In skill development it is necessary for a coach to first develop their “eye,” which is the ability to look at a player’s performance and know right away what’s proper and what’s improper. Once you have an “eye” for what works, it’s fairly easy to then identify the faults. You’ll see what’s different or what’s missing from the player’s behavior and can then move to correct. The next step is to identify the reason(s) for the faults (what’s causing them to make the error). Is it lack of strength? Lack of experience? Lack of effort or focus? A lack of repetitions? Once these questions are answered, a coach must then devise a plan to correct the fault. This plan isn’t just one drill (or action), but a progression of drills (or a series of actions) geared to take the player from one level to another and to another so that over time they have reached an elite level of performance.
A good first step in such a plan is to develop “action words,” which are verbal cues that elicit the correction. These cues must be words of action. They should be something that the athlete can understand and relate to. Then, provide visual feedback in the form of video of them doing the skill followed by video of experts performing the move correctly. The most difficult and important step is to get them to feel it. You have to get them to do it right so that they can feel what that’s like. In volleyball we call coaches who can do this “trainers.” Give me a player and a ball and I can use that ball to get the player to do the move I want, and I can do that over and over again until it becomes habit. Do do this requires of me a certain skill set (hitting and tossing) as well as that coaches “eye” we were just talking about.
Photo by Kevin Boyke