Knowing when to speak
As a coach I talk a lot 😉 I have a lot to say. So this is something I still struggle with everyday. When teaching or coaching (or working on any real life issue) there is very rarely only one thing that needs fixing and there is never only one way to fix it. Student and coach want the same thing, a beautiful, consistent, effortless trick. Now there are many difficulties between you and your goal and many different ways of resolving those obstacles. However as a student there is a very finite amount of information you can process at one time. So as a coach (and as a student) how do you hone in on what is the most important next step and what is the best way to take it? When do you focus on the pointed toes and when on the turned hip? When do you break the trick in pieces and when do you power through it 10 times in a row? When do leave a trick for the day, and when do you stay and fight it out? When do you talk theory, and when do you just say, “do it again”.
What is the keystone of this element? Try to reduce any exorcize to its most basic parts. What absolutely needs to happen in order to safely complete the action? If I am teaching someone a cartwheel they need to have their feet in the belts and their hands on the bar handles. If those two things are present at the beginning and end of the trick they will have been successful. Start there. Pointed toes, extended fingertips, where you are looking, these can come once the student has a better understanding of the element. A brain has only so much it can focus on at once, if you try to do everything at the same time it is easy to overwhelm that little puddle of grey matter. As a coach it is easy to forget how new and foreign this all is at first. Start with the essentials then you can pretty it up later. *important caveat* beware shortcuts and bad habits, if your student is making a choice that you are going to have to spend months later retraining address it ASAP. Nothing if more frustrating than finally learning a trick only to realize you learned it wrong and have to start all over again.
You have to know yourself, or if coaching know your students. I was working with a friend of mine in Australia and she has a rule “No, last one”. She is a pusher, and will keep working until she is so exhausted that she gets hurt. She realized she was consistently getting hurt when she told herself “this is the last one”. Know where your limits are. Doing 30 more bad ones can do a lot of harm; aside from getting hurt, training in that state is a great way to reinforce bad habits. Maybe you should just leaving it for the day and coming back when you are more rested, less stressed, not sick, not furious at yourself/your apparatus because you just want to get this stupid trick! 🙂 Definitely not speaking form personal experience on that one.
Mix it up
Variety is the spice of life. If you have said “point your toes” 500 times try something else. Get a piece of paper and make the student keep it between their feet. True story, one time my coach tied my hands behind my back because I was working on a trick and kept catching the bar. Hands tied, catching impossible, learned how to do the trick without catching. Again that does not work for everyone, you have to know your students. But don’t be afraid to try something new, as long as you are being safe worst-case scenario it doesn’t work and you try something else. You will be surprised how much you can learn even from a failed experiment.
As a little addendum to the Mix-it-up section. I wanted to say, it can be exceptionally valuable to get a second set of eyes. I am a great coach, but sometimes my words may not be the ones that the student is able to hear. I have countless examples of me giving a note 10, 20, 30 times then miraculously someone else says the same thing (but here is the crucial point) in their own way and the student finally understands. Never take offense, ego in coaching is stupid and actually extremely counter productive, just try and figure out how they were able to translate the note into one that could be heard by the student.
Leave it alone
Any general worth his salt understands the difference between defeat and retreat. Maybe those toes aren’t gonna point today but that doesn’t mean you get to collapse into a pool of self doubt and loathing. Regather your forces and try attaching a different front. Today we get the hips square, or we work on another trick. Don’t sit there bashing your head against the wall, my little brother did that when he was 7 and I promise it was never effective. I just used to call him Nick-o-saurus and think he was the next step in human evolution where we would all get horns coming out of the massive lump on our heads. Although awesome! Impractical, and as far as a metaphor for your training not super useful, (both the metaphor and the head bonking). Don’t tell my brother I told you this story. 🙂