundancy prevails. It seems to be working for many who were once receiving advice now sit and practice giving redundant advice.
Even for judo sometimes the student isn’t quite ready to understand your advice right away. Maybe he was distracted, not alert, or just not at the point to understand what you were talking about. It’s like telling your 5 year old child, don’t touch the stove, it’s hot, when he’s never been burned or been close to heat. Ouch!!!! – — Ohhh!, so that’s what mommy means when she keeps saying HOT!. Now he’s ready to understand HOT.
Don’t be afraid to repeat things many times!
Story telling is just sharing your memorable experiences. Try this the next time you are showing a technique, maybe a memorable seoinage you saw or executed before you demonstrate it. Today we’re going to do an ippon seoinage, but first let me tell you about this guy Isao Inokuma. He was about 5’9” tall and weighed about 190 lbs. He was the 1964 Olympic Gold Medalist even when there were bigger guys in his division. Ippon seoinage was his favorite throw. When I saw him execute it he was doing a 10-man line up demonstration at L.A. City College where they were having a tournament. He was not only strong but lightning fast. Seven out of ten guys he polished of with his ippon seoinage. Some of the throws I didn’t get to see. On one I blinked and it was already over. The next to the last guy was Gene Mano a 6’1” 235 pound 3rd degree black belt. He began his match with a loud Kiai that echoed in the gym. Gene rushed out at Inokuma, arms raised high and towering over him. I thought boy this is going to be a good match. Then suddenly I saw Inokuma catch Gene’s extended arm and curl under him, lift him high in the air and slam him down into the mat so hard I can still feel the gym floor shake. From a roar of excitement the gym went silent. Gene was supine facing up and convulsing from the crush of the landing, his eyes were rolled back. It was freaky, as Inokuma approached his unconscious opponent to try to help. Seconds later Gene sat up looking around as if he were dreaming all this. It was an awesome throw. Now this is a powerful throw but I don’t want anyone trying to knock each other out. This is only what the throw was like, minus the skill and power of Inokuma sensei’s Ippon seoinage. (On to the demonstration)
Which would you rather have? – – – A story like that before, or just go into doing the ippon seoinage. Which would receive a better positive response towards the throw? Which way do you think you as the coach would rather instruct and excite your students? Story or no story?
Earlier in this chapter we covered this point but it is an important one and it should be something that every coach should have in his arsenal of coaching. You’ve got to have heart. That means you’ve got to communicate that you believe not only in yourself but that you believe in your athlete. That he has worth not just in judo but in life, that he is important and that he can grow to be a champion of character. Judo is just the vehicle, not the destination point.
You as the coach will aid him or her as best you can. You won’t give up on him. You’re his or her partner.
What happens when you look into a mirror? Usually it’s to comb your hair, put on make-up, look to see how to correct the image reflected in the looking glass mirror. It’s mostly for YOU to self-correct. No one else! So, what the heck is reflective listening? A young child falls and scrapes her knee and begins to cry. A boy of six has lost his puppy and is sobbing. Your teen-age son is kicking a near by fence as the baseball skipped off the end of his glove and landed on the other side. Your young adult daughter comes to you crying after finding out her boyfriend was dating her best friend. What do you say? You sidle up to them, hug them and say, “ I know how you feel.” However, This is NOT reflective listening!
When you inject the words, “I KNOW” how you feel.” It no longer is about them, instead, it’s about you, and how you feel, It’s the “I” in I know. You are no longer acting as a mirror, giving them an image of themselves, for themselves to look at and self- correct. So what should be said? “Ah, you scraped your knee and it hurts.” Wait for them to say more or finish crying. Later you may ask, what can be done about that?” (wait for an answer) “You’re upset so much so that you kicked the fence.” Wait, and watch the person. Maybe they will say, ‘yeah, I blew the game.’ Then you reflect again. “You feel like you let your team down.” Wait, and see what the person says. Maybe they will say, ‘I should have done this, I should have done that.” Then you might say, “I’m impressed that you’re evaluating what happened.” Or later you might be able to say. “I noticed during the game …..” your advice. Or later still in a team meeting you might bring up something you noticed that everyone could benefit from, never mentioning that one person. You build bonds through Reflective listening and through the process you build trust and respect. In this way the person is also much more willing to listen to you when you do have feedback at another time.
Your job is USJF coaching! Look in every dark corner for answers for your athlete. Never give up! Help to better mankind through the judo experience.