I spent some time in Switzerland last week with two guys who have mastered coaching people. I call them my 'Yodas' after the wise teacher in Star Wars.
One of their major sayings is:
"coach the intention; rather than the action".
What happens to people when they are coached to concentrate on specific (and often multiple) movements and actions?
Do people become more fluent or more 'clunky' in their movements?
Do you see the body move as one (like in a David Gower back foot drive or a KP clip through midwicket) or do we see the player move in separate parts, screw up their face and speak in words of discomfort?
I know the look of a player who I have given actions too as I have done that most of my career, it's a common look, trust me!
So over the last year or so, as I have connected more with the approaches of my two 'Yodas' and noticed a shift in each players movement patterns. I see less screwed up faces and sense that the players are developing faster than at any other time in my coaching lifetime.
So how does it work?
This morning, I worked with a lad who is a district cricketer and has stayed at this representative level for the last 3 years.
He came to the session wanting to be able to move more efficiently/effectively to front foot balls of different line. He felt more comfortable when the ball was at him and less in control when the ball was outside the line of his stumps.
Conventionally, I would have spoken about ways to move.
Today, I asked Calum to have the intention to get his leading shoulder as close to the ball as possible.
That's it, no further instruction, no justification, nothing.
My assistant coach fed the bowling machine with the instruction to vary swing, line, pace and length between yorker and a good length. Calum moved stunningly to each and every ball, hitting shots that he has never even imagined. In fact, he had 3 moments when he stopped because he was trying to work out how on earth it happened!
I then asked him how it felt at the end of each series of balls. Stopped short of getting him to analyse why he was doing well and increased the variability of deliver (increased the challenge). Callum continued to move well and adapt to the variety of deliveries that he faced.
He was moving as one, without thought.
If we think we die
My two 'Yodas' would say that if you coach the intention, then the body will find a solution itself: It's what humans do and have done throughout human evolution. If the intention is there, the incredible machine that is the brain and body will adapt and perform.
These guys have a saying "if we think, we die!"
Often, through our best intentions, we coach only action or movement and makes people consciously think and prevents our us from being able to go to the next level of performance.
So, can we coach the intention first and then see what happens?
A few intention based coaching examples:
- The intention is to make the ball bounce before it hits the net
- The intention is to only hit into the spin (and see how the body adapts)
- The intention is to only hit with the spin (and see how the body adapts)
The intention is to make the ball go over the line of a string - placed above eye level and 2/3rds the way down the net - and bounce before the batter.
Can you create your own coaching intentions and sit back and see what happens?
Let me know.