Can "Withitness Skills" be applied to coaching and personal training?
Dr. Larry W. McDaniel Ed.D., Allen Jackson, M.Ed, and Dr. Laura Gaudet, Ph.D. discuss "Whititness" concepts related to physical education, classroom techniques, and how these ideas may be developed and utilized in related areas such as coaching and personal training.
Since the 1970's "withitness" has been emphasized as an important classroom and physical education management skill (Kounin, 1970). "Withit" instructors develop the ability to know what is going on in the classroom or gym and reduce misbehavior through observation skills. The purpose of this paper was to discuss how "withitness" may be used in areas other than physical education or the classroom.
How can "withitness" be used in coaching and personal training?
Coaches and personal trainers work in an environment similar to those who teach physical education. These professionals teach skills that require constant attention and feedback regarding how skill patterns are performed. In most cases, preventing misbehavior is not a primary goal; instead these professionals focus on proper technique, improved skill performance, and safety issues. For example, important "withit" skills include observation skills specific to visual search and tracking. Instructors' eyes must be constantly searching and focusing on the critical aspects of the skill. While auditory, visual, and kinesthetic processes are occurring, these individuals will be evaluating the movement and providing feedback that will improve skill performance in a safe environment.
"Withit" skills include:
When introducing new skills or relearning previously acquired skills the following "withit" techniques may be use:
For those who practice in areas of training physical skills, litigation and accountability remain a vital consideration. "Withitness" skills may not only improve skill performance, but reduce the risk of injury and liability issues. Both coaches and personal trainers teach fitness skills related to resistance training.
Withitness skills for those who work in resistance training
"Withitness" is a safety practice that involves the processes of anticipation and observation. The purpose of "withitness" is to prevent the occurrence of injuries and improve instructional techniques. One of the primary modalities of resistance training is weight training. Below is a list of "withit" techniques specific to weight training:
Do not forget the basics such as proper stance, grip, and lifting technique. Resistance training professionals emphasize proper technique by providing the following: demonstrations of the exercise, techniques to prevent injury to those performing the exercises, and tips for those who spot various exercises. Additional "withit" instructions include safety warnings, demonstrations, and tips specific to each new lift for spotters and those performing lifts.
With proper spacing, participants performing resistance training may exercise without injuring others. Coaches and trainers should check equipment and facilities at the start of each training session, during the sessions, and at the end of the session to assist in preventing accidents. Additional "withitness" skills related to weight training involve the process of observing the speed of weight and path the weight follows. Slow bar speed may indicate fatigue is prevalent and the lifter is close to failure in exercise completion. If the ends of the bar bearing the weight are uneven, the participant should stop the movement and place the weight on the floor or rack with good technique or assistance from a spotter. Then, the trainer adjusts the grip or weight and continues with the exercise.
Withitness skills for those who work in power training
Plyometric training involves the performance of skills that generate powerful muscle contractions. Before powerful contractions are initiated, a quick stretch of the muscle fibers involved should be performed. The muscle power is generated by the elasticity of the stretched muscle in its attempt to return to normal length combined with the muscle contraction of those same muscles. Some of the critical "withitness" elements related to plyometric training include the number of jumps and the height or depth of jumps. Training progressions should first utilize a level surface, then progress from low jumps to progressively higher jumps whether jumping up or down from boxes (depth jumps) or both. The impact of surfaces and the number of foot-strikes should be considered when monitoring and developing plyometric programs. Concrete surfaces provide the greatest impact; avoid performing jumps on concrete.
The coach or trainer should establish a pre-test for lower body strength utilizing the performance of 3-6 repetitions with near maximum weight and proper technique. A pretest should be completed by the coach or trainer to assist in the process of determining strength readiness for participants. Upper body plyometrics may be performed with medicine balls. "Withit" instructors begin by counting the number of throws and start the program with few repetitions, fewer sets, lighter medicine balls, and then progressively increase the intensity.
Spacing participants is a critical issue when utilizing medicine ball throws. It is important to constantly observe the spacing of participants for a safe training environment. When coaching or instructing plyometric activities, instructors should direct their focus on proper breathing, specific technique, step-wise progressions, provide feedback related to skill performance, and motivation. Again do not forget the basics such as proper stance and technique. Power training professionals emphasize proper technique by providing demonstrations of the exercise, tips to improve power skills, feedback on progress, and safety warnings.
Withitness tips for new coaches
For those just entering the professional field of coaching or training it is typical to want to teach at all times. A major component of effective teaching and leadership comes from one's ability to observe. Qualitative analysis is a key factor in recognizing inefficiencies in training technique or procedures. The purpose of developing the ability to perform systematic qualitative analyses of selected athletic performances and/or other human movement will validate the worth of instruction.
Through the acquisition of observational "withit" skills, the facilitator will become better able to detect and correct technique faults that may compromise performance and/or result in athlete injury. In addition, all professionals involved in human performance should stay current, be aware of the latest research findings pertaining to the biomechanics of selected sports. Remember, you do not have to teach all of the time to be successful. You will be surprised with the knowledge you will gain by employing well designed observations of your athletes (Hinrichs, 2006).
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About the Authors
Dr. Larry W. McDaniel Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Exercise Science at Dakota State University Madison, SD. USA. Dr. McDaniel was a First Team All-American football player (USA Football), a Hall of Fame Athlete, and Hall of Fame Wrestling Coach.
Allen Jackson, M. Ed. is an Assistant Professor of Physical Education and Health at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska (USA) who is well known for his presentations & publications at international conferences focusing on Leadership, Curriculum, and Health.
Dr. Laura Gaudet, Ph.D. is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Counselling, Psychology and Social Work at Chadron State College, Chadron NE. She is well known for her publications and presentations at international conferences focusing on various topics in the field of psychology.
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: