Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cues and Technique

Sometimes, in foreign language classrooms, you see a teacher "instructing" proper pronunciation. The dialogue reads like the following:
Teacher: Say "kon-nichi-wa".
Student: ko-NEECHEE wa.
Teacher: No, it's "kon-ni-chi-wa".
Student: ko-NEECHEE-wa.
Teacher: No. Look, it's "konnichiwa".
Student (rolling eyes): ko-NEECHEE wa!
Teacher: konnichiwa.
Student: ko-NEECHEE wa.
Teacher: konnichiwa. 
Student: ...

The teacher supplies a competent model and says "Do it like this" and that's about it for technical "instruction" (if you could call it that). A good teacher would quickly realize that "Do it LIKE THIS" wasn't working and adjust instruction accordingly with appropriate drills and cues.

I think I've mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating and it probably applies to everything we do in the gym, whether it's a drill, exercise, piece of equipment, or routine:
Cues are not dogma and cues are not actual technique. Cues are prompts, and prompts are context-sensitive. A given cue may work well in some situations, and not so well in others.
The best you can do is "I'm certain, but it depends.". Through experience and research, we get better at understanding the "it depends" part.
Recently, I see a lot of people reacting to what could be described as "form naziism". Anybody who knows me, I hope, knows that I can't stand over-intellectualization of something that could be described as glorified heavy furniture moving. BUT, if we are not coaching a "natural athlete", or if your trainee has "issues", loading up a barbell and telling them to "SQUAT!" (which was my introduction, by the way) is not going to go very well for very long.

Technical work is no excuse for laziness (for example, coaches who can only coach technique, or athletes avoiding gut-bustingly hard intensities). Besides, no one said technique work had to be easy - if you've been doing your squat work w. a PVC, it might be time to step it up a bit...

If you are a coach and you can not, or will not, coach proper technique and mechanics, then can you be a competent coach? Of course there is a lot more to coaching than technique and mechanics, but technique and mechanics are fundamental. They are perpetually fundamental - it doesn't stop being fundamental when you become proficient. Fundamentals need to be revisited frequently.


Anonymous said...

As a lifelong teacher I found the 'konichiwa' hillarious and scary too. Effective teaching has to do with both self-insight and empathy, I think.
It also has to do with the match - sometimes a student will do better with Teacher B rather than Teacher A.

Boris said...

Thank you. Knowledge, insight, empathy are a good place to start!