The Coach's Toolbox: A Thesaurus

When I was a kid, I loved hearing the “Happy Birthday” song. Especially on MY birthday. The song always came right before the exciting part of the party: the cake and presents.
As I aged, the song lost its magic because I became attenuated to it. Hearing “Happy Birthday” several times every year–hundreds of times over my lifetime–had a desensitizing effect. It no longer makes me excited.
Imagine if I heard it every day?
Coaches fall into ruts with their cues and encouragement. It’s easy to give the same cheers and cues to every client or class, because our brain likes to slip into automatic mode. But this is problematic because:

  • Not every cue works for everyone
  • No cue works well in every situation
  • Every cue loses its effect over time
  • Some cues have more power at different points in the workout (watch the video on Logical and Emotional Cues here.)

In “Managing the Training of Weightlifters,” Laputin and Oleshko included Soviet studies on music and performance. The scientists controlling the studies were seeking optimal arousal states through the use of music (or silence, or motivational speeches) during training. Spoiler alert: military marches were best for Cold War-era lifters. But the scientists ALSO found that frequent exposure to the SAME song led to desensitization: the song no longer had the same effect after frequent exposure.
Think of your friends who compete in powerlifting: do they have a “go-to” song for the deadlift platform? Mine do. That song changes frequently. At least one world record holder blogged about music she “saved” for meets (in her case, Metallica’s “Black” album.) She didn’t listen to the same music in training; she saved it and harnessed its effect.
Your clients are bored with your cues. “Great job, Harry!” loses its effect after the first month. Coaches should seek new ways to cue movement and offer encouragement. It’s thought-provoking (literally) for both athlete and coach.
Why do clients change coaches? Stagnation. Lack of novelty. Boredom.
At my first CrossFit Level 1 course in 2007, the instructor told us there were no perfect cues. “You can be working on muscle-ups with an athlete for three years, and they don’t get it,” he said. “Then one day, a visiting coach sees the athlete attempt a muscle-up, and tells them to tuck their chin to their chest. Boom, muscle-up! It’s not that she’s a better coach than you. She just gave a new cue that meant something to the athlete.”
Whether correcting movement, giving instruction or simply cheerleading, try to avoid repeating yourself.


One more thing!

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