The Art of Coaching

Here is my approach to helping shooters/athletes improve. A couple years ago I took Modern Samurai Project‘s Red Dot Instructor class with Scott Jedlinski, which I highly recommend. Part of the curriculum is doing “teach backs”. I was fortunate enough to work with a very good instructor, Aaron Acklin, owner of Aaron’s Gun Cabinet in Arkansas. We were discussing how we diagnose shooting errors and that lead me to asking a simple question “Where do you start”?  I think that questions asked should be “exploratory learning experiences where we change knowledge to wisdom by practical application.

Your first student is YOU. Whether or not you teach others, it is important to keep in mind that you will always be coaching yourself, therefore everyone will benefit from having a better coach.

Some coaches start analyzing shooting errors by looking at the target first, then the gun, then hands, and so on until they work their way back to the actual student. This may have been the way that THEY personally made the greatest improvement. Skill is born of struggle which means we tend to emphasize our hardest struggles. This is the approach I term personality driven instruction. “If it worked for me, then it will work for you” or “we have always taught this way”, anyway you get the idea. It does work for some of the shooters some of the time if they are able to adjust to the coaching style. If you have compatible communication styles this works well, but what if you do not? How much time is wasted in the process and what happens to the athlete that does not understand your personal preferences?

The other style is principal based teaching. The burden is on the coach to understand how the body works, to research deeply into the subject, and how best to communicate with the shooter. Of course, this approach is labor intensive up front, meaning that the coach must observe the athlete from the moment he sees them, and then must quickly intuit how to communicate with them.

There are 3 categories of body language- the looker, the listener, and the feeler. The looker will always make eye contact with you, the listener will tilt their head without eye contact to better hear your words, and the feeler will shake your hand, hug you, or touch you on the shoulder or arm. The coach should ask questions that are open ended to gather further information. Their words will be descriptive to their particular style of interaction, such as “I see what you are doing”, “I hear/understand you”, and “I feel how that works”. Now simply use the proper descriptive words when you coach them, make sure your demonstrations are expressively visual, descriptively rich, or touch centric. Most of us will have some crossover in the styles, but the coach must bridge the gap.

Next, imagine what each person would perform like if they were the best athlete for their body type, hold that image as you teach them, and look for what does not belong. Look deeply for what is out of place instead of adding more components as they begin to grasp the fundamentals. Change the one area that will have the greatest impact instead of everything you notice. Is it the grip, the vision, or maybe the decision process? Athletes often understand the technical aspects of shooting but make compulsive/suboptimal decisions.

We each have our own role to play on this collaboration. The shooter performs, observes, and evaluates. The coach observes, connects, and advocates. The athlete must adapt to the structure and safety requirements there the coach must effectively observe without bias, and communicate effectively to create a partnership with the shooter.

A large majority of practice should and will be on your own. Many of us have an internal dialogue that criticizes our performance. This voice is often the most negative or demanding parent or teacher. The problem is this style of coaching probably did not work for you in the first place, so you just keep trying the same corrections harder. Now think of the best teacher you have ever had and emulate their style. Correct yourself without the head shakes and insults. Model the best shooters, correcting one area at a time, with both patience, and focus geared to your style-visual, descriptive, or kinesthetics. This changes the dynamics of learning allowing you to become the best version of yourself, and/or to help others reach their potential.

Join me in our new 3 day Instructor’s Course called “Deliberate Coaching: Diagnostic. Predictive. Adaptive“. These 3 days will be like no other instructor program out there because I will be sharing over forty years of coaching and instructor development. This chosen path has given me a unique insight and experience over a broad range of training philosophies. 

The art of teaching is a calling to help people become the best versions of themselves. The question is, how do we become the best coaches possible?
Coaching requires a multi-discipline approach applying diagnostic skills, cognitive interviewing, understanding the decisional process, predictive analysis, and adapting to the clients’ unique needs.

Deliberate Coaching will cover physiological, psychological, and technical aspects of client development. Identifying and understanding the shooters learning style and more importantly, their blind spots. Predictive analysis through posture, speech, body language, and goal setting. Adaptive drill development with measurable results. Curriculum development through deliberate practice and focused methodologies. Understanding of biology under stress and how to enhance performance.

If you have the passion for teaching, now develop the mastery on how to best help your clients.

Measure. Refine. Perform.

Brian Hill

2022 Schedule