Coaching Cues Made Easy

By Mike Watson – Two Brain Coaching One-on-one Course Mentor

At Two-Brain Coaching we focus a lot on relationship building and showing our clients how much we care.  A big part of relationship building is communication; not only are we getting to know our clients on a personal level, we’re also there to teach them and effectively communicate the skills they need to reach their goals! 

Our clients are all individuals, that’s why we love them!  They have individual strengths, weaknesses and ways of processing information from their coaches to push harder or learn new movements.  As coaches we rely on coaching cues, an often used term. 

What are coaching cues and what are the most effective ways to use them?

Coaching cues are the way we as coaches provide relevant information to our clients to help with skill acquisition, movement correction and encouragement. 

In order to provide our clients with the best outcomes, we need to first and foremost understand HOW they learn.  

Every once in a while on Facebook I see a post pop up that provides a math problem and asks “show us what happens in your head when you see this problem?”  I find it fascinating to scroll through the answers because very few people attack the problem the same way.  

The same thing can be said about learning a complex movement like an overhead squat, a snatch, or a power clean!  The way most people learn physical movement can be broken down into three main categories of learning:

  1. VISUAL: Those that need to SEE someone perform the skill 
  2. KINESTHETIC: Those who need to DO the skill and work out the movement patterns for themselves 
  3. VERBL: Those to need VERBAL instruction on the order of movement 

No one has to fit into only one of the above categories – I’m a SEE’er and a DO’er.  

I don’t want your essay on how to do a snatch.  

I need to watch you do it and work through the movement on my own. 

A simple hack to figure out what type of learner your client is?   

Ask them. 

Once we understand how our clients learn we can start to look at the types of cues we can use and determine which ones are most effective. 

MOVEMENT FOCUSED:  These types of cues are focused on sequencing the movement order and pattern and work very well for the VERBAL athletes.  Cues such as ‘hinge from the hips’ or ‘lead with the elbows’ are awesome for this group who need a verbal instruction manual to get the pattern down.  These cues are focused on moving body parts in the right order to create the pattern. 

OUTCOME FOCUSED:  These cues are focused more on the environment the client is working in, and the effect their actions will have on it.  Cueing a client to “pull yourself under the bar” on a snatch, or “shoot lasers out your elbows” on a clean are examples here.  They provide a visual representation of what the client is trying to accomplish or what it should look and feel like.  These are great cues for the Visual and Kinesthetic clients as they help them achieve the full picture of what they are trying to accomplish. 

ABSENCE OF CUES:  sometimes as coaches we feel the need to fill the hour with the sound of our own voices….Often, as with the DO’er discussed above, we need to minimize our cues, saving them for minor feedback, and let the client work through the movement pattern with their focus on their own internal check-in as cues.  

We can circle back to verbal or visual cues once the client has completed the movement cycle but understand that this type of cueing may actually distract the client from their optimal way of learning movement.  Often with this group my advice to younger coaches is to “shut up and let the client marinate in the movement.”  

Some take away homework: instead of assuming you understand a client’s preferred learning method, make a point of asking each of your one-on-one PT or OnRamp clients how they learn and adjust your cues to help them get the most out of each session!  Don’t make your client fit into your comfortable coaching style, but adjust your coaching style to find the best way to help them! 

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