Roller Derby Coaching the Easy Way

RollerCon 2016 is in the books! I again joined a slate of world class coaches sharing their knowledge with thousands of eager attendees. And yet again, y‘all floored me by taking my classes when who the heck am I anyway?

I’m a coach! And you can be too. Coaching is easy and fun… if you make it so.

While I’m not an internationally-renowned skater competing in roller derby’s Game of Thrones, I’m probably more of a Tyrion Lannister type.

I am the god of tits and wine.

I know things. Knowledge is the foundation of being a good coach. One of my favorite podcasts is Jeremy Boone’s Coach Your Best, a production of Athlete by Design. In December 2015, Boone interviewed Coach Frans Bosch, a performance consultant and academic with expertise in biomechanics and motor learning. He noticed:

“When you’re training well, coaching is easy” — Frans Bosch

What Coach Bosch means by “when you’re training well, coaching is easy,” is that when you know where you’re going and what it will take to get there, then training accordingly, it’s hard to go wrong.

Bosch outlines four prioritized steps to being a great coach:

  1. Understand the sport we are training for, make good analysis of what’s happening, and assess an athlete’s deficits
  2. Teach athletes better movement patterns and improve their athletic qualities
  3. Provide motivation
  4. Provide life guidance and teach athletes how to stay organized around sports

Step 1 is the most important! It’s the foundation for everything else we do. Most folks aren’t born with roller derby knowledge, but it can be gained through focused practice.

The first step to becoming motherhumping great derby coach

Everything else builds from that. It doesn’t matter how motivating you are or how awesome you are at getting five uniquely compatible human beings onto the track if you have no clear understanding of how roller derby works or can’t explain to your athletes how to succeed.

Sadly, many coaches — derby included — tend to get hung up on step 3. Coach Bosch gives the example of a national volleyball coach who would give presentations on how to fold individual personalities into a team culture (steps 3/4)… but didn’t understand that running 10ks wasn’t good training for volleyball players (steps 1/2). Womp womp.

So take the time to learn. Talk with experts. Go to seminars and workshops. Read books. Listen to podcasts. Watch footage. Get a mentor. Ask for help. Always ask why. And never stop learning! Our sport grows and changes all the time, and we’ll never know enough.

Important: Owning Steps 3 and 4 within a leadership team plays a significant role in creating a productive team culture (more on this in future posts). And not every single leader on the team must have all qualities for the group to be successful — just like every player brings different strengths and weaknesses to their pack. But it’s every coach’s job to work on their shortcomings just as their players do!

So keep learning, keep training, and keep on coaching the easy way!

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