Ahead Of The Curve with Jonathan Gelnar

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May 11, 2020  

Nick Winkelman- Head of Athletic Performance & Science for Irish rugby and author of “The Language of Coaching”

May 11, 2020
Today we have on Nick Winkelman, Head of Athletic Performance & Science for Irish rugby and recent author of “The Language of Coaching.”
Nick's primary role is to oversee the delivery and development of strength & conditioning and sports science across all national and provincial teams. Before working for Irish Rugby, Nick was the director of education and training systems for EXOS and oversaw the speed and assessment component of the EXOS NFL Combine Development Program and supported many athletes across the NFL, MLB, NBA, National Sports Organizations, and Military. Nick has his Ph.D. on motor skill learning and sprinting. 
On the show we talk mainly about the role communication plays in coaching, and here’s a hint, it's a big one. More specifically we get into internal and external. Cues, how we can use coaching feedback loops and we discuss the role of attention and so much more
Here is Nick Winkelman!
Show notes courtesy of Zach Casto

Nick Winkelman: Head of Athletic Performance & Science for Irish Rugby

  • “Every Coach has a story of success or failure.” 
  • Treat every athlete with respect and wanting to get to know the athletes and make them better. 
  • Coaches are molding young men or women to become better people.
  • Be precise and have your words have purpose so people are focused in on the details. 
  • The quality of a movement is dictated on how we coach. 
  • We will get better throughout time but to improve faster we must coach better.
  • You need to find the right times to be quiet, when to ask a question, and when to talk more. 
  • “How we coach gets less discussion than what we coach.”
  • We need to focus on how we coach more and communicate better. 
  • One way to help reflection is to record yourself during practice and find out how many you ask high level questions and understand when you talked too much. 
  • The players have to feel like they are part of the process. 
  • They also have to feel like they’ve created and own part of their development process. 
  • There needs to be an evaluation process and then a feedback meeting to help the athlete understand where they are at and ways to help improve the process. 
  • We need to reflect and evaluate how we communicate to connect it with how we coach best. 
  • Often times our communication is on autopilot. 
  • After a practice ask these questions: What did I say, How did I say, When did I say, and Did I make a difference? (positively or negatively) 
  • Mic up twice for 6 months, and then after that once a month. 
  • Find out your strengths as a coach. 
  • Find out areas of improvement of coaching. 
  • Reflect on why that needs improved. 
  • Is there any habits or behaviors that should’ve been used? 
  • Get the spark, get the buy in, reflect, and improve the process. (When creating a plan for a coach or player for improvement)
  • The roadmap isn’t difficult, it’s changing the mindset that is difficult. 
  • “Habit is a type of memory that requires no conscious thought.” 
  • “To change these habits we must be conscious of these habits.” 
  • Coaching is a skill that has both good habits and bad habits. 
  • The best communicators have wait time, don’t say filler words, change their tone. and are precise when they speak. 
  • “You have to want to get better because these are elusive skills.” 
  • 3 keys of effective communicators: Words we use, our tone of voice (pitch, pace, loudness) and body language.
  • The best communicators tell one story and tell the right story using these elements. 
  • “When we make players better, we become a better coach.”
  • Understand what you’re coaching before you can reflect how to improve. 
  • Know your content. 
  • If we go through the effort of changing then what we are changing MUST improve performance. 
  • “Is the problem a mechanical problem or a coordination problem?”
  • In other words is it a car problem or a driver problem? 
  • If you’re given a race car it doesn’t mean you’re going to win a race. 
  • To change the body you’re going to have to get in the gym and work with professionals to help that person reach their goals. 
  • 3 P’s of Performance
  • 1. Position: Can they get into the positions to have success of this skill? Example: Hip flexion to field a ground ball? 
  • 2. Power: Do they have the strength to optimally perform the skill? Example: Engine of the car.
  • 3. Pattern:Can they take different positions and patter the movements together? Example: taking the bat back, and swinging. 
  • For anything that is a “car” issue is going to be worked with a strength professional. 
  • The driver problems will be prioritized in order to understand how it can be changed with cues. 
  • You can’t fix a car problem with a driver cue. 
  • You have to find out what will work best. 
  • If you see a player who is struggling to learn. 
  • “You have not taught until they’ve learned.” 
  • Find out if there is a better way to help the player learn and evaluate how well you coach. 
  • If you take the change we’ve made and you’ve owned it, whether or not you know it it will become part of your new normal. 
  • If you require my reminders as your coach, then you have not learned yet. 
  • “The best coaches makes them no longer needed.” 
  • “A good teacher is a giver.” 
  • A good coach doesn’t want to develop athletes who depend on the coach. 
  • Use questions to corral the athlete to the solution. During the next session watch with your eyes before you speak. 
  • “The silence set is the opportunity to show the coach thay the athlete doesn’t depend on you.” 
  • See if the player can self correct. 
  • As long as it looks like they are exploring and trying, keep them going. 
  • People have to struggle and keep trying in order to learn. 
  • “Before you can be understood, you must seek to understand.” 
  • Understand how the athlete communicates and learn how to communicate with the athlete. 
  • “Get to know the person inside of the player.” 
  • Our goal is to hide technical terms inside cues that will help the athlete recall the proper visual to have success. 
  • Cue prop is a prop to showcase the proper technique for the athlete. 
  • Example: show a pencil to help show body positioning.
  • If our athletes aren’t paying attention then we can’t teach them anything. 
  • The athlete who is making eye contact and their body is forward then they are fully focused. 
  • People listen with their eyes, ears, and body.