How to Teach Sport-Specific Skills

Joe Friel explains his five steps for teaching sport-specific skills to an athlete.

Video Transcript

Joe Friel 0:05

Today I am going to show you how to teach a skill, I’m going to use swimming as the sport I’m teaching. But realize that this is just an example of how to teach a skill. I’m not trying to teach you how to teach swimming. In fact, we could probably look at many, many different ways of doing that, I’m only going to take one aspect of swimming and talk about it with you.

There are five things, five steps I go through in trying to teach a skill to an athlete. The first is to identify what the skill should look like. So I have in the back of my mind, working with a swimmer, what I see a swimmer should be doing when they’re making a stroke and I’ve got to then compare it with the athlete to see how they’re doing. What I’ll do as a second step in this process, after I’ve identified what it should look like, is going to take what it should look like and break it into sub components. There are pieces every skill has movements that are are repetitive, we keep making the same movement over and over. But if we could actually stop and view that on individual slide by slide, we are seeing there are little things being done that the athlete needs to be able to master.

So once I’ve done that, then I evaluate the athlete in terms of how they’re making these movements. So I compare what they’re doing with what I’ve identified as being the movement pattern, I’m looking for my athlete, I look for sub components that the athlete is not doing correctly, or should be or needs improvement on. And that’s what I’m going to take to the athlete and try to improve their their, in this case, there’s some stroke, I’d then demonstrate with this movement is to the athlete, I in fact, I exaggerate the movement. So the athlete has a clearly in their mind, what it is, they’re going to do, even to the point of exaggeration of that movement. And you’ll see that in just a little bit.

And then finally, once I have demonstrated to the athlete how to make the movement, then they are going to repeat this over and over and over until they can master it. Now some skills are fairly simple and may take just a matter of minutes. In fact, you’ll see what the swimmer I’m going to show you here in a little bit. That does only take minutes for the athlete to master one of the sub sub components of the skill. But the process is to keep repeating this skill over and over until the athlete develops the nervous system pathways that allow them to make that movement smoothly in the future on their own. So here we have our swimmer, I want to take a look at just one thing that this swimmer is doing. So we’re going to bring it to a pause about right now. Here we can see one thing that is clearly a flaw that we need to correct for the swimmer. He’s swimming looking at the next wall and because of that, he brings his head up and his hips go down. We can’t see the hips right now on this view, we’ll come back that little bit that we’re seeing as he’s plowing through the water with hips, low head head, head held high that that’s a problem we need to correct. So let’s continue on. And we’re gonna see this perfectly in the coming strokes. Let’s pause it right now. Here again, we can see exactly what’s happening. He’s he’s looking fully into the into the next wall, he doesn’t have his head where it should be. And I’ll come back that sharing a little bit where I where I’ve put his head. So this is one of those things we’re looking for when you when you’ve identified what the stroke should look like for a client and working on this skill, then you have to disassemble it and this is one of the pieces I disassembled. This is one of the things that stands out for swimming is you have to have the head down you can’t have the head looking up like this and keep your hips where they should be. Here we see the same swimmer head on above water this time instead of below water. And one thing that really stands out and we can see it as he swims toward his here is his we can see that black cap this pause it right about here, we can see that black cap sticking up well above the water.

Whenever we see that we know what’s happened is the hips have gone down, so I’ve got to make a correction. So we’ve now seen it from two different positions we’ve seen above water and below water as he’s swimming toward the camera. So we’ll look at the same swimmer, this time from the side view underwater and it becomes pretty obvious what we’re talking about here. Let’s pause it about right there. We can see his face again. Remember we saw that in the frontal view we saw his face looking at the wall which is straight ahead of him. And we can see his his eyes are pointing that direction. So this is the direction he’s looking. And because of that his hips have sunk below the surface of the water and that creates that drag that you’re talking about. So let’s continue all the way through that you can watch and see what happens as he’s moving through the water with that position. You can see the hips are down low and the head is up high. That’s a problem we’ve got to fix. So now I’ve taken the Alpha decide on the deck and we’ve talked about his technique and made some corrections dry land. Now we’re back in the water and you can see those things begin to be applied by the swimmer. Let’s bring it to a pause is about now what we can see is we’ve made some corrections to his head position before I showed you his head position, his eyes were looking out this way, his nose was pointing forward, we saw his entire face when you saw the face on view. Now we can see his face is a different position. Now his eyes are looking down this way as opposed to out this way where they were before. And because of that, if we watch this all the way through, we can see his hips actually breaking the surface of the water whereas before they were down below the surface the water by by a few inches. So let’s run this all the way through and we can see how his stroke is changed. Notice the head position again and head is coming around so the nose is pointing down and his hips are on the surface of the water bill a bit hard to see here is right there you can see his hips breaking the water surface.

So we’ve made a correction and we’re on the road to having one thing working well for his stroke going forward. So here we can see the before and the after and you can see what’s happening with the swimmers head and face. Obviously eyes are looking forward and here we see the very same swimmer. This is just a few minutes later. Now the eyes are looking down. Hard to tell here a little bit with this but we can see his back is actually higher in the water here than it is over here.