Technical Coaching Topics
Topic: Part 4 – What tips do you share with your athletes for maintaining Focus during competition?
Coach Dave Burrows – Lawn Bowling – Burlington – 40+ Years
“In Lawn Bowls, focus is the number 1 factor for success.
Bowls is not a sport that espouses higher, further, faster or stronger. However it requires the concentration of a chess player, the flexibility of a gymnast, the “feel” of a table tennis player, and the endurance of a marathon runner. Consequently, I tell my athletes to sleep and eat well, and strive to clear their heads of anything outside of delivering a smooth bowl to an exact spot.
Do not think of future or past successes or failures. Do not under or overestimate your opponent(s). Focus on this bowl, the one in your hand. After the bowl is delivered, remember that you are only as good as your next bowl! Above all, strive to be in a good frame of mind, eager to congratulate your opponent for their good shots. Be exceptionally kind to yourself. Concentrate fully on each bowl, take your time, and give it your all.
Win or lose, when you do all this, you will feel great about the sport, the effort, and yourself.”
Coach James Geraghty – Soccer – Toronto – 10 Years
“Focus on minute details during the game, eg. if their position is left midfield and not in possession, am I close enough to my left full back, am I close to the left center midfielder. Constant surveying of the field and positioning allows my players’ minds to stay activated and faster info processing when possession is won and they have a better idea of where teammates are and focus on opponents subsequently.”
Coach Josh Nichol – Volleyball – Toronto – 10 Years
“For our big competitions like Nationals and Ontario Championships, Volleyball Canada and the Ontario Volleyball Association do a great job showcasing our sport. Larger venues are used to allow for several age groups to compete at one time with vendors and scouts all attending the event.
For our athletes to maintain focus and peak performance we try to limit as many distractions as we can while we are competing. Our big competitions are 3 days long with either a morning wave or afternoon wave schedule. In our competition wave we challenge ourselves to respect the team and always be focusing on the task and goals we set as a team before the event. One of the best ways we have found to do this is to establish a routine with the athletes, coaches and parents. We always meet in a change room before and after every match. Here we could discuss simple things like scheduling, team meals, rest, logistics etc and discuss more specific things like tactics for our next match or create time for visualization or focused breathing to help regain focus. I believe having a controlled space to relax and regain our focus really helped our athletes manage their emotions and expectations for the event while really focusing on what is in their control. After our matches and final meeting was done for the day the athletes then had free time before our departure time to go watch friends play, go shopping, walk around the venue etc. and really feel a part of the event. It’s important to have a balance during the larger events as long as the athletes can identify why we are here and when its time to compete.
For younger athletes it can be easy to give into social or mental distractions, the challenge is having them identify when they are being pulled away from our individual and team goals and regain their focus back the competition.”
Topic: Part 3 – How do you promote recovery and prevent injury/over-exertion in your athletes during competition?
Coach Trinette Goarley – Figure Skating – Barrie
“It is important to have wellness check ups and physical assessments for athletes even when there aren’t injuries. We take our car in for an oil change and annual maintenance, our athletes need to do the same. It’s also so important that athletes stay well balanced and partake in other activities to keep balance.”
Coach Faiz Ahmed – Basketball – Markham
“I believe that injury reduction is largely about how we prepare our athletes to minimize risk. This is both in the long term, through injury reduction work and proper training and periodization, but also in the short term, through proper hydration, nutrition and sleep.
I like to leave as little to chance as possible. In the past, I had let warm up and cool down be something the athletes do on their own. Now I engage and empower my players but stay actively involved so that they approach it with the same focus that they have for their sport. The goal of my warm up is just that, to warm them up. Afterwards, I structure my cool-down as a reverse warm-up.
Finally, it is important that I know my athletes. Know who are the tough ones that will try to push past an injury. Know their medical history and conditions. Know who is trained and who is out of shape. With this information I can look for signs of injury occurrence and risk. Then because I care for my athletes as people not players, I am able to make decisions that are best for them.”
Coach Pierre Laframboise – Gymnastics and Trampoline – Kingston – 42 years
“Work as team, with doctors, therapists, and for minors parents or guardians and last but not least the athlete needs to have a voice adult or minor. Alternate heat and ice, rest, use good quality therapeutic support devices, modify training regimens, equipment and apparatus. Review the recovery plan often with all stakeholders as the athlete’s condition improve or deteriorates. Be mindful of other injuries or strains that could result from the athlete trying to compensate for the injury. This can be seen when an athlete has pain in a healthy part of their body or is favouring an area that is not part of the original injury.
Athletes will not always tell you if they are hurting, but if you observe them carefully you can see differences in their gait when walking running or performing a move in their sport or even at rest during non-sport activities.”
Coach. Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham – 10+ years
“During the competitive season and at tournaments I stress hydration and rest. I make sure that my athletes are not out swimming at hotels or running around theme parks between games. During the season I get them to try to balance their basketball with their school and life so they are not over working their muscles. Now I am working with grade 9 girls and the balance is difficult to get but I monitor them as well when they come into practice I look at their energy levels and attitudes where they are at and alter my practices accordingly as well so I don’t over work them.”
Topic: Part 2 – During competition, how do you help your athletes manage stress and expectations?
Coach Norma Perez – Swimming – Ottawa
“First I asked them which events they would like to participate, so they do not feel extra stress swimming events they do not like to.
Second, we keep together during the whole meet, so all swimmers can cheer other team members while they are swimming.
Third, I always remind them to enjoy their event, that they are well prepared and now is time to enjoy. It is great to see their faces after they swim, they feel so proud of them, they did it!”
Coach Guy Tapah – Soccer – Ontario
“Many of my athletes that compete are ones that are physically and mentally prepared. During practices we go over the physical but also the mental side to Soccer.
During a competition there isn’t that much time to get down on yourself. So as a coach at the beginning of the season we always have a bonding event to bring the players together. This will create an atmosphere of togetherness around the club; and during competition if one of the players is down on themselves their team mates will comfort them.
You must create this atmosphere around your team and club that winning certainly isn’t everything. If a team can come together and become best friends from the beginning of the season to the end, it will outweigh the result.”
Coach Barry Grubman – Tennis – Toronto – 15 years
“I try to work with my athletes in practice to manage their stress. We do many game-like situations so my athletes will feel comfortable when they are in a stressful situation. Another technique I use as a coach, is that I tell my athletes to never look at the draw beforehand. Tennis is a sport where it is just you on the court against your opponent. By not knowing who you are going to be playing in the 1st round or even the finals, allows for my player’s to focus on their game before the tournament and not their opponents.
Finally, I sit down with my athletes every 6 months or so, and we write down a list of their goals and expectations. This is so that we have physical evidence of what the athlete would like to achieve in the next 6 months. Then we can go back to these expectations and review them after the 6 months have passed.”
Topic: Part 1 – Pre Competition prep, what do you do to prepare in the week leading up to a competition?
Coach Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham
“Leading up to competition I do 3 things: The first is review what they already know, focus on the offence and defense and get in some repetition to try to build that muscle memory (I do not teach them new things in the week before a competition).
The second thing I do (usually the practice before the competition) is have fun. Work on fundamentals through games that they played as kids, ball tag, shooting competitions. Things to decrease the stress from the players and remind them why they play basketball.
The third is have them set a goal for that competition. Something attainable that will allow them to measure their progress. I make sure they create goals that are more challenging that during the last competition to push themselves.”
Coach Leilani Torres – Synchronized Swimming – Puerto Rico – 19 Years
“I would do a lot of simulations of the competition and make it as real as possible for the swimmers. Exhibitions or training’s with the suits and make-up on. I would also do a team building exercise of trust to strengthen the swimmers connection to each other.”
Coach Joe Benedetti – Softball – Hamilton
“A week before the competition, have a somewhat formal meeting to take a few minutes to remind your athletes of the importance of the upcoming event in your competition calendar. Provide as detailed a schedule and itinerary to help the athletes to start to visualize and mentally prepare how they will travel, compete and rest appropriately.
The 2 or 3 training sessions before the event should simulate, as closely as possible the skills and strategies the athletes will perform. Finally, anything can happen at a competition, and it usually does, so coaches should have a “no surprises” attitude in order to help the athletes manage and deal with any distractions that may adversely affect their performance.
A good policy is: “No Complaints – No Excuses”, so coaches should prepare and plan in as much detail as possible in order to do their job, that is to prepare their athletes to succeed.
Lastly, it is not always ALL about the competition, if there is time in between events, maybe the team, or individuals can plan a short trip, as a distraction and to take in some of the local sites…”
Coach Bruce Parker – Australian Football – Toronto – 10 Years
“Discuss the previous match, cover what didn’t work, no more than 3 points and how we can improve on it. Highlight 3 positives. Structure the practices to work on the 3 points needing work as discussed previously.”
Topic: What is your approach to developing stamina in your athletes?
Coach Barry Gubman – Tennis – Toronto – 8 Years
“In tennis stamina is extremely important. You are on your feet and moving side to side in the heat which could be for many hours. What I do is that I tell my students how stamina can positively impact your game for the better. On the court we do many long distance running drills in which my athletes can develop their stamina a bit better to be ahead of their competition.”
Coach Josh M. – Squash – Toronto
“Constancy. Stamina training is not about extremes, but instead constant disciplined moderate effort training. Jahangir Khan, arguable the best squash player in history, and holder of the longest winning streak of any professional athlete (5 years and 8 months – 555 matches), used moderate, but consistent, stamina training to gain an advantage.
- Get rest
- Stay hydrated
- Plan for long term development
- Cross train
- Develop the core
And don’t underestimate the value of mental preparation in endurance competitions. Worry and stress can seriously drain your energy. Maintain a clear mind an you’ll find an extra well of energy to carry you through to the finish.”
Topic: In what aspects of your sport is power important? How do you develop it in your athletes?
Coach Michelle P. – Ice Hockey – Toronto – 6 Years
“Ice Hockey is a sport all about power. Quick accelerations, a slap shot, and puck battles all rely on power. Ideally, my players are developing their power both on and off the ice. A good off-season strength and conditioning program is crucial for power development in hockey players as the development of this athletic ability requires a lot of training time – first to build the appropriate basic strength and second to get the experience in the techniques that promote power development.
Olympic lifting, complex training, and speed training are examples of just some of the techniques. When the players are on the ice, it is all about taking those physiological adaptations off the ice and applying them to the game. High-intensity drills that mimic competition are key.”
Coach Sven K. – Karate – Toronto
“Power movements are central to Karate.
When thinking about power think explosive strength. Power is for when you need a lot of force in a short period of time (Olympic lifter). Movements like sprinting, leaping, jumping, kicking, throwing, hitting are also all in this category.
Outside of powerlifting (competitive training) some everyday training could be box jumps, agility ladder, clap pushups, and med ball throws. Try splitting the workout between max effort actions, and max speed actions. Start at the beginning of practice/training (after warm-up) when athletes will have the most energy.
Then combine the two (effort & speed) and build the intensity into the specific skill. With Karate, we do a lot of bag work (punches and kicks into resistance) at full intensity when working on power. We also do the same without a partner (no bag), focusing on correct movement and bringing the whole body (core) into the strike.
Think explosive action!”
Topic: The ability to change direction with precision and efficiency is fundamental to most sports.
What is your approach to developing agility in your athletes?
Coach Bobby – Volleyball – Toronto – 10 Years
“A coach told us once that if he had a chance to do it again he would start all his athletes on the “agility ladder” program from day one. I incorporate the ladder drills into my warm up and as part of our regular practice. As the season progresses I can observe how fast the athletes are getting. It improves their balance and mobility.
It is very useful to start them early and young. It allows the younger athletes to develop their balance real early in their athletic journey. We deal a lot with very tall and sometimes “spurting” athlete and with the help of agility exercises it allows the “fast” growing athlete to obtain and maintain their balance as they go through their growth spurts.”
Coach Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham
“I like to do a lot of breakdown drills focusing on activating the hips and turning from the hips and on the balls of your feet as opposed to turning from the knee and ankle. Working in partners helps the athletes to start gaining some observation skills by giving their partners feedback and focus on the skill so in their minds they are taking in what is going on from an observer instead of just as an athlete. Tennis balls are good for theses drills as it gives them something to reach for when making the change of direction (a target location) to get to.”
Coach Lindsay Matthews – Ice Hockey – Toronto – 5 Years
“Has to be one of the first activities of practice after the warm-up. Have to stress the high tempo of the drills, but also allow lots of rest between repetitions.”
Topic: Development planning for your athletes is a key part of the coach’s role.
Thinking about objective measures, what are your go-to tests for ability, skill, and fitness at the start of a new season?
Coach Briana Rodrigues – Athletics/Running – Toronto – 4 Years
“It’s so important to set and reset fitness measures throughout a training cycle to ensure you are getting what you need from your training program. Testing is a key component to training for any sport, because it tells you what is working and tells you when something needs tweaking. For marathon training, one of my go-to tests to predict finish time (as well as test aerobic fitness) is the Yasso 800 test. Basically you run 800 meters 10 times, and the time in minutes/seconds you can run it is roughly equivalent to the time in hours/minutes you can run the marathon. It is surprisingly accurate for predicting race finish times, and is great in practice every month – 6 weeks to gauge progress.”
Coach Steven McLean – Sailing – 8 Years
“When I first started coaching I relied mostly on subjective measures (performance compared to the others, approximations on time and speed, and a general ‘how things looked’). I was relying on a strong background in the sport to quantify these guesses and estimations. This worked at first, but as the team improved over the years we ran into problems. It was no longer clear what skills we needed to work on. Eventually we did move to objective measures (drills with stopwatch timing, tracking competition results by individual segments, etc.). We discovered weaknesses in areas we thought the team was strong, and vise versa. The mind can certainly play ticks on you. Getting to the numbers can really clear things up.”
Coach Augustino (Gus) Badali – Ten pin bowling – 35 Years
“Preparation is a large part of the athlete’s commitment prior to the beginning of an event. Since we are unable to meet on a consistent bases it is very important to map out a training schedule. The information and the plan entail the physical and mental development which is required to aid the athlete to train. Video is an important part – not just for the coaches but for the athlete. Many young bowlers between the ages of 8 and 20 years have been natured to deal with softer patterns. Nowadays we train our athlete’s to train on a much tougher lane condition; The patterns are part of the World Governing Body and are specifically selected in most major events both Nationally and Provincially. Our success at the National Competitions is the ability to build team chemistry in an environment that is considered a singular sport.”
Coach Leo Probo Soccer – rep/select – Hamilton – 8 Years
“Understanding the development side of the game is the most important aspect in preparation of all my practices. Through experience, I have grown to understand in how to implement an effective practice session based on the key technical aspects of the program being delivered. In doing so, I have seen consistency within my players development and as well, an appreciation from the boys to learn every aspect of the session. Structured practices will definitely benefit the long run to players development.“
Topic: Encouraging your athletes to push to their physical limits is part of coaching, but so is monitoring your athlete’s health.
How do you approach monitoring fatigue levels in your athletes?
Coach Amanda Miles – Basketball – Markham – 10 Years
“I have found over the years each individual athlete shows fatigue in a variety of different ways. The main one I notice is the players fundamental skills start to dwindle and they start using poor form when shooting and passing. Another one that I notice is that the athletes stop talking to each other and communicating, they are trying to focus their energy on performing as opposed to communication. As I start to see any of these signs, along with some others (decrease in speed and intensity, increase in breathing rates, decrease in attentional focus) I stop the players and give them a water break, or sub them off the court with some fresh minds/legs.”
Coach Joanne Milton – Horseback Riding – Hillsburgh – 35 Years
“Monitoring fatigue is extremely important in horseback riding as muscle fatigue can not only hinder the rider’s ability to cue the horse correctly, it can also reduce the rider’s ability to react to unexpected movement by the horse and result in a fall. The first indication that fatigue is becoming an issue is usually in the performance of the horse……my horses all take their job as assistant coaches very seriously! Their performance will start to become dull, which tells me that the rider isn’t using their seat and leg aids effectively.
At this point, I will usually have the rider take a break (sometimes they are more willing to quit what they are doing if I say the horse needs a break as riders have a great tendency to keep pushing themselves beyond their capability, but would never exert that kind of pressure on their horse)! It can also help if we go on to working on a different maneuver. Sometimes we break for a few mounted stretching exercises before continuing in order to release tension in the muscles. Then returning to the same work we were doing usually shows some improvement which will give me a good opportunity to say that’s enough for today.“
Coach Dallas Price – Rugby – Toronto – 3 Years
“As an experienced personal trainer, I am very aware of what muscle failure looks like. I can watch form on an exercise and know if the athlete’s core and primary muscle groups are too fatigued to do the exercise properly. Also, I have a discussion with my athletes at the beginning of season. I try to explain to them the need for technique as well as intensity. Focusing all on one, you won’t have the other. You need to listen to your body and know where you are on the scale. Using the RPE scale (rate of perceived exertion) is really good with new and young athletes.“
Coach Mike Miller – Soccer – Milton/Halton – 25+ Years
“Monitoring fatigue can be done on many different levels. The simplest is just asking the players “How do you feel today?” You can have them keep journals and record their physical and emotional states. You can use a Profile of Mood States and review them, looking for changes in trends. You can have them measure, log and chart their resting heart rates when they wake up and before they get out of bed. If you want to be sophisticated, you can monitor the athlete’s heart rate variability during exercise and to use that to calculate post-exercise oxygen consumption. It all depends on what level of competition your athletes are competing at.”
Topic: Speed. Nearly universal across sport as the signifier of reaching a greater competitive level. But as the game gets faster so must the player.
As a coach, what is your approach to developing reaction time in an athlete?
Coach Mark Williams – Hockey – Toronto – 1 Year
“In Ice Hockey, the reaction time of the Centre during face-offs can be crucial. One of the ways we improve reaction time is by predetermining how the Centre will win the draw (tie up the opposing Centre, drawing it back to the Defenders or giving it to the wings) in a given situation in advance. This improves reaction time by eliminating any delay in the Centre’s reaction by having to ‘choose’ a play. Another key element to a Centre’s reaction time during a face-off is having them focus on the movement of the Referee’s arm and hand as opposed to the puck. I.e. getting athletes to focus on the correct stimuli can improve their reaction time.”
Coach Colin Walker – Volleyball –Ottawa – 30+ years
“We incorporate speed/ agility & quickness training into our warm-up. We also develop drills that work on reaction time. Finally we create games (low organized games and sport specific) to work on reaction time. One that gets the most laughs and interest is Rock, Paper, Scissors. It is a great game to trigger a visual cue transferred into an explosive physical movement. Start with the simple RPS but the winner must turn and run to a certain ‘home base’ before the loser touches them.”
Coach Pam Collett – Gymnastics – Metro West – 30 Years
“I break it down to improving technique and improving strength … You can move through faster if you’re stronger … You can improve reaction time if technique is great.”
Coach Craig Stead – Soccer – Ottawa – 10 Years
“We must look at their cognitive ability to read the game and make the most appropriate decision. To do so, we must train in a way that promotes decision making, in a reactionary way.”
Coach Patsy Pyke – Basketball / Soccer – Ottawa – 20 Years
“In soccer a drill we have used in soccer is to have three players with a ball and another player facing away about 10 feet away. On the whistle the player facing away turns and the ball is passed from one of the players to her. She must quickly trap the ball and pass back. She then faces away again for the next pass. She doesn’t not know which of the players has the ball or from the exact direction the pass may come so she has to react quickly to receive and trap the ball.”
Coach Mike Miller – Soccer – Milton/Halton – 25+ Years
“Reaction time is about developing the ability to read the visual cues right before an event occurs. It’s about recognizing patterns. Goalkeepers can save difficult shots provided they can see the movements of the player before they shoot, but if they are screened and the ball emerges in flight from a group of bodies, the goalkeeper is beaten. Videotaping, or having access to videotape footage, is useful, especially if it is a “body cam” image. The footage can be played on a screen by the player and blanked out at the critical instance. The player has to determine what happens next and then after a few seconds, the rest of the image is played.”
Coach Jodi Gram – Basketball – Markham – 10 Years
“Apart from the work done in a purely conditioning context that helps to build the technique and power necessary to react quickly from a physical standpoint, I think there is a sport-sepcific component that is just as important if you actually want to see reaction time transfer positively into a competitive context. For example in basketball, we always need to train the decision-making that goes along with reaction time; in other words, what visual cue are you learning to read in different ways to connect your eyes (brain) and muscles (body) together to react appropriately and quickly at the right time and in the right way?”