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  1. #1
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    Coaching Kids: You Might find Some of this Useful

    Let me begin by saying that most every adult who gets involved in kids' sports is well meaning. Most also are woefully under educated, not simply on the skill sets and game themes that they propound, but also, more importantly, in their concepts about how kids learn and what they are capable of. While I am not a certified expert, I have studied with and observed many who are, and have quite a lot of experience in trying to help kids make progress in physical activities. I am also currently involved in a course of professional training about how people learn to improve how they move. Here are some perspectives that you might find of value.

    1. No one learns a physical activity by receiving a litiny of "how to" instructions. No one, certainly not young kids 6-12. This is not an opinion. Some general information, meta information, is of course necessary. Demonstrations, emphasizing certain key points (it is helpful if you can add a little why or how come in terms kids can take in), but harping on technique will not produce results. Were it otherwise, we would all be scratch golfers.

    2. Kids get bored receiving such instructions; those who can't approximate what the coach is asking for are discounted as "not getting it." This is a terrible label, and no matter how a "how-to" driven coach communicates with the kid, how many nice things such a coach might say, the kid gets the contrary message and probably will believe it. So might you. You all will be wrong.

    3. When you hear a coach saying "good" after a kid does something, it usually means that the end result is what is being focused on--the ball went in the basket. Focusing on end-results stifles learning. Not an opinion.

    a. Even supposing that there were aspects of what the child had just done that makes sense for the task at hand--in a two handed chest pass, the child stepped forward onto his strong foot, held the ball with his palms off the ball, allowed his elbows to hang down with little tension, and then allowed the momentum of his body to animate his arms to come forward and pronated his hands so his arms came together on the release, a perfect chest pass, btw--what is the child to learn from "good."

    b. Suppose that the child came upon this expression of a chest pass through experiementation, what does "good" mean? Which of the things that he or she did was good? the kid is left confused, save for the coach likes it when the ball gets to where it is supposed to. Again, focusing on end results stifles learning. Not an opinion.

    c. Better to call attention to the pass in a neutral way and what it felt like: "that was different, what did that feel like." The child will focus on those feelings in his body that were more pleasant, more fluid than the last tries, and make his own connections. Usually the focus will be on what was most pleasant, what was the smoothest, and that will be connected very intimately with something that he or she did that makes terrific mechanical sense. Then he or she will experiment some more.

    c. Suppose that only some of the aspects of a well executed chest pass are present, a coach might note for example, "the ball had backspin and flew with a little arch, that is interesting. How did that feel" (again, the child is left to make the connection if he or she can between the spin, what felt easier about what he or she had just done, and then make a hypothesis of what needs to be done to create the spin. The child will test it out and move onto another hypothesis if the first one didn't work.

    d. If a coach knows what he or she is doing, I mean really knows, giving hints to facilitate a connection is entirely appropriate (did you notice how your fingers pushed through and out (pronated) and the back of your arms came together and the spin on the ball. Well, those thngs are connected.") Caution: be sure you know what you are talking about.

    4. Especially with young ones, do not assume information is common knowledge and break down multiple tasks into parts: For example, many coaches have kids dribble to the basket from a certain distance to take a layup from the appropriate spot.

    a. most kids will not know why that spot has been chosen and that it is important in and of itself to get to that spot under control. that that alone is a wonderful accomplishment. The spot has been chosen because IT IS THE EASIEST PLACE ON THE FLOOR TO SHOOT FROM. IT IS THE EASIEST PLACE ON THE FLOOR TO SHOOT FROM BECAUSE YOU CAN HIT THE BACKBOARD FROM A RANGE OF TRAJECTORIES AND IN A RANGE OF SPOTS AND THE SHOT WILL GO IN, MORE SO THAN FROM ANY OTHER SPOT ON THE FLOOR.

    1. if the layup is added to the end of the shot, dribbling with freedom and a purpose will be impaired because the kid will be worrying about how in the world he or she is going to catch it on the correct foot, take the appropriate number of steps, and then remember how to deliver the ball to shooting and where to aim etc. We have all seen the results.

    a. You take the layup out of the "drill," and make getting to the spot the aim, and you will be surprised how well everyone does. Then, once they get there and are under control, tell em to "shoot the thing." Again you might be surprised at those results.

    b. the difference between the two is huge. In the first, every single member of the team will in the course of layup lines make judgments about who can play and who can't, judgments which are so premature and so disfunctional as to be laughable, if they weren't so sad. And, oh, that would include the coach as well, which is worse than sad.

    If you are a coach, what then are you to do? First, be humble. Second, know that your judgments about a kid's capablities, or should I say lack of them, are WRONG. The inadequacy 99.9 percent of the time is with the coach. Seek help, keep it fun, and leave your ego at the door, and, when it crops up as it does with all of us, leave it there again. Choose drills that keep as many kids active at one time as possible. If you are not yourself a good model of how things are done, and many volunteer coaches fit that mold, bring a book along that has lots of pictures. Focus on whether kids who are performing a task are in balance and have some rhythm and whether their momentum is moving in an appropriate direction. Those things are easy to communicate about and will be quite helpful to kids' making progress.

    If you are a parent and find your kid being shunted aside by adults in kid's sports it is difficult not to get angry. I think that the trick is to find some people who are particularly good at working with kids and helping them to discover for themselves how things work. Finding such people can be extremely valuable. There are plenty of them around. I also suggest that you join an organization known as the Positive Coaching Alliance. For a $25 fee, you will receive a book and get e-mail newsletters that are terrifically valuable. The book really is a jewel.
    Last edited by greybeard; 01-23-2009 at 03:21 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Assuming you aren't a founding member of the Positive Coaching Alliance, what promted this post? Interesting opinions, and worth the read, just curious what the motivation was. Also looking forward to AllenMurray's take on it.
    Q "Why do you like Duke, you didn't even go there." A "Because my art school didn't have a basketball team."

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by CameronBornAndBred View Post
    Assuming you aren't a founding member of the Positive Coaching Alliance, what promted this post? Interesting opinions, and worth the read, just curious what the motivation was. Also looking forward to AllenMurray's take on it.
    I used to coach kids basketball in DC and also helped out running Clinics with a group called One-on-One Basketball, but my boy who was in charge of that is no longer affiliated. So, this year, I decided to get back into helping kids again, and spoke to the guy in charge of the Jelleff basketball league and began hanging out at the Jellleff gym where practices are held as often as I can, helping out where my help is welcome, and practicing my game--shooting around.

    I have seen some atrocious things going on, almost all over the place and, as I said, I am around quite a bit. It reminded me of watching my kid during his very early years in little league and soccer, and hearing comments made by other coaches to me about the kids I picked up during the few seasons I coached, and watching how my kid was treated by some in those early years.

    Those comments (oh, you'll get guys who can play next year) stopped coming mid-way through each season (I coached a different group each year; one of the kids who "couldn't play" is the long-snapper at Michigan State), I might add, and my kid became a very good soccer player and overall athlete, started two years on his high shcool's varsity team that was ranked 9th in the greater DC area. I used to run into some of his early coaches who'd indicate by tone or expression how surprised they were about my kid's progress. I wasn't.

    I joined the Positive Coaches Alliance after hearing about them in an interview that my boy T did on the radio with his boy Larry Brown a number of years ago, I think when I was volunteering with One-on-One. They invited me to try out to become a trainer, but I thought about it for a while, and decided it was pointless. Nevertheless, I was tremendously impressed with the book. I get e-mail newsletters from them still, and post stuff from time to time, mostly about injury in sport. A month ago, I nominated a guy who runs a Biddy-Ball basketball league at St Ann's church in NW DC, St Anns to be honored by PCA--PCA honors a group of such coaches every year. Regrettably he was not chosen.

    So let me praise him here. Jim Kernen runs a league in which about 120 kids participate every Friday night. He referees every game; there are no practices. Parent coaches do little more than substitute, and Jim does that if a coach forgets a kid every once in a while. If a team gets up by 6, no defense outside the 3-point line. If a kid who is just starting out walks, Jim blows the whistle, explains the rules to the kid, and his team keeps the ball. He'll warn the kid that the next time the other team will be awarded the ball, but that is rarely the case, only if the game is close. If a skilled kid walks or palms, he will hold the kid to the rule, except in circumstances where he let the other team off and the score has closed. He will coach both more and less skilled kids during the course of the game. To the skilled kid, "why didn't you keep going," or "do you know why I called palming, this is what you did." The crowd gets it and the game is a celebration. No one cheers steals made against less skilled kids; no one even thinks about it. If you live in DC, and your kid is 9 or under, Jim Kernen is your guy.

    My son, a varsity soccer player at Tuffs as a freshman, wrote a terrific piece in support of my nomination of Jim. Said it was the most fun he has ever had in sports. Jim, you da man!
    Last edited by greybeard; 01-23-2009 at 05:18 PM.

  4. #4
    Having coached little kids plenty before getting into teaching, I must say...

    A) keep it fun
    B) make sure that losing is just as fun as winning, and don't be afraid to laugh at a bad loss and let them know it is okay to laugh with you
    C) kids can learn simple systems if taught right, and these simple systems can actually lead to a lot of wins over teams with more "talented" individual players
    D) make each kid feel special and unique in their own way

    Coaching is great fun.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by greybeard View Post
    Let me begin by saying that most every adult who gets involved in kids' sports is well meaning. Most also are woefully under educated, not simply on the skill sets and game themes that they propound, but also, more importantly, in their concepts about how kids learn and what they are capable of. While I am not a certified expert, I have studied with and observed many who are, and have quite a lot of experience in trying to help kids make progress in physical activities. I am also currently involved in a course of professional training about how people learn to improve how they move. Here are some perspectives that you might find of value.

    1. No one learns a physical activity by receiving a litiny of "how to" instructions. No one, certainly not young kids 6-12. This is not an opinion. Some general information, meta information, is of course necessary. Demonstrations, emphasizing certain key points (it is helpful if you can add a little why or how come in terms kids can take in), but harping on technique will not produce results. Were it otherwise, we would all be scratch golfers.

    2. Kids get bored receiving such instructions; those who can't approximate what the coach is asking for are discounted as "not getting it." This is a terrible label, and no matter how a "how-to" driven coach communicates with the kid, how many nice things such a coach might say, the kid gets the contrary message and probably will believe it. So might you. You all will be wrong.

    3. When you hear a coach saying "good" after a kid does something, it usually means that the end result is what is being focused on--the ball went in the basket. Focusing on end-results stifles learning. Not an opinion.

    a. Even supposing that there were aspects of what the child had just done that makes sense for the task at hand--in a two handed chest pass, the child stepped forward onto his strong foot, held the ball with his palms off the ball, allowed his elbows to hang down with little tension, and then allowed the momentum of his body to animate his arms to come forward and pronated his hands so his arms came together on the release, a perfect chest pass, btw--what is the child to learn from "good."

    b. Suppose that the child came upon this expression of a chest pass through experiementation, what does "good" mean? Which of the things that he or she did was good? the kid is left confused, save for the coach likes it when the ball gets to where it is supposed to. Again, focusing on end results stifles learning. Not an opinion.

    c. Better to call attention to the pass in a neutral way and what it felt like: "that was different, what did that feel like." The child will focus on those feelings in his body that were more pleasant, more fluid than the last tries, and make his own connections. Usually the focus will be on what was most pleasant, what was the smoothest, and that will be connected very intimately with something that he or she did that makes terrific mechanical sense. Then he or she will experiment some more.

    c. Suppose that only some of the aspects of a well executed chest pass are present, a coach might note for example, "the ball had backspin and flew with a little arch, that is interesting. How did that feel" (again, the child is left to make the connection if he or she can between the spin, what felt easier about what he or she had just done, and then make a hypothesis of what needs to be done to create the spin. The child will test it out and move onto another hypothesis if the first one didn't work.

    d. If a coach knows what he or she is doing, I mean really knows, giving hints to facilitate a connection is entirely appropriate (did you notice how your fingers pushed through and out (pronated) and the back of your arms came together and the spin on the ball. Well, those thngs are connected.") Caution: be sure you know what you are talking about.

    4. Especially with young ones, do not assume information is common knowledge and break down multiple tasks into parts: For example, many coaches have kids dribble to the basket from a certain distance to take a layup from the appropriate spot.

    a. most kids will not know why that spot has been chosen and that it is important in and of itself to get to that spot under control. that that alone is a wonderful accomplishment. The spot has been chosen because IT IS THE EASIEST PLACE ON THE FLOOR TO SHOOT FROM. IT IS THE EASIEST PLACE ON THE FLOOR TO SHOOT FROM BECAUSE YOU CAN HIT THE BACKBOARD FROM A RANGE OF TRAJECTORIES AND IN A RANGE OF SPOTS AND THE SHOT WILL GO IN, MORE SO THAN FROM ANY OTHER SPOT ON THE FLOOR.

    1. if the layup is added to the end of the shot, dribbling with freedom and a purpose will be impaired because the kid will be worrying about how in the world he or she is going to catch it on the correct foot, take the appropriate number of steps, and then remember how to deliver the ball to shooting and where to aim etc. We have all seen the results.

    a. You take the layup out of the "drill," and make getting to the spot the aim, and you will be surprised how well everyone does. Then, once they get there and are under control, tell em to "shoot the thing." Again you might be surprised at those results.

    b. the difference between the two is huge. In the first, every single member of the team will in the course of layup lines make judgments about who can play and who can't, judgments which are so premature and so disfunctional as to be laughable, if they weren't so sad. And, oh, that would include the coach as well, which is worse than sad.

    If you are a coach, what then are you to do? First, be humble. Second, know that your judgments about a kid's capablities, or should I say lack of them, are WRONG. The inadequacy 99.9 percent of the time is with the coach. Seek help, keep it fun, and leave your ego at the door, and, when it crops up as it does with all of us, leave it there again. Choose drills that keep as many kids active at one time as possible. If you are not yourself a good model of how things are done, and many volunteer coaches fit that mold, bring a book along that has lots of pictures. Focus on whether kids who are performing a task are in balance and have some rhythm and whether their momentum is moving in an appropriate direction. Those things are easy to communicate about and will be quite helpful to kids' making progress.

    If you are a parent and find your kid being shunted aside by adults in kid's sports it is difficult not to get angry. I think that the trick is to find some people who are particularly good at working with kids and helping them to discover for themselves how things work. Finding such people can be extremely valuable. There are plenty of them around. I also suggest that you join an organization known as the Positive Coaching Alliance. For a $25 fee, you will receive a book and get e-mail newsletters that are terrifically valuable. The book really is a jewel.
    Are you implying that this is true of all sports or mainly basketball? It certainly isn't true of judo.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by hughgs View Post
    Are you implying that this is true of all sports or mainly basketball? It certainly isn't true of judo.
    Which part?

    I don't know Judo, but my man Moshe Feldenkrais was the first Western to earn a black belt in Judo. He learned directly from the Art's originator, and became a founding member of the Academies of Judo in France and then England (he fled France before the Nazis invaded and his name was taken off the Academy's rolls; it was never returned). Moshe published two books on Judo very early in his work about learning; you might want to check them out.

    Moshe used the term "good" all the time when commenting to students. Michael Hebron, master golf professional, is dead against using the term, especially with kids. I go with him on this. I do not think Moshe gave that particular issue any thought.

    Whether Moshe thought that precise instructions concerning the "right" way to execute was the way to teach the Art, I do not know but I seriously doubt it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are: 1. he believed that, because everyone is different, there is no one-size fits all for anything, and 2. he believe that there was no such thing as "the best" and that insisting that it was otherwise stifled learning, the pursuit of how to improve, to make movement easier, more enjoyable, more effective.

    Since how he learned to improve as a Judo Master contributed greatly to his latter work that I often write about, it is difficult to suppose that he would not think that his strategies, which support what I have written above, would not be applicable to teaching kids to learn Judo.

    I'd love to learn Judo but I'm working right now on how to get out of a chair without making a big production out of it. I think I'm pretty much there, and hope to get better with age. Now, there's a twist.

  7. #7
    I don't know about anybody else, but I wish I had a Pocket Greybeard. You know, a little device or something or other that I carried with me that I could pull out at opportune times. Say I'm at a bar discussing the impact of Tom Brady's injury, and there's all the hot girls staring at me. Well, I don't wanna sound foolish in front of all these girls, so I whip out my Pocket Greybeard and get a little inside info.

    I'm just sayin, it could be huge on the iPhone market... iGreybeard... Im willing to write some code.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by greybeard View Post
    Which part?

    I don't know Judo, but my man Moshe Feldenkrais was the first Western to earn a black belt in Judo. He learned directly from the Art's originator, and became a founding member of the Academies of Judo in France and then England (he fled France before the Nazis invaded and his name was taken off the Academy's rolls; it was never returned). Moshe published two books on Judo very early in his work about learning; you might want to check them out.

    Moshe used the term "good" all the time when commenting to students. Michael Hebron, master golf professional, is dead against using the term, especially with kids. I go with him on this. I do not think Moshe gave that particular issue any thought.

    Whether Moshe thought that precise instructions concerning the "right" way to execute was the way to teach the Art, I do not know but I seriously doubt it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are: 1. he believed that, because everyone is different, there is no one-size fits all for anything, and 2. he believe that there was no such thing as "the best" and that insisting that it was otherwise stifled learning, the pursuit of how to improve, to make movement easier, more enjoyable, more effective.

    Since how he learned to improve as a Judo Master contributed greatly to his latter work that I often write about, it is difficult to suppose that he would not think that his strategies, which support what I have written above, would not be applicable to teaching kids to learn Judo.

    I'd love to learn Judo but I'm working right now on how to get out of a chair without making a big production out of it. I think I'm pretty much there, and hope to get better with age. Now, there's a twist.
    75% of your post, parts 1, 2, and 4. In judo you can certianly teach kids technique, it's the basis of the sport. Without good technique, the throw means nothing. If you don't show good technique during a match then you usually won't score. And if you don't show good technique during promotionals (and the subsequent "test") then you'll be a white belt for a long time (or 6 years).

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by hughgs View Post
    75% of your post, parts 1, 2, and 4. In judo you can certianly teach kids technique, it's the basis of the sport. Without good technique, the throw means nothing. If you don't show good technique during a match then you usually won't score. And if you don't show good technique during promotionals (and the subsequent "test") then you'll be a white belt for a long time (or 6 years).
    There might be things inherent in the discipline of a martial art that make things somewhat different. The ability to focus with a "silent mind", choiceless awareness is a skill if you will upon which many Eastern Disciplines are predicated.

    While you might think that the learning takes place through detailed instruction, etc, but you do not know that. Tons of recent research on how learning takes place, especially in children, says that such instructions do not produce meaningful long term results. See wwwmichaelhebron.com, click on Library, click on Learning, scroll downto the last four articles listed, starting with the last titled the Nature of Learning.

    Michael is not a formal scholar; however, he is a Master PGA Golf Professional, who has been a teacher's teacher and recognized as among the best in the field for decades. He has devoted the last 20 years of his forty year teachng career in learning what he can about the nature of learning, how people can learn, and trying to move his profession more in sync with his findings. The articles are very well documented, and contain frequent quotes from major academics in a number of learning-related fields.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by greybeard View Post
    There might be things inherent in the discipline of a martial art that make things somewhat different. The ability to focus with a "silent mind", choiceless awareness is a skill if you will upon which many Eastern Disciplines are predicated.
    Which is why I asked my question. There is nothing about learning judo as a kid that requires "silent mind" or other such meaningless phrases. The essence of judo is physical balance. There's no "choiceless awareness" whatever that means.

    Quote Originally Posted by greybeard View Post
    While you might think that the learning takes place through detailed instruction, etc, but you do not know that. Tons of recent research on how learning takes place, especially in children, says that such instructions do not produce meaningful long term results. See wwwmichaelhebron.com, click on Library, click on Learning, scroll downto the last four articles listed, starting with the last titled the Nature of Learning.

    Michael is not a formal scholar; however, he is a Master PGA Golf Professional, who has been a teacher's teacher and recognized as among the best in the field for decades. He has devoted the last 20 years of his forty year teachng career in learning what he can about the nature of learning, how people can learn, and trying to move his profession more in sync with his findings. The articles are very well documented, and contain frequent quotes from major academics in a number of learning-related fields.
    Once again you need to reread my post. I didn't say anything about how I "learned" judo. I simply said that being successful in judo required good technique. It is a direct rebuttal to your statement "... harping on technique will not produce results." In judo, your results are proportional to your technique.

    So, once again I ask, does your advice apply to all sports?

  11. #11
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    Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I thought reading some of the articles Michael wrote might help.

    I trust you completely when you say that technique is essential to the Martial Art of Judo. What I was suggesting to you that what helps kids in particular learn those techniques might have less to do with the giving of detailed instructions about them than you think. That is what the articles say.

    What might be most valuable is the instructors ability to model what needs to be done and to put out in the course of the detailed instructions some meta information that is in that context quite useful. That the students then take it from there and experiment and create the same type of feeling (they cannot see themselves) that they took in while watching the instructor perform the movements and describe what needs to be done.

    To do that best, the research shows, and Michael quotes noted scientists in neurobiology and other disciplines on this, that an open mind, one not cluttered with judgments and preconceptions, one that is willing to be adventuresome within the confines of the task to be accomplished, best brings about learning.

    I was not trying to be mystical about Judo, nor was I questioning your expertise in asserting that technique in Judo is the principal component. In my personal experience, having done some soft marshall arts training (about two dozen Tai Chi classes), the discipline of listening carefully to the teacher and watching carefully is a most attractive component of participating. I do think, as I said, that in such a place, one is likely to be able to take in and understand much more information than when, for example, when is trying to show someone how to shoot a layup. Take it as the complement I intended.

    In the end, of course, having never studied the Art of Judo, I could not possibly say with any type of surity that what I had said about kid's sports has any application to teaching kids that Art and said so from the beginning.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by greybeard View Post
    Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I thought reading some of the articles Michael wrote might help.

    I trust you completely when you say that technique is essential to the Martial Art of Judo. What I was suggesting to you that what helps kids in particular learn those techniques might have less to do with the giving of detailed instructions about them than you think. That is what the articles say.

    What might be most valuable is the instructors ability to model what needs to be done and to put out in the course of the detailed instructions some meta information that is in that context quite useful. That the students then take it from there and experiment and create the same type of feeling (they cannot see themselves) that they took in while watching the instructor perform the movements and describe what needs to be done.

    To do that best, the research shows, and Michael quotes noted scientists in neurobiology and other disciplines on this, that an open mind, one not cluttered with judgments and preconceptions, one that is willing to be adventuresome within the confines of the task to be accomplished, best brings about learning.

    I was not trying to be mystical about Judo, nor was I questioning your expertise in asserting that technique in Judo is the principal component. In my personal experience, having done some soft marshall arts training (about two dozen Tai Chi classes), the discipline of listening carefully to the teacher and watching carefully is a most attractive component of participating. I do think, as I said, that in such a place, one is likely to be able to take in and understand much more information than when, for example, when is trying to show someone how to shoot a layup. Take it as the complement I intended.

    In the end, of course, having never studied the Art of Judo, I could not possibly say with any type of surity that what I had said about kid's sports has any application to teaching kids that Art and said so from the beginning.
    You're correct that I didn't understand your point. The articles that you sent me were certainly not research, since that would require some set of data rather than a list of quotes and points pertaining to neuroscience and extrapolated to golf and exercise. So while I don't necessarily disagree that an "open mind" is useful. The statement that it's supported by research is a stretch.

    As for your point that you've answered my question from the beginning then I certainly missed that. I find it hard to follow your posts, so if you could point out the statement I would appreciate so that I can follow your arguments a little better.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by hughgs View Post
    You're correct that I didn't understand your point. The articles that you sent me were certainly not research, since that would require some set of data rather than a list of quotes and points pertaining to neuroscience and extrapolated to golf and exercise. So while I don't necessarily disagree that an "open mind" is useful. The statement that it's supported by research is a stretch.

    As for your point that you've answered my question from the beginning then I certainly missed that. I find it hard to follow your posts, so if you could point out the statement I would appreciate so that I can follow your arguments a little better.
    I'll try to the second first: what I said from the beginning was that "I don't know Judo" and could only try to extrapolate from what I knew of Moshe's Feldenkrais's work which began with his writings on Judo that I have never read that what I had said based upon my understanding of some of Moshe's learning strategies would make me think it likely that what my original post posited about how kid's learn is likely applicable to how they learn Judo.

    So, I acknowledged from the start that I couldn't state with any degree of surity what the answer to your question was. I never said I answered your question from the beginning; rather that I had acknowedged that I really couldn't but give you my best guess.

    As for the first point, Michael collected quotes from the leading researchers and scholars on the issue of learning, particularly by children, who support the idea that approaching learning with an open mind free from judgments about what is or is not possible for them to achieve and who are willing to experiment empiracally has been shown to produce the best results. Now, the underlying data was not included by Michael in his article.

    Michael has been a world class teacher of golf instructors for over 40 years and has been very, very interested and involved with working with youngsters for a great deal of the time. I thought that you would find what he has to say useful. If not, that is fine. Ditto for my understanding of some of Dr. Feldenkrais' concepts.

    I did not mean to take issue with anything you have to say. I only responded to your inquiry which I thought was made out of a genuine interest in what I thought. What I thought and think is that it might be possible that children who are taught Judo and make progress do so less because of detail instruction tht you say is provided than from other things that the instructors bring, and also from the learning environment that Martial Arts instruction as I understand it creates. I never questioned that learning techniques was central to kids making progress; just why the progress might occur. I thought that you might find that possibility interesting or provocative. Something to think about and nothing more.

    I have no basis for or interest in arguing with you or for wanting to even think about disagreeing with anything you've said. If I chose my words poorly and implied otherwise, my apologies.

  14. #14
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    Having thought about it further, I feel constrained to add that anyone who has earned a black belt in Judo knows far more about something than I do about anything. Such a person undoubtedly knows more about Judo and how one learns it then any of the volunteer sports coaches that I am talking about know about the sports they are coaching or about how the kids they are coaching can best be served.

    I should also have been more careful in my choice of words. Trying to talk about the matters that I have raised is not easy, there are many facets to what a worthwhile practice session would comprise, and talking in absolutes without lengthy qualifying explanations does not do reality justice. I also confess that while I know that I know a fair amount about the subjects like the ones addressed in this thread, I am asea in the greater realm subsumed within Dr. Feldenkrais's work (how best to approach improving the ability to learn movement and thus ability to use one's body), sometimes having moments of greater clarity and other times greater confussion. Asking questions of oneself in the context of a structured approach that has proven viability and is grounded in serious scientific footings is to me worthwhile. Moving beyond asking questions in a realm devoid of an experiential context is very tricky business.

    Thanks Hughgs for your thought-provoking inputs.

    Interesting to ponder: infants learn a number of very complex movements well before language means anything to them. Dr. Feldenkrais was very, very aware of this, and he spent a good time exploring how that learning might take place.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by CameronBornAndBred View Post
    Also looking forward to AllenMurray's take on it.
    Thanks - I've just skimmed it, when I have a chance to read it fully I'll respond in full. My initial reaction is that graybeard said a lot of things that are not just true for coaching, but for teaching young children any skill. Parts are sound as educational advice in general, which almost always applies to coaching as well.

    On the other hand, there are real differences between what you might do in terms of part-to-whole from one sport from another. My teaching/coaching techniques are very different in basketball than in baseball. For a while I did a lot of work teaching free throw shooting. I didn't use a basket. If so, kids will focus on making the shot, when what I want them to focus on is balance, foot position, arm extension, etc. Most of what you teach in free throw shooting you can teach without a basket, and can teach first individual parts, then put them together into a motion. In baseball, however, it is very hard to teach hitting without actually hitting a ball. Why? The parts of the motion are too indiscrete to teach them as steps, and must be taught as a fluid motion.

    Graybeard's tone concerns me a bit. While Im sure the Positive Coaching Alliance may be positive with kids, his tone doesn't seem to postive about adults who choose to devote thier time. And he makes it sound so complicated that were I new to working in youth sports, and read this before my first experience, I would a) vow never to work with graybeard out of intimidation, and b) probably choose not to do so at all as I would feel inadequate. I doubt that was his intent, but it is how I would feel were I less experienced.

    The reality is that about 1 out of every 1000 kids who participate in recreational sports will ever comptete at the Division I college level, and far, far, far less than that at any other compettitive level. The best thing an adut gives in coaching is his time. There is something very special for any kid about some adult who is not their mom or dad or paid teacher choosing to spend evenings and Saturdays with him. Coaching youth sports is about so much more than the sport itself - it is about how to live your life to the fullest, how to be part of a team, how to be kind and generous and humble in victory and of good humor in defeat, how to take good care of your body, how to be part of something bigger than yourself, etc. You don't need any special athletic or coaching skill, or knowledge of the finer points of technique in a sport to teach those things. We need more adults who are willing to give their time, not less. If it was as complicated as graybeard describes it we would have far, far less adults involved. maybe the instruction would be higher quality, but that is so far less important than the other things - things that went unmentioned in graybeards post.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Washington, D.C.
    Quote Originally Posted by allenmurray View Post
    Graybeard's tone concerns me a bit. While Im sure the Positive Coaching Alliance may be positive with kids, his tone doesn't seem to postive about adults who choose to devote thier time. And he makes it sound so complicated that were I new to working in youth sports, and read this before my first experience, I would a) vow never to work with graybeard out of intimidation, and b) probably choose not to do so at all as I would feel inadequate. I doubt that was his intent, but it is how I would feel were I less experienced.
    I agree completely about the tone of much of it. I would suggest, however, that there is no need to through the baby out with the bath water.

    Quote Originally Posted by allenmurray View Post
    If it was as complicated as graybeard describes it we would have far, far less adults involved. maybe the instruction would be higher quality, but that is so far less important than the other things - things that went unmentioned in graybeards post.
    I part company with you on this. I do not think that my suggestions made the issue of coaching more complicated, only that my tone was off-putting and supercilious many parts, for which I apologize.

    What I said was that over-doing how-to instructions is counterproductive and should be avoided. Corrective instructions should be approached cautiously unless you really know what you are doing. You obviously do.

    Beyond that, my suggestion was stated thusly:

    If you are a coach, what then are you to do? First, be humble. Second, know that your judgments about a kid's capablities, or should I say lack of them, are WRONG. The inadequacy 99.9 percent of the time is with the coach. Seek help, keep it fun, and leave your ego at the door, and, when it crops up as it does with all of us, leave it there again. Choose drills that keep as many kids active at one time as possible. If you are not yourself a good model of how things are done, and many volunteer coaches fit that mold, bring a book along that has lots of pictures. Focus on whether kids who are performing a task are in balance and have some rhythm and whether their momentum is moving in an appropriate direction. Those things are easy to communicate about and will be quite helpful to kids' making progress.

    BTW, allenmurray, as far as baseball skills are concerned and teaching them, you might find that Hebron's views on the golf swing and teaching it very worthwhile. In almost all his books, he discusses the subject and certain similarities it has to essentials in the golf swing. He does so from a perspective that is quite useful.

    Without coming close to doing it justice, he explains that what makes the ball go is putting pressure into it, compressing it, all his work, including I assume the free articles in his library, show pictures of bats, tennis rackets, and golf clubs contacting the ball and in each instance the ball has been flatten, a good half of it, on impact.

    He next explains that in order to put pressure into the ball the end of the bat MUST lag behind your hands. Every picture in every newspaper showing a guy hitting one out, has that component.

    He next explains that at impact, the back elbow, the elbow for a righty, must be inside the right hip and supported by rotation.

    Michael says that in all swings, and in throwing the ball as well, the first movement is down, the barrell of the bat which is pointing up at an angle drops down towards the ground, that as the bat drops, one starts to rotate the hips a little, and only a little, which throws the bat outward (not forward) until it impacts the ball. As rotation continues, then the bat moves forward (of the torso).

    In my experience, demonstrating down and out to a kid, and explaining what moves the ball, providing them with a sound picture of what impact looks like and why that position is CRUCIAL, along the rudiments of how to get there, provides them all that they need to get going. Showing them how to stand relative to the ball and roughly the range of where the bat needs to be at the beginning are of course essentials.

    Also, and this is an interesting fact (if it is true), which might be useful to tell kids playing sports involving rotation, is that the big muscles of the body produce maximum power at 25-30 percent of their maximum speed, and also that the inside of a thing in rotation, that would be the kid's hips, can be moving quite slow while the outside, the end of the bat, will be moving much faster. Mike would have two or three kids hold hands in a line with him, ask them to walk along and then he would begin to turn, each kid would have to move much faster than him with the kid on the outside having to break into a trot or run.

    Many little league coaches have no clue what proper impact is supposed to look like, the directions that they give encourage throwing the head of the bat forward toward the ball guarenteeing failure--you throw the golf head wildly at the ball and you often will miss it too), and fuss with kids interminably about where to hold the bat, at what angle, whether to choke up or not, whether to widen or shorten their feet, and do not allow the kid to explore what he needs to in a way that is actually fun and as often as not discourages and embarasses him.

    As for throwing a ball, you will notice that in any picture you see of an outfielder who is striding into a throw, the same down, out and forward applies. The position you see is of a player striding forward with his left foot, his right arm has been left way behind his torso, his lower arm pointing downward (it is bent at the elbow and his wrist has also dropped into a cocked position), and his hips have begun to rotate. In the next moment his arm will be flung by centrifugal force out, the angles between upper and lower arm and lower arm and wrist will be thrust into expansion and the ball will be released and then only on follow through will the arm go forward. (of course, there are any number of arm throws in any sport that also are useful).

    I have found that having kids hold the ball (you would of course show them how to grip it) with their throwing arm straight, letting their lower arm drop behind and their wrist be soft, and then slowly rotating their hips maybe half an inch will produce a throw to be quite useful. Demonstrating a few other fundamentals, about how to use their feet, and such, and the kids are off and running.

    I am sure you have seen tons of adults almost wrestling with kids to get them to replicate a series of movements none of which make the least bit of sense to kids who don't "get it." Sorry, it's not the kids.

    There, I know, I did it again. Somehow I end up sounding like it is about me. Maybe it is, although that is not my conscious intent which is to be of assistance to kids of coaches. To the extent that I come off making it seem otherwise, AllenMurray's observation about coaches or players wanting any assistance from me will undoubtedly prove out.

  17. #17
    I think most all of your advice was great. The reality is we need both - coaches that know what they are doing and more coaches in general that are willing to give up their free evenings and Saturdays to spend with kids. The problem is that the n of the former is far more limited than the n of the latter, and we don't want any prospective volunteers to feel hesitant.

    The Little league that I work with (which is both very parent-friendly and very high-baseball knowledge - we do quite well at the district and state level every year) does a good job of mentoring new coaches. That is one area where I think youth recreational leagues could and should do better. Highly skilled coaches often don't want to train the "new guys" because they want to win - and if they teach the "new guys" what they know it may have a detrimental impact on their own team. That attitude is dangerous.

    I had a wonderful opportunity to watch Johnny Narron (the Texas Ranger's hitting coach) come run one of my team's practices as a favor to one of the dads (a team of 9-10 year olds). He turned to the other coaches and me and said, "don't tell kids this young about rotating their hips - they won't know what you're talking about. Instead tell them that at the end of their swing their belly-button needs to be pointing at the pitcher). It is those tidbits of advice that can really help a coach of young kids - it is not just that the coaching has to be correct - it has to be given in a way understandable to kids. Otherwise it is useless, no matter how good.

    Despite my criticism I really did appreciate your post. I'm just afraid that an insistence on high quality among coaches will limit the number of folks who volunteer. It is a tough line to balance. If the youth leagues that I am involved with only accepted volunteers who had high sports knowledge we'd have to shut down.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Washington, D.C.

    Confessions of an Old Gym Rat

    After writing all this stuff, I realized something sad: that I really have forgotten so much about what I used to do while playing, what it felt like, how I did a lot of things, and more importantly, how I learned to do the things I did, especially those I did well. Some things I never forgot and some that I think are worth sharing I was able with a little work to recapture.

    First, as a kid, I always thought that passing or catching were the most fun thing in sport. As a young kid growing up in Brooklyn (though 10), our favorite game of "baseball" was to grab a friend or two and have one guy be the creator, and the other two the fielders. The creator would be a combination of Red Barber (the Dodger announcer) or Mel Allen (the Yankee announcer), sorry, no Giants on my block, as well as the hitter. "Mantle hits a hard grounder to short, deep in the hole. Reese (hopefully) backhands it and throws to Hodges (I forgot, the announcer, hitter would also play first or where ever else the throw was going). Same game with football by the way.

    And, what I find and always found was the most fun about basketball (my passion for many, many years) was that there routinely are opportunities to make all sorts of passes, including ones that demand real plays by the receiver, and also to make plays as receiver, including running good routes and asking for the ball in difficult places and then nabbing it one handed, all just to keep possession, not necessarily to attack the basket. I loved the other parts of the game as well, but passing and catching, and the relating that that entails, not just to the passer and the ball, but a slew of other things, well, let's just say I am without words. What fun!

    A confession about the chest pass. I used to play around with doing it all sorts of different ways, against a wall, in the house lying on a couch or the floor, and learned a tremendous amount. I'm talking fooling around with hand placement, with how much of the fingers I would put on it, arm tension, elbows in or out, different amounts of tension in my chest, shoulders etc.

    I also had the benefit of watching guys older who were very old school in their style--two handed chest passes were by the best a thing of beauty, not in the flight of the ball, but their bodies. There were also older guys around, we're talking men, who shot two handed and were good. Heck, the pros were still doing it when I was real young.

    Me, I found returning to two handed shots, actually with my left foot forward, was a terrific way to get my touch back.

    I think it is useful to have an image of what would work better than other things, in particular in that the palms need to be off the ball, that one foot should be forward of the other (impossible to push into it without falling over otherwise) and the back of the hands coming together (more in a second), but they are best used as only reminders to kids.

    If you encourage the back of the hands and forearms coming together, and holding the ball in the fingers (the pads at the top of the hand on through the fingers with the fingers being supple not stiff or soft), kids will experiment with what that means. My experience, playing around with that improves the dribbling motion and the release in a one handed shot. The action is the same for all of them. Of course, putting different spins on the ball for different purposes is all part of it, and insisting, as I suggested OH SO WRONGLY, that kids should be encouraged to do it CORRECTLY will bore them and is wrong. Frankly, I am sure that I threw many, many great chest passes with my elbows out, without putting my body into it, etc, and had a blast doing it.

    I think you could do worse than spend a little time in each practice having each kid with a ball near a wall, or lined up in pairs, and then suggesting that they pass a couple, holding the ball in their hands, palms and all, then in their fingers, as described above, then a few more just in their finger tips, then with their feet together, etc. If they have half the fun that I did with such playful exploration, wow!
    Last edited by greybeard; 01-26-2009 at 03:10 PM.

  19. #19
    Here are my rules for practices:

    No lines
    No lectures
    No laps
    Always scrimmage

    Unless you are an expert, it is better to let the game teach the game by setting up activities to force the technique rather than trying to teach the technique, and by allowing time for scrimmage (although you can change the rules of scrimmage to force a technique; practices that are just scrimmages are weak, but not as weak as lines, lectures and laps).

    The absolutely worst thing you can do is to teach the player that playing the game is no fun.


    Here are my rules for games:

    Everyone gets equal playing time.
    Coaches shut up.

    +++

    A skilled coach can do a better job by ignoring some of these rules. A really good coach can effectively directly teach technique, if given enough time and some motivation by the players. 95 percent of unskilled or recreational-level coaches would do better by following these rules.

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