Why Coaching Foreign Athletes Will Make You a Better Coach


This week we have a group of strength professionals (strength coaches, personal trainers, and students) from NSCA Japan visiting us to take part in a mentorship program. As part of this program, myself and other staff members present to them in the classroom and weightroom. Many of them hardly speak any English, so they have a translator that always comes with them. Yesterday during one of my hands-on sessions I noticed something interesting….

Use Your Words Wisely

We always mention in coaching that the cues you use should be as short as possible when trying to relay our message to the athlete. We don’t need to confuse the athlete by shouting a novel over to them. At the same time, we need cues to be long enough to be understood. One word is often enough if you’ve taken the time to explain something in detail prior to a session, or if you have been working together with an athlete long enough to where you are both on the same page.

Interns, Coaching, and Cues

One of the interesting things I noted yesterday, as I was giving a hands-on presentation on weightlifting to this Japanese group, was that one of my interns was giving sentence-long cues…to a group who doesn’t really understand English. What they do understand, though, are some basic words and gestures. I believe that if you can coach a foreign athlete who speaks little of your language, you can be THAT much more effective for those athletes of your native language. Find out what those basic cues and gestures are that work for the foreign athletes and use those with your current athletes. This will help strengthen your choices in verbal and physical cues.

Next Steps

Not all of us have the opportunity to interact with foreign athletes. However, if you get the chance you should give this a quick thought; what is working better – longer or shorter cues? Which specific words are recognized and which are not? Can I just point and use hand gestures effectively?

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