Coaching cues are vital to the education of athletes. I feel that coach and educator go hand in hand. It is impossible to be a successful coach without utilizing the fundamental tools of education. What are the two most powerful educational tools an individual can use to teach a task? The answer is visual and verbal, the two "V's" of education. Demonstration is important because it allows the athlete to visualize what you are asking them to do. The next educational tool you MUST utilize is verbal cues. Verbal cues allow you to provide instruction or adjustments while the athlete is performing the task. I am a strong believer in the saying "Learn by doing" so I always like to have an athlete try and perform the task before I give any instruction. This allows me time to assess their performance through observation. After my observation then I give the athlete verbal instruction.
The backpedal is one of my favorite multi directional movements to teach. The backpedal is a movement that holds a great deal of importance because it can be used a strength training tool or a sport specific tool. Wait...strength training tool? Sled pulls and partner resisted back pedals are great for developing the lower body musculature and core. I love the adaptation that occurs because I believe it isolates the quads in a different manner. It is similar to a loaded backward lunge but more dynamic, which is always a benefit.
Backpedal Coaching Cues
1. Arm Action- Work the arms in opposition of your leg extensions. This may feel strange at first but it will make the movement more fluid and also set you up properly for a linear sprint. Arms are 20 percent of your total speed capacity.
2. Torso Angle- When backpedaling the shoulders should be directly over the knees. This will improve your speed because you are aligning your COG in the correct position for optimal performance. A great "test" for torso angle, is to have your athletes perform a backpedal-sprint drill. If they fall backwards when changing direction into their sprint, they are not maintaining the correct torso angle.
3. Base of Support- The feet should be hip width apart. An athletic base will allow the athlete to utilize the commonly overlooked power of leverage to make different athletic movements. A great teaching tool is to tell your athletes to pretend that they are shooting a jump shot. When you tell them to look down at their feet, they will be hip width apart.
4. Eyes up- The eyes are everything. The position of the head has a lot to do with postural control. If you have poor posture you will lack in balance and motor control. Correct upper body posture accounts for optimal pelvic stability.
5. Push- I tell my athletes to "push" the floor away from them. To perform the push correctly, full leg extension should occur and the heel should be the last to leave the ground. If you stop an athlete and their foot is not dorsi flexed then they are not performing a complete push. This cue can be the most difficult to teach and for the athlete to comprehend. Repetition is key.
Finally, when using coaching cues it is important not to use too many every repetition. If you use a number of cues every rep, the athlete will be in information overload and have a difficult time comprehending what you are asking them to do.