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Coaching Dependency

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  • Coaching Dependency

    I read with interest the home-page-linked article on how much some athletes are (co-)dependent on their coaches. Certainly the Marra-Eaton, Suhr-Suhr relationships are tight and necessary in the athlete's perspectives, but I see some athletes TOO dependent on their coaches (esp. in the PV). I often fear I am too hands-on with my athletes and love to see them prosper when not in my presence. I have a little 7th grade (13yo) girl who drove off - 4 hours away - to compete in the State MS Championships, and PRed by a FOOT (30cm) to jump 9' and finish 3rd against primarily older girls. I was thrilled by her independence! Any anecdotes?

  • #2
    Re: Coaching Dependency

    I think it depends on the mentality of the athlete.

    Generally speaking though, the importance of coaching in sports is greatly overstated.

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    • #3
      Re: Coaching Dependency

      Originally posted by JumboElliott
      I think it depends on the mentality of the athlete.
      Generally speaking though, the importance of coaching in sports is greatly overstated.
      The problem, esp. in the jumps, is that the athletes can be doing something wrong, but since they can't see themselves (watching a video of yourself in comp is illegal), they have no clue what to change. It might be the take-off point, where the PV standards need to be, a technical point forgotten. Having a knowledgeable pair of eyes critiquing can make the difference between and winning and also-ran. Just sayin . . .

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      • #4
        Re: Coaching Dependency

        great post/example Marlow...
        Last edited by gktrack; 01-20-2015, 07:03 PM.

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        • #5
          Re: Coaching Dependency

          Working primarily horizontal jumps for forty years, I have been fortunate to observe up close virtually every national and world class jumper since 1970ish.
          I don't know what goes on during training but my impression is that the truly elite do not look to a coach for advice during competition. Some good collegiate jumpers do tend to turn to a coach for even routine adjustments or encouragement, women more than men.

          I have also noted that the proffered advice, imo, too often ranges from the obvious to useless to detrimental; suggesting they are looking for a psychological crutch rather than technical help.

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          • #6
            Re: Coaching Dependency

            Originally posted by lonewolf
            I have also noted that the proffered advice, imo, too often ranges from the obvious to useless to detrimental; suggesting they are looking for a psychological crutch rather than technical help.
            I agree with this. In my experience when you've practiced a technique over-and-over again you have a pretty good idea what you're doing wrong without anyone telling you and if you've been coached properly beforehand you know the theoretical remedy (putting it into practice is another matter). Most of the aggressive coaching from the stands is more for the coaches benefit/ego in my opinion, and often has little impact on the reality of the athlete's situation at that moment. The women's PV is bordering on the ridiculous, frankly.

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            • #7
              Re: Coaching Dependency

              Originally posted by marknhj
              I agree with this. In my experience when you've practiced a technique over-and-over again you have a pretty good idea what you're doing wrong without anyone telling you and if you've been coached properly beforehand you know the theoretical remedy (putting it into practice is another matter). Most of the aggressive coaching from the stands is more for the coaches benefit/ego in my opinion, and often has little impact on the reality of the athlete's situation at that moment. The women's PV is bordering on the ridiculous, frankly.
              I've seen that, hence my fear of over-coaching. Sometimes they (yes, mostly girls) just want encouragement in the form of 'technical' advice; sometimes they are simply looking for (I hate using this word) validation from someone in authority; and sometimes they really do want to know what they can fix in the next jump. I have run the gamut from making things worse (they keep coming up short, so I say to move the standards in, but then I tell them to accelerate more at the end, which makes them blow through the bar on their way up) to making adjustments that turn a probable 'nh' into a victory, but mostly I'm just 'there' for them, which is often all they really need. That's why sending a young girl away to fend for herself - resulting in a huge PR - was so thrilling for me.

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              • #8
                Re: Coaching Dependency

                How do things differ for the multi-event athletes? They do not have nearly as much training and come into the field events with many fewer repetitions and less technical knowledge of the event, especially the younger ones.

                Things like pole choice, standards, getting their mark at takeoff in the vault. Even in the regular (open) vault I get a lot of college vaulters deferring to their coach on what they should open at.

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                • #9
                  Re: Coaching Dependency

                  I don't know nuthin bout PV and will concede the complexity of poles, standards, etc makes it one event where inexperienced vaulters could benefit from real time, in person advice.

                  Clarification: I was not criticizing sideline coaches. They are just doing their job. If an athlete thinks he/she needs help, he/she needs help.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Coaching Dependency

                    Originally posted by Marlow
                    I've seen that, hence my fear of over-coaching. Sometimes they (yes, mostly girls) just want encouragement in the form of 'technical' advice; sometimes they are simply looking for (I hate using this word) validation from someone in authority; and sometimes they really do want to know what they can fix in the next jump. I have run the gamut from making things worse (they keep coming up short, so I say to move the standards in, but then I tell them to accelerate more at the end, which makes them blow through the bar on their way up) to making adjustments that turn a probable 'nh' into a victory, but mostly I'm just 'there' for them, which is often all they really need. That's why sending a young girl away to fend for herself - resulting in a huge PR - was so thrilling for me.
                    I think the most significant and beneficial psychological factor for the athlete is confirmation that what they believed just happened, did just happen ie took off too close to the upright. And of course there is a tangible value in this help and it's natural for an athlete to seek it (and I did). I'm referring to coaches who start yelling whole chapters of technical theory/instruction at the athlete during the competition. I absolutely believe in the old athletics adage that when you're preparing to make an attempt you free your mind of the minutiae of technique and go for it.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Coaching Dependency

                      One of the problems IMO, of this coaching (over)dependence can come, partly, from providing too much feedback. This may be mentioned already, above. I have been guilty of telling the athlete too often what went right or wrong and I am now more selective (at least in practice since you often cannot get that close to the athlete during the comp.) in what I offer. On occasion, I will not say anything for a jump (or throw) or two (as tough as it is sometimes to not say something) unless it was an egregious error and more often then not they can tell me what was wrong before I even have a chance to say anything. The other way for them to develop feel and the ability to self diagnose/correct is to ask them what they did rather than always telling them what you see.

                      I believe by limiting the feedback you provide to the the athlete, she/he has to work it out for themself (to a point of course) regarding what felt correct or what did not in the previous attempt. During a meet, naturally, I try to help them out as often as I can (hand signals, yelling it from a distance, or telling them directly if there is a coaches box available) I am speaking of high jump, or throws in this instance though I believe it applies to most, if not all, of the field events.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Coaching Dependency

                        Originally posted by marknhj
                        coaches who start yelling whole chapters of technical theory/instruction at the athlete during the competition. I absolutely believe in the old athletics adage that when you're preparing to make an attempt you free your mind of the minutiae of technique and go for it.
                        Agree on both points. There's only one cue an athlete can handle at a time, and as I often tell my kids, focus on one key at a time in practice, but in competition, before you start your approach, have one key in mind, but in mid-approach . . . just go.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Coaching Dependency

                          Marlow wrote, in part:

                          "I have a little 7th grade (13yo) girl who drove off - 4 hours away - ..."

                          Very interesting story. What is the driving age in your state?

                          By the way, does anyone remember the details of Ralph Mann (maybe in 1976) having a very rough start to his season? As I recall, he was practically a basket case (no disrespect to a great champion and later, a great biomechanics guy) until he hooked up with Jim Bush. Bush tweaked a few things and the rest is history.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Coaching Dependency

                            Originally posted by Peter Michaelson
                            "I have a little 7th grade (13yo) girl who drove off - 4 hours away - ..."
                            Very interesting story. What is the driving age in your state?
                            I'm in the Deep South, son. We have to be able to drive the tractor by 10 and the pick-em-up truck by 12! Them new-fanfangled otto-myatik transmishuns in the famlee see-dan? Piece'o'cake!

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