Monday, October 14, 2013

Seven Simple Steps to Get the Most From Your Lesson!

Let’s do some simple math to start. Don’t be scared, I promise it is simple! You have a structured class once a week, which leaves how many days a week without a class? Six! Very good! Wouldn't it be great if there was some way for you to make progress in those six days in between classes? Yeah, that would be quite awesome. Luckily, there are some things we have discovered through practice that will help you to get the most use out of each of your lessons.

Find a training partner!
Two minds (or even three!) are better than one. Ideally, this training partner excels at different things than you do. They don’t have to be MORE skilled than you, often it will actually be to your benefit to be of similar skill level. That way you explain things in terms you both can understand.

Pay attention.
Watch the instructor, but also watch your classmates who can do the skill. See what works. Make note of the little things. Pay attention to their hand position, foot position, where they are looking and what the rest of the body is doing. If you are doing a skill one at a time, each person’s turn is an opportunity to learn something important about the movement. You are looking for movements that are smooth and effortless. Those are the ones you want to model. If you can, come up with tag points* you think might be helpful later DURING your lesson.

YouTube! Use it.
Class can teach you the basic skills and what you need to focus on outside of class. YouTube can help you refine them and come up with tag points to make them better. If you find yourself really struggling to figure out a movement, watch several different people perform that movement on video. Pay particular attention to the components that are similar between different people and where there seems to be some “play” in the performance. Things that are often key elements are often: foot placements, foot order, hand placements, and core body position.

Keep it simple.
Focus on one section of a skill at a time. This is where TAGteach is a HUGE help. Decide on a skill that you want to focus on and then break it into small components. You might have to hunt for specific obstacles that let you practice one component. Height is often the easiest and most useful element to remove. For example: when practicing vaults, find a place where the railing only has a drop on one side and gradually increase the drop on the other side.

Take video of your training sessions and use it DURING that session. Watch what seems to work and what doesn’t. The more you watch people move, the easier it will be for you to figure out how a particular muscle group contributes to a movement and how these movements will fit together into a fluidly performed skill. Don’t be afraid to experiment as the video will tell you if something is working well before you will see it on a larger scale. Find something you are struggling with, come up with a tag point you think might help, practice it a few times, and then check the video to see if you see ANY signs of improvement. If you do, great! If not, the new way you moved in this video will likely give you an idea for a new tag point. Use that.

Ask Questions.
If you don’t know something, ask! If you are struggling with a specific skill, ask. Ask your coach for one thing that you could do to make the skill better. Just one. Make this into a focus point during the session, only focus on this one aspect of the skill (for example, legs straight in lazy vault). If your coach struggles with giving you just one thing, try to pick out what you think is the key point and ask specifically if that is a good thing to focus on. When you are on own, use this focus point to guide your practice! Even better, have someone tag you. They don’t even have to know the skill. You should be able to explain it clearly enough that they can tag you with no outside knowledge.

Get stronger.
Know when something is a strength issue and when it is a technique issue. Practicing climb-ups 8 million times does you no good if you just aren’t strong enough to do good climb ups. It simply starts building movements into your muscle memory that will be difficult to fade later. Conditioning to increase your strength is as important (if not more so for some movements) than just training techniques and movements.

*Tag points are:
What you want, One criterion, Observable and definable, Five words or less

When the tag point is successfully completed it is marked with an auditory marker such as a tagger or the word yes. If the tag point is not successfully completed, learner simply tries again.