The locker room pep talk is full of slogan language a coach uses to excite his or her team and get them to reach beyond their comfort zone.

skills not slogans

It is something that is acceptable in the right environment. However, you must be realistic: no coach is going to be successful by just mouthing slogans.

Natural Talent Goes Only So Far

Many athletes are blessed with natural talent: they are as quick as a cat, have an excellent peripheral vision, and are blessed with physical strength.

That helps in the early stages of an athletic career but will only do so much.

These young people will eventually go up against others who have just as much natural talent but have a better skill set.

The results can be frustrating for the young person. He or she is accustomed to relying on natural ability to compete successfully and now can no longer do that.

An inability to move to the next level is a reason why many of these athletes, once stars, spend a lot of time on the bench. They may eventually quit out of frustration.

Effective Skills Training

A great coach will teach an athlete the skills needed to win.

The first step is to identify where there is a skills deficiency (For example, a swimmer may have a great stroke, but the kicking or breathing techniques are not the best).

A coach then works to correct any problems with the skill.

Performance practice is a means of instilling skills knowledge in an athlete and it follows a defined course of activities:

  1. Perform the skill;
  2. Perform the skill very well;
  3. Perform the skill very well and at speed;
  4. Perform the skill very well, at speed, and under fatigue;
  5. Perform the skill very well, at speed, under fatigue, and under pressure
  6. Perform the skill very well, at speed, under fatigue, and under pressure consistently;
  7. Perform the skill very well, at speed, under fatigue, and under pressure consistently in competition conditions.

This is a process that challenges the athlete to rely on more than just natural talent.

Along the way, there are opportunities for a coach to provide feedback to the athlete.

skills not slogans

It may include the use of video to point out where there is a skill problem (Filming is very easy for any coach to do with the use of the cell phone camera).

The steps of performance practice can be used to define practice sessions for an entire season.

Instead of just doing monotonous drills, a coach can take each performance practice level to concentrate on identifying and improving the skill set of the athletes.

With a large college team, it is possible for the head coach to assign various players to the assistant coaches for performance practice coaching, allowing these staff members to improve their instructional skills.

Communication is Important

Many college athletes are away from home for the first time in their lives.

It could be a scary experience and basic social skills need to be learned.

Coaches have traditionally been willing to listen to their athletes on all kinds of topics. This is a habit that should continue.

An open-door policy can enhance skills training.

A coach can use office visits to informally explain to the athlete why certain skills are needed, pointing out how mastery will improve performance and results.

These conversations will also reveal what problems a young person is facing in the transition from home to school.

It can alert the coach to potential problems so that these can be corrected before they become emergencies.

(Useful Tip. Always place a clock behind where a visitor is sitting in the office. That way, you can check the time by glancing upward and the visitor will not know you are doing that).

There will always be a time and place for slogans and witty sayings.

In fact, informal conversations in the office are a great place to toss a few out.

However, no winning coach can rely only on same pithy slogans.

Serious skills training produces winning records.

Coaches must structure skills training in such a way that team athletes improve, both individually and playing as a group.

It is the best way to guarantee success.