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Catapult Coaching

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I’d like to introduce you to a term I call ‘Catapult Coaching.’
 
It involves pulling an athlete back in order to propel them forward, metaphorically of course. 🙂
 
All too often our athletes are restricted in skill level by sub-standard physical and technical preparation, what we often loosely refer to as ‘basics.’
 
These basics are of course the foundation of all skill development in our sport. It goes without saying that with poor foundations we will eventually have poor performance, or in many cases no performance at all due to injury etc.
 
The great Muhammed Ali famously quoted:
‘It’s not the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the pebble [stone] in your shoe.’
 
What a great quote. And how relevant to our athletes.
 
How many stones is your athlete metaphorically dealing with?
 
In all the excitement of skill development, it’s very easy to get ahead of ourselves coaching and push a little too early [and that’s ok, we’ve all been there]. But knowing when to stop and take action is critical. 
 
In these times, the catapult needs to come out.
 
Although it may seem your athlete can move forwards with skills, often it might not be the right thing to do. In fact not only should they not move forwards, perhaps some prior skills and preparation needs revisiting as a higher priority.
 
Gymnastics coach Carol Angela Orchard, a dear friend and mentor eludes to this concept as not actually going ‘BACK to basics’ as you are helping the athlete move FORWARD by working on their basics. She therefore refers to it as moving ‘forward to basics!’ A nice paradigm shift through a change in language. 
 
Drawing that catapult back is preparation for propelling them forwards. 
 
So, you can see the mountain ahead. But are you also looking for the stones?
 

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Comments (5)

   
jcoadyukcoachingorgSYRQSHZ2

Hey Nick,

Thanks for sharing. I love this story and the metaphors are cracking :)

Simple concept but definitely not simple in practice. It brought to mind a story about a girl that I used to coach U18 (basketball) she had a vertical jump that was fantastic. She dominated the boards ( Rodman - The Last Dance) and had a great work ethic, so of course, other coaches in the club were looking at how they could benefit from this strength she had. What I knew from coaching her was her ability to outshine in this one particular area was super but other parts of her game and her as a person wouldn't survive in the senior set up. I spoke honestly to the senior coaches even though I was only a young coach myself at the time and they didn't listen. They took her to the senior sessions...role played her and used her for that one specific strength. The training was tough and the transition from the coaches and the athlete disjointed... two years later she left the sport. I felt so guilty for a long time after that and obviously it still bothers me as it sprung to mind. I think the comment you made that stuck with me was... 'But knowing when to stop and take action is critical.' How can we encourage coaches in and out of our sporting environment to know more about the timing, express their thoughts and to have the courage to what they feel and know is right?

12/05/20
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NickRuddock

Hey Jen, thanks for your feedback and for reading the blog! I appreciate you taking the time to write your reflections and I'm glad it resonated with you. Your 'real life' example certainly brings it to life. It's a real shame to hear that this particular athlete left the sport. I personally believe that only through self and group reflection, and a culture of 'psychological safety', can we move on from poor decision making to one that breeds communication, listening, healthy challenge and everyone having a voice. Hopefully these particular coaches would have learnt from the experience through those reflections (I too have made similar mistakes), it's just a shame that our athletes often suffer as we learn the ropes and gain the experience we need to be better in our roles.

13/05/20
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lthorp

It truly is a great quote from Ali about not looking too far forward that you forget about the importance of the smaller things in the 'now'.

No house stands up for long if the foundations are poorly and quickly built. I agree that we shouldn't be too proud to invest a significant amount of time (depending on the individuals needs at a given time) focusing on the basics throughout their development journey. I also think we as coaches are all guilty of joining the athlete in being eager to help the athlete progress as much as possible. This can be at the detriment to their long term development as we skip over or don't focus enough time on the stone in the shoe as we are instead focusing on how to properly prepare for those upcoming mountains.

However, we can't forget that coaches also need the right people catapulting them so that they can be helped with further work on their basics as they progress along on their own development journeys. I feel that sometimes, coaches haven't had enough (if any) experience in the basics of coaching the basics to athletes and are therefore reluctant to be exposed for a lack of knowledge or ability. This can then lead to them progressing to the side of the sport they feel more comfortable coaching (tactics, set plays etc) which further widens the gap from basics to further skill development. This may be the same for coach educators when they coach coaches as well as coaches who are coaching athletes.

I think alongside players, there a lot of coach educators and coaches (myself included) who would love ongoing catapult coaching about how to 'work forward' on their basics so that they can continue to progress, improve and create better environments that in turn, help foster or hone the coach's or players' basics further.

Summing it up:

Better coach-coach catapult coaching = better coach-player catapult coaching = better overall coaches & athletes.

I think we all need to focus on our basics when the situation demands it - the key is to have someone with you on your journey who is best for you and can help you understand the when, how and why behind needing to be catapulted backwards so that you can go forward.

Thanks for getting me thinking, Nick!

12/05/20
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NickRuddock

Hey Luke, some great thoughts there, thanks so much for taking the time to share them. I completely agree, combining the right athletes > coaches together and coach > mentors makes a fantastic force, one that will indeed be catapulted to a higher level of performance. Do you feel there is sufficient information available for coaches within the topics you mentioned, or do you feel there is still a void of educational resources and opportunities?

13/05/20
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lthorp

It's a great question, Nick!

I think there are numerous resources available for coaches to explore - either on demand, as part of a live course and of we also have live CPD events across our sports as far as I know. The Internet has definitely given us greater access to more quality information. Quarantine has also been great for information sharing, but I think we have also crossed over line into 'infobesity' (an over share and an over consumption of information).

For me, the information being present is one thing, but being able to apply it in your environment is the more difficult factor that needs to be considered. One of the key issues is that we are all individuals and therefore need individually tailored information that is specific to our environments. You could argue that we as the individuals should be interpreting the information and making it applicable, but on the other hand, because the information is sometimes too plentiful and difficult to interpret, it then becomes difficult to implement as intended.

It's also a question of resources, it would be great if as coaches we were assigned a coaching mentor as we progress through our qualifications and our general coaching journey. I think that would be fantastic as you would build a deep and meaningful relationship in person and via platforms such as Zoom, but this isn't always possible due to time and financial constraints coach educators experience. It's also easy to say that we should all be given a mentor but there is also the case for finding one for ourselves via the various platforms you can access and build relationships - based on what you feel you need.

In addition, I think it could be considered a case of how do you know what you don't know? There can be plentiful resources and information, but if you feel like you know the basics and there is no one there who truly knows you to tell you that before progressing further, they need to catapult coach you, then how would you ever know to work forward on the basics again before progressing? Ego also plays it's role for all of us (educators, coaches, players) and can create the attitude that you already know enough and the basics are for beginners so you automatically skip over information you (your ego) deems unimportant.

We have certainly made great strides forward as a coaching community and there's clearly lots of information available, while technology has definitely made it easier for us to have access to experts. However, specificity is key and we need to make sure that the opportunities and resources are relevant and supportive to us and our journey, which I think means we also need people in our corner to help us interpret and apply this information.

It would be great to hear what you and other people think, too!

14/05/20
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KJMillar

I did this very concept with one of my athletes, to the disappointment of his parents. I took him out of competition completely until he could perform the skill without his heart rate elevating, with confidence and correctly. He had to get stronger physically right through the middle of his peak growth spurt, so I had to be careful. I used psychological chaining principles as we progressed, then tougher standards of performance, and then competition simulation. It took a year, but he is back in competition doing much better performance-wise and he is HAPPY! It was successful of course, because the athlete was motivated to get better and admitted that things were not where they should be. So, together, we showed the parents that we really did know what we were doing! :)

22/05/20
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NickRuddock

Hey Kathleen thanks for the comment and congrats on implementing this concept into your coaching, it's great to know that it's not just 'theory' and can be effective when put into practise also!

25/05/20
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