The act of coaching or cornering in BJJ is certainly a developed skill. Experience over time will aid you in your understanding of the situation from both the athlete and coaching perspective though to me, the most crucial aspect is your own composure and regulation of emotions.
Trust me, your athlete desperately wants to execute the actions you are asking them to perform, however they may not feel the timing or the situation is correct. We give educated suggestions from the outside, though ultimately it is up to the athlete to make good decisions in the heat of the moment. Easier said than done.
If the coach escalates their emotions drastically when giving instruction, the athlete will instinctually escalate their own emotion, giving an urgent yet imprecise response, leading to a poor decision or at the very least, an unnecessary energy commitment in that moment. This can be true for advantageous or disadvantageous position alike.
With the crowd already screaming and you now screaming at the athlete to finish the sub, escape the sub, stand up, get out, sweep etc. It can be an absolute pressure cooker for an already stressed athlete.
Small pieces of advice with a consistent tone, relevant to techniques you know that your athlete has the ability to perform as well as knowledge and understanding of, can be crucial in aiding them to calmly execute that escape, or safely finish the submission.
Spending time with the athlete in the training room, being observant and present in the role of developing these techniques and truly understanding their over all game is where this coach-athlete connection begins. The competition arena is an extension of this relationship.
Being concise, calm and consistent regardless of situation or scenario and without telegraphing intentions to the opponent should be the over all goal for instruction.
When coaching and cornering BJJ competitors, we always want to see the best for our students.
Very commonly we see both men and women enter an academy for the very first time and begin to grow and learn within the sport, come out of their shell, and really become a part of the team. When the wheel turns, a true aspiration for progression through the ranks and revelations about opportunity for personal growth starts to occur. Whether it’s overcoming fear, facing down ego, equipping themselves with life skills or developing confidence, these are the common traits that define the journey in martial arts and as a coach; The best things that we can hope to provide anyone who walks through those doors.
From there, a little communication goes a long way. It also goes BOTH ways!
I always ask students to please come to me and talk about what their goals are, how I can better provide them with what they are looking for and how we can work together and progress. In turn, I make it known that I am always watching, always invested, and always motivated to be a meaningful source of knowledge for them in their journey.
I have certainly made mistakes in the past by misaligning my own goals for an athlete with their own personal goals for development. I’ve graded too quickly, held others back, misunderstood a student’s intentions and failed to make applicable changes. Therefore, making yourself approachable is an absolute must, and for the students: make sure that the coach has all of the information they need in order to understand who you are and how to best help you.
In time, a coach has the chance to reflect on mistakes and make strides to better their own processes. Of course, we can not cater to everyone and we still must stay true to what we have learned about the most beneficial processes for teaching/learning that we have gained through experience over years in the art. So, when a student decides to move or change academies, it’s not a personal slight, more so an inevitable and necessary part of the process for both of you.
Cross training and exposing the students to many different styles and teaching ideologies is also an absolute must, as well as having a strong team focus with everyone contributing equally to each other’s progression. These values will be held above all as there will be few who reach the elite ranks, but many who aid them to get there, so an understanding that we are all as valued as each other, really makes a difference when it comes to the trust we place in our peers.
I certainly cherish the time I spend in a supporting role, and I take very seriously the responsibility of having others progression in my hands. I am thankful that they allow me to aid them, and that is all I need to keep my mind seeking the most up to date and relevant information possible to provide equally as relevant guidance and advice.
At the end of the day, it’s also about being there, every day, in the Academy, showing up for the students. That level of consistency and dedication in my mind is the base level respect you must show to the position of coach if you endeavour to be one. From there, we can begin. From there we can truly understand who our students are and give them actual meaningful and specific advice. If we are not there, then we do not know, and we are only able to scratch the surface of the level of support that we are meant to give when coaching and cornering BJJ students.
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