Teaching/Instructing is not Coaching
Parents wanting the best for their children should re-evaluate their long-term development plan. No matter the commitment of the athlete, it would be wise to invest in proper instruction as early as possible to build a structural foundation that can be built upon. Proper technique has to be taught by a professional who has experience in providing progressive development, an athlete will not gain mastery on their own without instruction.
A coach who is not qualified to teach or instruct will not provide the resources needed for an athlete to gain mastery at their skill. Many coaches, parents, and players feel they are getting instruction in the normal course of a team practice or playing in games. It is impossible for an athlete to learn mastery of a skill in a team setting as most coaches to not have the technical instructional skill to teach, the time to teach it nor the environment to provide an optimal learning experience for the athlete.
5 Hour Foundation
In my experience, an athlete must invest 5 one hour sessions a week apart receiving progressive development skill instruction to begin to gain mastery of a skill. The younger the athlete the better as the older they get the harder it is to correct bad habits or technique. The proper sequence of instruction and the timing of the instruction given will directly influence the value. “Almost any person can learn what another person can so long as they are exposed to the same environment” (Bloom, 2004)
The athlete must be given “homework” and must work three or more hours a week on each progressive drill in order for proper progression to take place. The instructor can pace the instruction based upon how hard the athlete is working and how well the athlete is understanding the proper sequence of progression.
Once 5 Hours of private instruction is provided. Weekly, Bi-Weekly or even Monthly instruction can develop the skill over time as the athlete applies what they are learning. If the athlete stops after 5 lessons they will not be able to retain all the information however, they will be able to draw from the experience to more quickly get back on track
Each athlete should be tested on the initial lesson and then re-tested on the last lesson to determine the effectiveness of training and to calibrate ongoing programming. Ongoing testing accompanies by targeted training by a qualified professional will ensure the athlete can reach full potential.
There are elements of executing a skill in practice and in a competition that must be closely administered by a qualified professional who knows how to advance the athlete through training. The skill for an 8U player is the same skill taught for a 21-Year-Old Player, the only difference is the speed at which the skill is executed.
If an athlete does not have long-term planning and does not receive the proper periodization in training delivered in the proper sequence at the right times, they will never reach full potential. Choosing to play games in competition at a higher rate than practicing and mastering skill will diminish the performance of the athlete and will never allow them to reach full potential.
Good Teams Are A Result Of Individuals Who Master Their Skill
Coaches, Parents, and Athletes do not follow the proper protocol for development as the social impact of “playing” is more focused than “practicing”. There are some serious misconceptions in thinking an athlete will reach full potential by just practicing on a team once a week without a testing, long-term planning, and proper sequenced skill instruction.
Playing in games utilizing the wrong technique enforces bad habits that can not be broken as the athletes mature. The optimal age for instruction is 8 years old and benefit diminishes up to 12 years old. Once an athlete reaches 12 years old they have lost the “molding” capability and will have to work harder to address a mechanical issue that could have been corrected earlier. Once the athletes reach 16 years of age, they are pretty much complete in skill development and will only be able to refine their approach.
Individuals who master their skills, learn how to play fearless and live a little will be great teammates. A team will suffer if one or more of the athletes do not put in the individual work to contribute to the team. Lack of individual skill development and conditioning will be the determining factor in how competitive a team can be.
Physical Ability Has Nothing To Do With Skill
Parks are littered with athletes who have a false sense of value related to what the application of skill actually means. The anatomical age of the athlete who is maturing early and how has more physical strength does not have to work as hard nor have to be as mechanically sound as a late bloomer who lacks the strength of the man-child.
The social experiment is completely wrong in thinking early success will lead to future success in form of application of skill. The smaller athletes who have to work harder develop more into competitive overachievers as the stronger athletes who mature more quickly end up never meeting their potential because they never focused on their skill and relied simply on their physical strength.
Sports Testing data now provides the ability to identify specific areas of concern where an athlete can target proper training and it also allows for a forensic analysis of predictive progression identifying the key features that allow projection.
The only way to alter the data is to target data-driven areas of need and apply the proper training in order to maximize performance. The performance will not progress without proper training and without the athlete learning competitive adaptability.
Do not play another game until you are tested and know your numbers. Athletes should get a Mental MRI once they reach 12 Years of Age and then should re-test on a quarterly basis. The athletes should schedule 5 lessons with a qualified professional who is accountable for utilizing technology to capture the process of instruction and to have testing numbers that validate the measurable improvement of the athlete.
Once the athlete receives 5 lessons (one a week) and is working three to four times a week on the isolated skills, they should revisit the instructor on a weekly or bi-weekly basis until such time mastery of a skill is sustained. Once mastery of a skill is sustained, the instructor can see the athlete once or twice a month to sharpen skills and to provide the support necessary to learn competitive adaptability.
The athletes should update bio-metrics monthly such as height, weight, wingspan, and size, etc. , complete a daily athletic performance survey which provides the details necessary to calibrate training and avoid injury, record every activity, drill, skill completed on the daily activity log and update all personal matters on profile to build a athletic resume that can be reviewed by administration, coaches, instructors, teachers, scouts, recruiters, etc.
Once you get sports testing data and evaluate next steps, make sure to keep your eye on the prize and work towards mastery of skill understanding this will get the best long-term results. If you do not have the proper structural foundation you will not be able to perform at a high level as competition increases. A balanced physical and mental approach in training will allow an athlete to reach their full potential.