An important coaching tool I use every day is the repetitive use of phrases. These common phrases help the student and I stay on the “same page”. They can also be used to set the tone of the lesson in terms of intensity.
Here are some common phrases I use and the meaning behind them
Every lesson has a purpose and often that purpose is introducing new techniques or patterns to the player. Once the new technique or pattern has been explained I’ll most likely go straight to live points and challenge the player to reproduce the lesson topic while under pressure.
To do this successfully the player needs to recall the key parts of the new technique or pattern and what I tend to do often is gently nudge the player with “Coach Yourself”! I’m asking for self-awareness, self-discipline and I higher degree of focus from the player when I say this.
“YOU’RE BETTER THAN THAT”!
Rather than being a negative statement I use this phrase to demonstrate to the student that I believe in them and I believe in their ability.
I’m telling them that I expect better and they should too!
“YOU’RE NOT HERE TO PRACTICE”!
This will sound strange I know! What I am trying to do with this statement is to get the message to the player that winning is important, even during our “practice sessions”.
I don’t see any point in treating points during practice or tournaments differently. Points are to be won… otherwise why play them?
Often the players I’m repeating this phrase to during practice sessions are having trouble competing in tournaments mentally. I’m attempting to change their mindset from “I’m practicing to improve” (Future) to “Points are to be won, not practiced” (Present).
“HOW DOES THAT FEEL”?
I’m constantly asking players how they feel in practice because I desperately need their feedback on new techniques or patterns they are trying to adopt.
From their feedback I am able to either help them immediately with a solution, or stand back and let them continue to develop further at their own pace.
I gain understanding from their answer.
“DEMONSTRATE TO OTHERS WATCHING”
Often a player learning a new technique does so better when they are asked to observe themselves from “outside”, as a bystander would. This “observer” mindset helps them overcome their lack of confidence in performing the new technique correctly.
If they are applicable to the particular lesson I’m doing, I’m repeating these phrases often. I’d rather repeat the same thing often than talk non-stop on a variety of themes. That’s confusing for students.
Be careful to always keep the scope of your on-court verbal instruction to a minimum if possible. The student has to focus on many things when they practice and therefore if your instructions are too frequent, they have no opportunity to self-learn.