Part II: The Launch of goalop

Note: for the prelude to this post, read Part I: The Obstacles of Coaching

What is goalop?

In Part I I explained some of my background as a tennis coach and the obstacles I have faced in my experience.  Now you know who I am, so you understand why I want a solution to these problems.  This is what inspired my teammate and I to develop goalop.

goalop will be an asset to coaches, fitness trainers, and individuals because it keeps the above questions in mind.  The free initial version we have developed will allow coaches and individuals to collaborate outside of training sessions.

The Beta version offers a clean web site where a coach or fitness trainer can connect with their clients through their email address.  From there they can rate practices or performances; leave feedback on what was good or needs to be improved; share relevant articles, videos, documents; and organize and share their events and goals on the calendar.

Individuals using goalop will be able to see the feedback their coach or fitness trainer has left for them, but the individual will also be able to set their own goals.  These goals (and their “achieve by” dates) along with any scheduled events will appear in the organized layout of the calendar.  Your progress and improvement can be planned, organized, and tracked.

In the future goalop will expand on this foundation to offer more tools.  Coaches will be able advertise themselves by uploading their information such as: Name, Location, Certifications, Specialties, Awards, etc.  Individuals looking for a coach or fitness trainer will be able to browse for coaches and read authentic feedback from happy (or unhappy) customers to decide their best fit.

At its core goalop offers a social and fun way to organize training, track progress, and collaborate outside of training sessions to reach the goals you set.

goalop – The Social Network for Sports Training

Coming August 2012!

For more information check out www.goalop.com

The goalop team

Part I: Obstacles to Coaching

Background

I’m a tennis coach.  I teach adults and kids of various ages and of various levels how to play the beautiful game of tennis.  I connect with my students and form relationships that transcend the mere producer-consumer transaction because I interact with them often — some weekly, others multiple times per week.  I maintain about 10-15 of these unique relationships at a given time and enjoy the idiosyncrasies each one offers.  I also have 20+ years of tennis training as a junior player which helps me keep grounded perspective — I’ve been on both sides of the net and know what a good coach looks like.  In my case the sappy cliché rings true: I love what I do.

While I’ve had reasonable success, obstacles arise from time to time which must be overcome for me to keep going.  And I don’t think they are obstacles that I alone face but that confront many different kinds of coach.  If you are a sports coach, fitness professional, or even on the client side as an individual trying to improve, read on and see if my words resonate.

The Obstacles

There are four main questions that coaches and fitness trainers should be keep in mind:

1.  How can I recruit new clients?

2.  How can I get the most progress out of my current clients?

3.  How can I manage the individual needs of all my clients?

4.  How can I preserve the relationships I have with my current clients?

Question 1 is crucial for business and revenue, but questions 2-4 are important in establishing a reputation as a competent sports coach or fitness trainer.

The student or trainee also needs to keep important questions in mind:

1.  How can I find the trainer that is right for me?

2.  What should my goals be and how can I reach them?

3.  Is my trainer constantly reinforcing those goals and helping me achieve them?

When questions 2 and 3 are met affirmatively there exists a healthy coach/client relationship.  If they are not met, true collaboration is missing.

It all boils down to collaboration and communication.  In order to work together and be on the same page, a coach/athlete or a fitness trainer/individual have got to be speaking the same language.  The way to do this best is to be extensive in your communication and to keep training fun and challenging.

In Part II you’ll learn more about goalop, the social network for sports training, and how it will revolutionize coaching, fitness training, and athletics!

For more information check out www.goalop.com

The goalop team

On Wayne Rooney and Free Throws: Visualization in Sports

“I want you to picture a basketball…”

Years ago an Australian psychologist named Alan Richardson conducted a now famous experiment in sports visualization and muscle memory.  He gathered subjects and had them shoot 100 basketball foul shots, recording their base numbers.  He then randomly divided the subjects into three separate groups.  Group A was told to practice foul shots for 20 minutes, 5 days a week for 4 weeks.  Group B was ordered to do nothing basketball related for 4 weeks, not even to think of basketball.  Similar to Group A, Group C was asked to come in 5 days a week for 20 minutes each but was told that they would be guided by a professional in visualizing shooting foul shots without ever touching a ball.  After 4 weeks Richardson had the subjects shoot 100 foul shots again. Group A had improved in their ability 24%.  Group B (the no-bball group) unsurprisingly made no significant improvement.  Group C (the fantasy free throw group), however, improved by 23%, nearly as much as the group physically practicing everyday…

Sports visualization had existed long before Alan Richardson’s compelling experiment, yet it has not found traction as a major training technique even today.  Its inability to garner a massive following likely stems from the fact that it feels so strange.  Indeed visualizing a sport seems so anti-sport.  The wandering mind is oftentimes the enemy of adept physical athletic performance, i.e. “paralysis by over-analysis” or “beware the left brained!”  But visualization is not meant to replace physical training, it’s meant to supplement the physical to improve even faster.

Seeing the Future

The benefits of visualization are becoming clearer as more star athletes hints that visualization plays a role in their successes.  From Tiger Woods to Michael Johnson to English Footballer Wayne Rooney each have utilized visualization to great benefit. David Winner’s biographical article on Rooney uncovers the Man U star’s devout dedication to pre-match visualization, down to the very minutest detail:

“Part of my preparation is I go and ask the kit man what color we’re wearing — if it’s red top, white shorts, white socks or black socks,” he says. “Then I lie in bed the night before the game and visualize myself scoring goals or doing well. You’re trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself, to have a ‘memory’ before the game. I don’t know if you’d call it visualizing or dreaming, but I’ve always done it, my whole life…when you get older and you’re playing professionally, you realize it’s important for your preparation — and you need to visualize realistic things that are going to happen in a game.”

Did he envision this??

You visualize a multitude of possible situations that could occur and plan appropriate responses to each of them.  You’re not reacting once you get to the game because you’ve already played the game.

Believe to Achieve

What we can take away from the foul shot experiment and Wayne Rooney is that your brain is the starting point for physical prowess.  Muscle memory and physical execution are crucial to sports and training, but they both begin with neurological firing.  But to effectively train your mind in this way you have to believe it.  Details are crucial.  You’ve got to reinvigorate your childhood imagination to make it work.  You need to see the vivid colors of the arena around you.  You need to feel the cool breeze against your skin as you line up for a shot.  You need to hear the sand crackle under your cleat.  You need to feel the tacky grip of the ball in your hand.  Close your eyes and feel your body bending its knees, coiling like a snake at the ready, and launching into beautiful action.  Don’t let this resource lie dormant — reach your potential.

The GoalOp Team — GoalOp.com

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What can Edgar Dale tell you about Coaching?

Edgar Dale was a Professor of Education at the Ohio State University in the early 20th century.  He is most well-known for his concept called The Cone of Experience which explains how people can learn most efficiently.  Sadly there are also numerous reproductions that take his findings adding arbitrary percentages to their graphs and misattribute them to Dr. Dale.  I include both graphs below because fact-checking is not my concern when the essence of the idea is largely unchanged.

On to the Cone!

Edgar Dale’s original cone isn’t sexy but it does lay out straight forward learning situations in an easy to read diagram.  Narrowed learning potential starts at the top with verbal-only (listening to a lecture) and visual-only (reading a book) symbols.  Further down sensations overlap such as audio + visual learning (watching a film, looking at an exhibit, or watching a live event).  The top half of the cone can be described as passive learning because information is being received by the learner. Next we shift to being active learners, when we speak ourselves.  This could involve a class discussion or giving a lecture rather than listening to one.  Being able to to teach an idea to someone else can greatly enhance our own learning.  Finally comes the most fruitful level of learning, “direct purposeful experiences”.  Here you combine what you have understood with direct experience, such as a dramatic presentation or doing the actual activity itself.

Learn by Overlapping

Disclaimer: Everyone is different.  We know some are “visual learners”, some are “auditory learners”, and some are “tactile learners”.  The relation of importance of each level to another will vary depending on the person. But if you have a situation where Player A reads for hours about the physics of basketball foul shots and Player B reads the same and then actually goes out and shoots free throws, I want Player B on the line with the game in his hands!  Below is one of the aforementioned Dale graph reproductions that offers a cleaner perspective than its original.  Even without placing much stock in the percentages, you can easily see the importance overlapping sensory learning over merely reading or hearing alone — particularly doing.

So what can Edgar Dale tell you about Coaching?

The least efficient way of coaching is to stand on the pulpit and preach to a passive audience of athletes.  Luckily for us sport is an inherently active pursuit and getting your athletes to use more than just their ears should be easy.  In fact most of the coaching tips and techniques you offer probably occur during a training session of athletic activity so that they can HEAR and DO at the same time.  What we’ve learned from Edgar Dale, though, is that the more sensory activity, the better.  So if we can get our athletes to HEAR what we’re saying, DO what we’re saying, and also TALK about what they’re doing/feeling in an active feedback, then we can get the most efficient improvement.

In between training sessions (whether they are a few days apart or merely a few hours), athletes still have the potential to improve.  Not all training is done on court/on field/in the gym.  Outside of training sessions athletes can actively discuss what occurred in the last practice and what they need to do in the upcoming ones.  This is an aspect prevalent in professional athletes whose job it is to improve in the sport, but it is severely lacking in the college/high school/recreational athlete.  We go home after a tough practice with those mistakes bugging us for a little while but by the time the next session comes that bitterness has faded away.  Or we have a great practice making strides in our game, only to take off a few days and lose the precious ground we gained.  These “rest” periods can still offer key opportunities to improve.

The next time you get ready to train, think of Edgar Dale.

goalop Team – www.goalop.com

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The Four Stages of Athletic Competence

Also known as The Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill, this theory was developed by Noel Burch in the 1970s at Gordon Training International.

It’s a framework of learning that can be applied to any learned skill, but in this case we will look at its importance in sports:


Stage One – Unconscious Incompetence

You don’t know how to perform a skill and you don’t understand what you’re doing wrong. You feel lost.

Example: A young boy has no concept of throwing or catching or lacks the physical ability to do either.

Stage Two – Conscious Incompetence

You start to understand what it takes to do the skill and consequently you realize that you are a long way away.  The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know - Socrates.

Example: The child attempts to throw and catch the ball but sees it go only a short distance or bobble out of his hands frustratingly.

Stage Three – Conscious Competence

You start to be able to do the skill correctly and successfully but it takes a great deal of concentration and focus to do so.

Example: With some teaching the child learns how to properly hold the ball and with great focus he can finally take a big wind up and launch the ball to his dad every so often. Likewise every few balls returned to him he can pluck out of the air and hold on to the catch.

Stage Four – Unconscious Competence

You finally own the skill and can do it in your sleep.  You can relax and do it, often being able to slip into the zone or let your mind wander to other things.

Example: After years of practice, the boy can have a catch with his father, launching fast balls into the glove with ease as they talk about life, never once bobbling a catch or throwing awry.

How To Use It

All of us can relate to these steps, but this system is especially important in coaching and training.  There will always be plateaus to overcome when learning a new skill.  It is the coach/athlete, personal trainer/client relationship that can help push through these obstacles.

The most important coaching will occur at Stages Two and Three because the hurdles here will be most frustrating.  Stage Two could be the time when most people give up altogether — faced with the reality that the path forward is long and arduous, we often need someone to urge us forward.  If we can make it to Stage Three we must stay ever vigilant and persistent because our raw skill is on the precipice of becoming hardwired behavior.

When the first Three Stages have been passed, when all the hard work has been logged, when the blood, sweat, and tears are a distant memory, then coach and athlete alike can sit back and bask in the glory of their shared success.

goalop Team

What is goalop?

In the 21st Century the future is online.  We check stock quotes on our phones, we pay bills on the go, we know a minute later when something happens across the world.  The speed and expansion of information is incredible.

Despite all this speed, one area that is still painfully slow is sports.  Of course we can access sport scores in a second, but what about playing sports, training in the gym, coaching a team?  These practices have been largely unchanged for decades.

Coaching is communication.  Training makes improvement.  Success is reaching your potential.

These things don’t have a “time off” — you can work on them 24/7 too.

This is where we come in….

goalop is an idea inspired by NCAA Division I athletes who realized that there is a major void in the coach/athlete, personal trainer/client relationship.  During a training session, many techniques are touched on and many goals are set, but when the session is over these may lie dormant until the next session — days or weeks later.  Why wouldn’t you want to improve as fast as you can??

goalop will provide an online platform for coaches and athletes, personal trainers and individuals to collaborate outside of the training session to make the most rapid progress.  Whether you are training for a pro-tryout, an NCAA championship, a high school tournament, or just personally to get in better shape you can benefit from GoalOp.

goalop will be a revolutionary platform where coaches, fitness trainers, and athletes connect and train online

Join us!

www.goalop.com

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