Robert Heiduk sprach mit Nick Winkelman über pädagogische und methodische Aspekte im Trainingsprozess. Nick wird in diesem Jahr bei der Athletik-Konferenz referieren und einen Workshop zur Thematik „The invisible edge – Coaching for optimal results“ leiten. Klingt interessant für dich? Dann melde dich jetzt an und sichere dir die letzten Tickets für Nick’s Workshop.

[atk] Looking back on your long carrier as a coach, what has changed in the way you work with athletes? Are there any major mistakes you learned from?

[nw] As I look back, I can think of many changes I have made along the way. However, the change that has made the biggest difference ultimately related to my personal interrogation of ‘how’ I coach.

Specifically, I realized that I had spent so many years developing what I know, however, I had spent very little time examining how best to share that information with my athletes.

Notably, our job is to get information out of our head and into our athlete’s body by way of effective practice design, cues and feedback. Once I realized that HOW I coached was as influential to the outcome as WHAT I coached, I saw immediate improvements in my athletes’ performance.

[atk] Let’s talk about effective coaching. Do you consider coaching more as an art or science?

[nw] Art is the expression and interpretation of human creativity, while science is the exploration and observation of that which is objectively true and knowable. Since there are far more unknowns than knowns about human nature, which includes how our athletes learn in response to our coaching, there is no doubt that coaching is both science and art. The key is knowing which aspects of your coaching have scientific support and which do not. For those aspects where science has illuminated a truth (i.e., the science of cueing), it is valuable to apply these best practices. However, for those aspects of coaching where there is gray area, room for interpretation, context dependence, or a lack of empirical insights, then allow trial & error, an educated gut instinct, and artistic expression guide your way.

[atk] Do you apply the same coaching models on every athlete? How important is individualization?

[nw] Models, yes. Methods, no. Models are nothing more than principles that allow you to adapt to varying circumstances, at least the models I use. For example, most cues have three core components: a distance, a direction, and a description, what I call the 3D model for cueing. In reference to the body, distance can be close or far, direction can be toward or away, and description is composed of the verbs and/or analogies used within the cue. To illustrate this, consider the following cue for the bench press:

“Focus on driving the bar toward the ceiling as explosively as you can”

In this case, the DISTANCE is far, as the cue references the ceiling, the DIRECTION is toward, as noted in the cue, and the DESCRIPTION leverages two verbs that encourage a forceful, fast movement – driving and explosively.

If I am board of the cue, my client is board of the cue, or I am not getting the result I want, then I can switch any or all of the Ds.

“Focus on PUSHING the bar AWAY from the BENCH as QUICKLY as you can”

Without going into the science, we know that each switch could have a material impact on attention and thus performance. The art is knowing which D to switch, what to switch it to, and when to switch it. Again, art within science.

[atk] What is the pupose of attentional focus in coaching?

[nw] Have you ever woken up able to speak a second language you have never heard or possibly have the urge and capacity to play an instrument you have never seen? Obviously the answer is no. Why?

Simple, you only learn from the experiences you pay attention to.

Quite literally, attention is the brain’s bouncer and only those sensory experiences that get in have a chance to stay in. Thus, I believe a coach’s chief responsibility is to capture, keep and direct attention in a manner most appropriate for performance and learning. Luckily, we know a decent amount about how to capture, keep and direct attention from a motor learning standpoint, which is why I have made it my mission to give this information a platform.

[atk] What are the major challenges in decision making under uncertainty?

[nw] From what you wear in the morning to what you eat for breakfast, we are constantly making decisions. This reality is no different when it comes to coaching, however, the stakes are much higher. How quickly should I return this player from injury, what exercises should I prioritize over the coming pre-season, how much running exposure will the players be able to handle, so on and so forth.

Understanding how the brain goes about its decision making business is key, as we are often the recipient of decisions opposed to their creator.

Don’t believe me, how often have you said any of the following: “oh, why did I do that,” “I didn’t mean for that to happen,” “no, thats not what I meant to say,” “oh, now that I know that I will do better next time,” etc. Have you ever asked who you are talking to when you say, “oh, why did I do that.” Let alone, why do we so often justify our actions after the fact, when the reality is that we have little clue as to why we did them in the first place. The reality is that there are two distinct narratives in the mind. Understanding the personality of these characters, so to speak, will help you become a better decision maker.

[atk] What future developements in strength and conditioning do you see coming up in the next ten years?

[nw] I believe that biotechnology will give humans and their coaches enhanced abilities to sense and adapt. This means that coaches will know more about their athletes and athletes will know more about themselves. While these technologies will help coaches develop a more informed gut instinct and focused coaching eye, we will never get away from the risk of information overload. Until a technology can expand our working memory, we will still be limited by how much we can focus on at any given moment.

Thus, coaches should be critical consumers of technology and selectively engage with products that give them information that they would otherwise be blind to due to limitations in what our eyes and ears can sense.

With this new information in hand, coaches can test hypotheses, vet assumptions and generally bring objectivity to what would otherwise be a trial and error process.

[atk] Thank you for your time and see you on our event!