Category Archives: Technique

On Teaching, Part 1: Chunking

I often refer to myself as a “coach”, but in reality I probably self identify as a “teacher” as much as a coach. The difference, for purposes of this article, is the objective or goal of the person you are working with. A teacher aligns their teachings with a student’s “learning objective.” Thus successful teaching is measured by whether the student learned that which you set out to teach them. A coach often aligns themselves with a goal. If their athlete achieves their goal, then the coach was successful. The difference is that I can have a client lose weight (goal) but still not have learned how to balance their macronutrients (learning objective), thus I was a successful coach but an unsuccessful teacher. It is probably splitting hairs to some degree but it provides some useful context in which to talk about chunking.

Chunking is not a novel idea, but I think this exercise is something different that most of the coaches I know can use to improve their delivery of cues and feedback to their athletes in real time.

The Set Up
Gather a group of 3 or more coaches and have one person coach while the others do the exercise. Only have one person show a fault and make it obvious and make it the same every time.

The Drill
Identify the fault – “Joe, you are rounding your back.”
Short actionable cue – “Chest up!”
Acknowledge the change – “That’s better.”
Of course, it might not have improved so you might say, “More!” or “Try harder.” Initially just practice having the person fix the fault.

The drill is extremely simple in this form. You just keep practicing it over and over with a friend or two taking turns. Once you have the basic dialogue, you cue your athlete through repetitions of the movement, “Set up. Joe, you’re rounding your back. Lift your chest. That’s better. Stand.”

The goal is to be fast and effective. Can you keep your athlete or group moving but still give individual attention and teaching? Repeat the same words over and over until they become fast and natural or you realize that you are saying it wrong and find a better more efficient way to say it. You can do this drill with any movement or progression. You can do this with various fixes (verbal, tactile or visual). You can do this with multiple people doing multiple faults. Use this to learn how to conduct fast effective fixes in a group setting. Be conscious of details like where you are standing and whether the athletes can see and hear you and you can see them. Can you stand in a better place to be more effective? Can you then fix multiple people with a slight change in your words, or where you are standing or how the group is organized?

Get good at the technique, so you can let your personality come through and you can actually be present to your athletes. Thus you will be effective as a coach and a teacher.

Day 3 in LA

Wednesday afternoon, 20130821, I woke up and went with Todd Lavictoire, Claiborne Davis, Dinneen Viggiano and her friend Cindy to Trina Altman’s reformer class and did some pilates. She’s an amazing teacher and it was fun to play on the reformer.

That afternoon we all went to Jill Miller’s Yoga Tune Up class at Equinox in Santa Monica. It was great to be able to watch Jill teach in the gym setting and keep it light and fun.

I ran into Elise Joan who I used to practice with at Sonic Yoga. That was a wonderful surprise. She seems to be carving out a remarkable career.

In the afternoon I drove to CrossFit LA which is owned by my friend Andy Petranek and I met with Brian MacKenzie of CrossFit Endurance and we did some work on my running technique. First he filmed me running and then we did a bunch of drills mostly with the jumprope but also some banded sprints and some foot pull drills. Then he videod my running again and it was so much better.

Here is some video from our session:

Finished with 21, 15, 9
KB Swings, 32kg

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 jump rope pulling drill between each round.