The best pro in the sport taught me wrong!

Often the best athletes in a sport don’t make the best coaches. I was reading the book Blink the other day and it talked about Andre Aggassi’s advice on how he puts so much top spin on the ball. When explaining it to his coach and other coaches he stated that by turning his wrist over as he hit the ball it gave him the top spin. Well the coaches believed this (after all Andre was one of the best players in the world) and started teaching their students this. Well, an interesting thing happened, there was a huge rise in wrist injuries among young tennis players. After careful motion analysis the coaches saw that Andre’s wrist never moved, the “top the ball motion” was actually generated at his shoulder not his wrist.

Reading this reminded me of all the movements in riding that I now explain quite differently than I did 5-10 years ago. The skill hasn’t changed but after years of study I realized that I was often explaining the outcome of doing it correctly but not the actual fundamental skill. Effective coaching involves breaking skills down and being able to explain them to a diverse group of people. One of the best aspects of my job is after 20 years of coaching I am still learning how to explain skills better. The learning of skills continues too, after 11 years of coaching mountain biking I am still learning a lot of little details on how to do skills better/easier/with less effort.

The moral of the story, don’t believe everything you hear, even it comes from an “expert”.

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3 replies
  1. Jeremey says:

    Yeah, I agree. Most people, even experts tell you to pull up/back to do a manual. I have only seen one explanation that said to push the bike away was a better way of thinking of the motion, wow what a difference. I almost looped out because it was so much easier.

    But don’t believe me go out and do it ;)

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  2. Marcus says:

    This is one of the things that’s so difficult about teaching snowboarding, I’m sure you know about that too!! There’s a lot of things people do when riding that they have NO idea how they do it or how it works. When they attempt to break it down they come up with what seems like a decent explanation, but usually is wrong. Gene you have the gift for explanation, one of the reasons you’re such a great teacher. This weekend I did a 6 hour race and told myself repeatedly – be smooth over the fast line, not fast over the smooth line. Passed a lot of people. Cheers!

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