4 Words to Avoid When Coaching

I hope all of my readers who went to the Canadian Qualifier this past week are pleased with the progress they are making and are excited for the next opportunity to compete. Most importantly though, congratulations.

I was trying to think about ways that a coach could be more effective with their feedback at practice. Then it dawned on me that I had started writing a book on “Yoga for Synchro” with my yoga friend, Lucille Lavender. Before my kids were born I used to do private yoga lessons with Lucille. I absolutely loved the words she used to describe movement.  The imagery of movement was incredible.

As I listen to coaches giving athletes feedback, I cringe at the imagery some of the words promote.  In particular, there are four words that a coach should limit or possibly even consider eliminating from their vocabulary when correcting a skill. Now don’t get me wrong there are times these words are absolutely necessary, but in general when correcting the way a movement should be performed there are better words to use.

The four words to avoid are:

Squeeze     Tighten      Push     Drop 

Say those words to yourself and think about how a movement would look if executed with that imagery. I can hardly imagine that a ballet instructor tells his or her pupils to tighten their bums? It is difficult to achieve length when tightening or squeezing.  It even looks different when an athlete lengthens versus squeezes.

Another word to use sparingly, is push. Push sounds laborious. Instead tell your athlete to extend their leg to the vertical line. It sounds and feels lighter than push your leg to the line.

Watch out for the word drop as it implies losing control. A better word to use is draw. Drawing a leg to the line requires control.

Here is a list of commonly used words in yoga that Lucille helped create for me:

press ground firm
hug draw lengthen
plant extend level
square lift sweep
tuck pull expand
reach flow swing
soften twist engage

When I read through the list, I realize there are so many more ways I can be correcting a movement.  One of my favourite corrections from yoga is to have the legs hug the midline or centre line of the body.  I think about athletes in a split or crane position where the front leg is out of alignment with the hip. The correction, “hug the centre line”.

Try using some of the yoga inspired words to give corrections in practice and see what happens. I would love to hear how you practice goes.  Comment below or on my Facebook page.  I am now on Twitter too.

If you are interested in having Lucille Lavender work with your group contact me (vsynchrob@yahoo.com) and I will pass her information along to you.  Lucille has been teaching yoga since 2007 and has taught several elite athletes in individual and group settings. Lucille teaches Anusara style yoga.

Yours in Synchro,

Vanessa Keenan

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  1. Gede Prama on March 20, 2014 at 8:16 AM

    Well written. May peace be with you 🙂

  2. Bonita Lehmann ~ Dream Big Live Amazing! on March 20, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    Reblogged this on Dream Big ~ Live Amazing and commented:
    Great blog for fitness trainers everywhere! I love the new word suggestions, I never thought of it that way before. Excellent work Vanessa!

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