Be A Better Coach by Not Instructing Your Students

I’d like to take a minute to share with you an awesome training experience I recently had in the gym. The experience was very enlightening. I saw a fellow student, an accomplished brown belt, spend the entire time during the learning new technique portion of class assisting a brand-new student without ever once telling him he had done something wrong. Here’s the story….

            I showed up a little late which is common when I’m at work and the students were already drilling the first set of instructions the coach had given. I stood with the coach observing and with him until it came time for him to show the next set of details in the technique. After that I needed to pick a pair of students to work in with – I had noticed my friend Josh working with this brand new guy (a guy about 15 whose parents were on the sidelines) so I joined them thinking Josh could do the technique on me and that would give him a chance to explain all the details as he executed the move. Here’s how that went….

            It started with me on my back with my feet on Josh’s hips. Of course, in a real fight there would be grips to break and other things to deal with but for now we were just working the mechanics of the pass. The new guy had already repped this on Josh….so Josh stuffed one of my feet and then crouched over it effectively eliminating that foot from the equation. Josh said “just like you stuffed my foot and took a low stance, I’m going to do the same thing. I like to really crowd my opponent because it takes away any power or leverage he can generate” ….”then just like you put your right hand on my left hip…I’m going to do the same thing, I like to connect my knee and elbow because it prevents Joe from getting a knee shield and starting to develop a half guard”…..”then I grab his sleeve, the same way you did and pull up so he can’t get on a shoulder or worse for me on his elbow”…. “I sidestep a little and then with my right leg I pin his right leg to the deck just like you did, I like to be closer to his knee because….” The whole night was like this. At every step Josh was providing the new guy with some direction and guidance while at the same time telling how many things he was actually doing right.

            I’m not saying this is the only (or even the best) but in this instance I think there were two main positive outcomes. The first is that people are more likely to listen to your instruction when it is delivered with compliments in a positive manner. The second, and I think this is huge, is that I believe the kid left class very optimistic about his chances at succeeding in jiu jitsu. I can imagine him getting in his car and telling his parents “I think I could be pretty good at this”. Isn’t that the way we would like all new students to leave class?

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.