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Athlete Communication and Cueing

"The art of coaching is communicating information in a way that the athlete understands and is able to use." - Informed in Sport Blog (

There are many different types of coaches with their own style of messaging and communication to others. I'm going to cover my thinking process that has developed over the years to get my point across to athletes through coaching cues. Any athlete that has worked with me or coach/parent that has been around will recognize this and now understand why I say what I say.

There has to be a foundational trust built with athletes before anything can be accomplished. Males want to know why the heck we are here at 6am, and females want to know why I'm so fired up at 6am and where I'm from originally (just an example). The moral of the story every person is different and an initial barrier can be broken down with simple questions to build a trust and bond.

- What's your favorite movie?

- What's your favorite food? Pizza...NIce! But we will have to change that soon :)

- What's your major? Why'd you pick that?

Spending a few extra moments of normal conversation will not only build trust, but also let an athlete feel like they can talk with you about anything. Obviously, professional boundaries need to be set here.

Ok...a trust has been built, now how do I go about explaining an exercise or movement?

Explanation - This is what we are doing, where you should feel it, and why. Ask if it makes sense and relate to their sport or position. Keep it simple...there is usually no need to dive deep into the science to make yourself sound smart.

Demonstration - If a coach can demonstrate exactly how to do something, an athlete will not only appreciate that you can actually do what you're saying, but also get a live visual. Without a demonstration (unless advanced athlete that you have coached countless times) there is a high likelihood the athlete will perform a movement poorly.

Review - How did that feel? Where did you feel it? Go over video feedback, give 1-2 cues to improve/focus on during the next set and move on to the next athlete. Being able to watch yourself perform movements is very important because it may be looking much differently than how it feels.

Cueing Examples: Internal vs External

Internal - Athlete focuses on his/her own body. These cues are going to lead into perfecting the form and feeling of a movement.

- Squeeze your glutes

- Tuck your chin

- Chest Up

External - Athlete focuses on affecting something in his/her environment. Focusing on outcome vs the movement itself. These cues should be used to enhance the quality, speed, or intent of a movement.

- Push the floor away

- Break the ball

- Bend the bar

I hope this helps more coaches think about how they are communicating to their athletes. If something is just not clicking with someone, change up the communication style, video it (everyone has a phone), demonstrate what you're looking for. It's an amazing thing to see an athlete when a movement clicks. You'll get that head nod or smile acknowledging that they got it, and they are ready for more. Everything is a process and I'm always tinkering, it takes time, and reps...lots of reps. Coaching reps and reps as an athlete. It took me about 4 years to catch a power clean the right way. All because a coach told me to pull myself under the bar (click!) instead the 10 thousandth time a coach telling me to set my hips and pull it as high as I can (worked for others, not me). Cheers to all and have a wonderful week/end.

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