Coaching Principle: ‘Make Observation a Habit’

“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” - Marilyn Vos Savant

The newly coined phrase 'YouTube Trainer' pertains to the trainer who gets his or her education from viewing instructional or exercise clips. Now this may be a sweeping generalisation and an affront to those professional trainers and coaches who genuinely seek to learn and up skill via the more authentic manner of completing face to face or online education.

I have had many instances of training in a gym where PT sessions are jam-packed and catching the trainer take his client through the exact exercise I had completed a minute prior.

Monkey see and monkey do is not the best way to garner a new method and technique for your clients. Whether it's watching the latest cool YouTube video or seeing another trainer do something equally impressive.

Our newly coined term must follow: ‘Monkey see, monkey don’t do’

Where does this exercise fit into your client’s program (exercise selection); is it right for my client? Perhaps it is or perhaps it isn't!

I'm not suggesting against new methods. I am advocating proper understanding of the movement and how this fits, if it does, into my client’s goals.

As the saying goes: a little bit of knowledge is dangerous .

It is important to be curious when observing an exercise and ask yourself this:

Would I do that? What purpose would it serve me? How might my client benefit from it?

Be the constant observer and enquirer.

Now we can invert the notion of observing as a way to improve as a trainer or coach. Whenever I am running workshops I like to incorporate the dynamic of a trio of coaches working together. Here I will have one person perform the exercise or task; the other coaching it and the other observing. With this activity, it tends to make some people edgy because all they want to do is perform and try the thing that is being taught. However, this is only half the equation. In order to understand something, we need to be able to teach it even if it is raw, which most often it will if you are undertaking a new course or activity.

In principle #10 we discussed ‘mirroring the best’ by seeking out the best teachers and coaches. In order to affect this, we need to learn patience and respect. By this I mean the ability to observe how that coach communicates and relates to his or her students or clients. This is where the magic of observation happens. Second to this we need to keep a journal of what we are observing. What is it that you are seeking in the coach or teacher you are observing? This is where we must observe with no preconceived ideas. If we come in with judgments and opinions this will cloud the process of learning.

This comes back to the principle #6 ‘Keep a positive and open mind’. I cannot stress the importance of this mind-set when observing others perform their craft.

Observation is what scientists depend on to make inferences about a topic or things they are observing. Thy use this method (inference and deduction) to eventually validate their findings. If it is good for the scientist it is good for the coach. Observing takes patience and practice. Therefore, it is a skill that necessitates potential growth. Make observation a habit and you will be a wiser coach for it.

Coaches’ Tip:

Take some time out once a week for at least 6 weeks and observe your environment. It may be a sporting clinic you are involved with; a gym you are working at or a high-performance centre you are involved with. As you observe remember to be respectful and take a mental note of your findings. What is it about the coach you like or even dislike? What can you take away and look to implement into your own teaching and coaching practice?

Keep reaching

Coach Tarek



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