I’m at home with this so called swine flu, which isn’t pleasant. Luckily I have two amusing children and lots of work to be getting on with, so I’m luckier than most. I’m rarely sick enough to miss work but in the last three weeks I’ve had a vomiting bug and now this pig cold, and I’ve missed some time in the gym. Last night I was going to go in and take some MMA from the edge of the mats but then I remembered that Shayn would be there and if I infected him he’d miss his fight on Saturday.
So missing the time in the gym in the last while has reminded me how much I enjoy training and just being around the gym. I’m fairly sure I spend almost every waking hour thinking about training, either my own or my athletes, and I’m as yet undecided as to whether that’s a good or bad thing.
I thought I’d write a bit about coaching, not necessarily the methods I use, but more why I do it the way I do it and why there is a method in the first place. I’m motivated to write about this as I’m in the midst of polishing and formatting a coaching manual for the guys in my gym who help out by coaching classes. I mean, I’ve been sick and they’ve been doing the classes for me so the least I can do is tell them how right? Right. I believe Stephen F did a good job as always in my absence last night, Amanda has covered Paddy’s Muay Thai class as well as coaching her own women only sessions, Dee has covered for her, Robbie has coached BJJ classes as has Stephen R. And to tell you the truth, it was only about 3 months ago that I was wondering if I could take a night off at all, since I thought I had no cover. It turns out I have lots of really good, responsible, technically good people to fall back upon when I need them. Which is nice to know and which is great for the members in IP as it means they’re exposed to lots of different personality types, lots of different styles of teaching and of course, they get continuity.
Anyway I know I act the fool a lot but I take my coaching very seriously, and I would say that most of my non-coaching work (ie. outside class times) is concerned with improving the classes I teach or my methods of coaching people. Other non-coaching work includes annoying people on the internet and arguing with anyone who will listen. Actually that’s not fair to say as they’re really more like hobbies, you can’t call it work if you enjoy it. I find myself studying other coaches, teachers and professionals a lot. How they conduct themselves, what methods they use, their language towards their students etc. I read articles and books by coaches, psychologists (the genuine ones not the self help morons) and other professionals to better be able to understand the methods of imparting material onto an audience. All of which sounds incredibly geeky, and it is. At heart, I’m a nerd. But instead of loving computers and World of Warcraft, I love fighting. It’s all a bit strange.
Like a lot of things, it takes a long time to get good at teaching people. You have to be at ease with yourself, and confident enough to persist with your ideas even when people are questioning you, but also the confidence and humility to abandon something that isn’t working. I think that was the hardest part of beginning to teach. Not persisting with what you know is right, but being able to admit you don’t have the answer to all of the questions people are asking. That’s the dark space. The middle of the road between the truth and the lie. Where the man in charge doesn’t really want to lie but he doesn’t have the truth either. What he fills the space with is BULLSHIT. Bullshit is the single most common thing any of us hear or read. Whether it’s a polotician quoting a “study”, a woman in the shops telling you about how angels cured her BO (my initials incidentally, and somewhat embarrassingly) or, closer to the point, some “instructor” telling you this or that will work against an opponent. So even with me who claims to be honest (I am, honestly), I would suggest that you keep a very sceptical outlook and ask a lot of questions.
By the way, a few Swine Flu top tips from me. Solpadeine rules; get yourself a mini DVD player, preferably one that fits under the duvet where it’s nice and warm; Flight of the Conchords is hilarious; wear a scarf indoors to increase the perception that you are sick and as such avoid menial housework tasks.
See you on the mat!