5. Coach to ‘Forget’

… by not drawing attention to technical aspects once part established
… develop players, not technical experts who ‘know’ as much as you do

Many years ago I watch my mentor coach at work with a very good young player.  I was surprised by how little information he gave about grips, when to split, how to move, etc.  Surely he must tell them more about what to do.  After a few years, I realised that he was “Coaching players to forget”.

I also noticed that he rarely spoke during the rallies, apart from grunting when he tried to move to their “good shots” 🙂

I’m sure that sometimes this perceived effort on his part was false in order to show the player that their efforts were successful against a player of their standard.

I thought (incorrectly) that it was important to ensure that good players understood exactly what to do and when to do it

I’d previously been reinforcing ‘essential’ technical tips, often shouting out loud during the rallies.

I thought I needed my players to understand the technical elements 🙁

I also believed that by often reinforcing and checking technical elements through questioning would help the players 🙁

I was advised to “allow the players to play”,
“they don’t need to always know, but they must be able to play”, Coach to Forget!
However, Roger did draw the player’s attention to other aspects;
  • the things they could see over the net
  • where space was on the court
  • what were the opponents’ most likely replies
  • how could they make it tough for the opponent
All the coaching (talking) was done in between rallies
He ‘coached’ in the rallies by returning the shuttle and by allowing the players to play
Nowadays I realise that in order to Coach to Forget ….
  • Believe once a skill is partly established many of the initial cues are no longer required, so why mention them!
  • I very rarely mention terms such as “basic grip”, “thumb Grip”.  In fact, I deliberately try not to use these terms after the first few lessons, the perform the cation so what tell (remind) them how they are achieving it!
  • I don’t mention where the non-racket arm should be once I’ve seen that its generally in a great position, of course, it moves but that inst THAT important is it?!
  • I never mention the words “supination or pronation” or “kinetic chain”.  These are coaches words and how do they help performance or stress opponents?
  • I never call out “split” or clap my hands to encourage a split.  When I have it never really helped, if cat it probably hindered!
  • I don’t reinforce technical aspects once part established if the outcome is close to the ‘model’.  Close but not having to be ‘perfect’
  • I encourage players to imagine the outcome they want and how to prepare for that.  Their thoughts are more important than my words.
  • I use the rally situations (feed) to test the robustness of the technique without telling the player.  Use practice as a ‘test’ not prescribed test from a manual.
  • If they (the players) asks “how is my technique ?”, I’m careful with my reply.  Often talking out the performance outcome and the effect on the opponent.
  • when reviewing for the purpose of reinforcement, I’m careful over the questions I ask and allow the player to describe in whatever way they choose.  It shouldn’t have to sound like a coach’s reply!
  • I want to coach to forget, I mean I want my players to perform rather than know the mechanics of how and why they perform as well as they do.
Where would you position the effect of ‘coaching to forget’

Coach to forget

Coach to forget

I realised that I had made progress when one of my players was asked what grip she used to cross-court from her low backhand net  –
  “one that makes it go up and over” was the reply 🙂
How important is it that your players can repeat all the important technicals of a ‘perfect’ performance?
especially those related to body movements within complex movements
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