PE Teacher Training with Youth S&C Specialism


Physical Education Teacher Training with Youth Strength & Conditioning Specialism

Course duration: 2 years Full Time
Contract: 0.4

St. Peter’s R.C. High School is very excited to launch a new Physical Education teacher training programme that offers the opportunity to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) via School Direct along with developing a specialist skill set in Youth Strength & Conditioning.

The course is completed over 2 years with elements to prepare you fully for a career in education.
Throughout the course you will be required to perform the following roles:

• Teaching Assistant (paid 0.4 contract)
• Pastoral support
• Youth S&C coach within the Elite Performance Pathway
• Core PE lessons
• Extra-curricular fixtures and coaching



• Promote the safeguarding and welfare of children with whom you come into contact.
• Maintain regular consistent and professional attendance, punctuality, personal appearance, and adherence to relevant Health & Safety procedures.
• Attend all relevant department and whole school staff meetings
• Contributing to the development of resources and curriculum in the above areas
• Pursue personal development of skills and knowledge necessary for the effective performance of the role.
• Develop and maintain a good working relationship with the staff, pupils and other guests.
• Carry out any other duties which may reasonably be requested of you by the Head of PE.

Academic/Teaching Practice

• Perform the role of Teaching Assistant providing support to classroom teachers and pupils across a range of subjects.
• Delivery of core physical education lessons across key stages 3 and 4.
• Delivery of youth strength & conditioning through the Elite Performance Pathway across key stages 3, 4 and 5
• Support with the delivery of extra-curricular clubs and fixtures including some evenings and weekends.


• Provide support to an assigned Head of Year and their Year Group
• Cover for absent staff

Person Specification

• Have a genuine interest in a career in Physical Education and a desire to work with youth athletes.
• Willing to embrace all the responsibilities that come with being a teacher, in academic, pastoral and extra-curricular activities.
• Undergraduate degree in Strength & Conditioning/Sport and Exercise Science or related field.
• Coaching experience preferably within S&C and various sports with youth athletes
• Graduate qualifications in Sports Science, Strength and Conditioning Qualifications.
• Sound knowledge of S&C principles and methods of training (including
Speed, Agility, Strength training, Olympic lifting)
• Ability to work in a team sport environment, controlling and disciplining large groups.
• Excellent ability to communicate with, and develop, young people and other members of staff
• Willingness to learn and develop as an S&C coach and Physical Educator
• Desire to complete UKSCA accreditation
• Computer literacy, including MS office, especially Excel


To apply: Please download the following form: PE and S&C Teacher Training Application Form and send it with a covering letter explaining why you are suitable for the course to James Baker on –

Start date: November 2016

Closing date for applications: Thursday 20th October 2016

Interviews: Week commencing 31st October 2016

Historic Performance Podcast #62 – James Baker

This past week Proformance S&C’s James Baker was interviewed on the Historic Performance Podcast with James Darley about his work in Youth Athletic Development at St. Peter’s R.C. High School in Gloucester, England.

At the school he has created and integrated a long term athlete development system – the Elite Performance Pathway (EPP) – into the state school Physical Education curriculum.

The EPP is a unique program that has re-defined what can be offered by state secondary schools. Athletes are provided with high quality strength and conditioning, hands-on nutrition lessons, applied psychological preparation workshops, lifestyle and injury management.

In this episode, James talks about the EPP philosophy, performance testing for development stage athletes ranging from 14 to 16 years of age, and annual strength & conditioning planning.

Overview of Podcast Episode

Here is a brief outline of what they covered in the show –

  • James’s Background + S&C Journey
  • Creating the EPP program at St. Peter’s R.C. High School
  • The EPP Philosophy
  • Annual planning and structure for development athletes (14-16 years)
  • Performance testing & evolution of the process
  • Data collection to validate programs
  • Future of PE in England
  • Recommendations of PE Teachers + S&C coaches wanting to work with high school athletes
  • How to contact?

You can listen to the full episode of the podcast here and if you have an interest in learning more about training young athletes you may also want to check out the online video series from the 2016 Child To Champion LTAD Conference.



Weights vs Skills Debate

Weights vs Skills Debate

In case you missed it the other evening on BT Sport’s Rugby Tonight Austin Healey set about putting the S&C industry back 20 years when he decided to proclaim a number of the old ‘myths’ about weight training and young athletes were true facts. Stating on national TV they shouldn’t be lifting weights before they are 17 and that it would damage them and stunt their growth! You can check the clip out on Twitter here. Since then the debate has raged on about whether young players should focus on weights or skills as a priority.

Now whilst the educated viewer will know research has shown that resistance training is both safe and beneficial for young athletes, the danger now is that less aware parents and their kids who would directly benefit from resistance training, may now be put off the idea of engaging in a structured S&C programme as a perceived Rugby expert and role model has made these statements (Healey being a former England International and British Lion).

It was interesting to see the reaction on social media with a strong S&C community on Twitter. There was a backlash with many coaches pointing him in the direction of the many documents of recent research, and many high profile coaches stepping forward to try and rectify his views, but he seems fairly set on his beliefs and is unwilling to be educated on the area. We have even extended and invitation to him for the Child To Champion conference early next month, but we’re yet to receive his RSVP…

After my initial outrage settled down, I started to consider his point of view and whilst completely misguided and ignorant in terms of the ‘facts’ he presenting regarding the safety of weight training, don’t shoot me, but I think in there somewhere there may actually be some good messages or reminders in there that we can take away.

Having worked with a lot of young rugby players over the last 8 years, I think I do understand where he is coming from. With older athletes in the 16-18 range, that haven’t come up through a structured LTAD system, I’ve had to do a lot of work to undo pre-conceived ideas about training that are heavily biased towards upper body pushing exercises and bicep curls, which Austin mentioned, in the pursuit of increased muscle mass. Many of them completely ignore glaringly obvious deficits in their technical-tactical skill set or other physical capacities (e.g. speed, agility, cardiovascular endurance).

However, rather than remove weights from their development our job as technical and/or S&C coaches is to educate them in how to train effectively, guide and motivate them towards further developing strengths and addressing their weaknesses wherever they lie.

Here are some key things I think we need to consider:

1) We must pursue balance and address the needs of the individual athlete

It is important to keep balance in our programmes and ensure the technical, tactical and mental aspects are developed as well as the physical elements. For me it isn’t an either/or situation for physical preparation and Rugby specific skill training, it is both. To get the balance right we must consider the individual needs of the athlete. I can think of some phenomenally skilful players at our school that lack the physical presence to dominate the contact situation. Likewise, I can think of some monster strong kids who can’t catch a cold and just run straight into contact. We aren’t going to train them the same way.

As athletic development coaches I think we can take some responsibility for helping to developing higher level manipulation skills by incorporating challenging tasks with smaller objects (e.g. tennis balls, golf balls) to warm ups or expose them to a completely different sport skills with some skills that could transfer to Rugby, in some of my sessions recently with I’ve done 5 minutes in a warm up dribbling and passing a basketball with both hands, which has been a big challenge for some players. The athletes were switched on, concentrating and engaged from the off and we had a great S&C session after.

2) Weight training is only ONE of many tools

Weight training is only one of many tools that should be in the S&C coaches tool box, and we must understand why we are using it with a specific athlete. For me it’s about producing more robust players, that can produce high levels of force relative to their body weight.

However, there is also a lot of training that can/should come before we begin traditional weight training with dumbbells and barbells. As well as a lot of different training that needs to be done to complement it (see point 3). With a lot of our young athletes on the Elite Performance Pathway we spend a considerable chunk of time up to 1-2 years developing strength and grooving the fundamental movement patterns against their bodyweight then low/soft load resistance (e.g. bands, powerbags) in a wide range of progressive movements across the squat/lunge/push/pull/hinge/brace categories before getting into any significantly loaded traditional weight training exercises.

3) Develop a broad range of sports generic movement skills

“Sport is movement, if we improve movement, we improve performance” Ian Jeffreys

In addition, to the basic movements, it is important that we teach/coach young athletes a broad range of sport generic movements through effective movement training in addition to resistance training so they can safely and effectively accelerate, decelerate, cut, spin, jump, land, leap, hop and throw at a range of speeds, in all planes of movement.

If we do a great job of developing these movement patterns in progressively challenging and specific situations (e.g. closed -> open -> reactive/CHAOS) as well as enhancing the force producing/reducing and energy system capacities of the athlete we can see significant improvements in a players ability to exploit and use space on the pitch, rather than taking route one into contact all the time.

Movement training in open & reactive scenarios for me is vitally important for several of reasons. First, it provides a highly engaging and challenging environment that young athletes really enjoy. Secondly, it allows us to develop the perceptual-cognitive component of agility by challenging decision making and familiarising the athlete with common movement patterns they may need to read quickly/anticipate in defence and execute swiftly in attack.

Certainly, the feedback we’ve had from our Rugby coaches at the school is that the boys who have been involved in this combined approach of strength development and movement training over the last couple of years have significantly improved their performance on the pitch.

In summary, I think it is vital we keep our eye on the big picture and not become to obsessed/biased towards any one type of training. In my opinion we need to be developing players who can efficiently and effectively produce high levels of force using appropriate means for their stage of development, and then ensuring they are capable of utilising it in a broad range of movement patterns at varying speed. Crucially this shouldn’t be developed at the expense of technical and tactical skills rather a solid working relationship with open communication channels should be established between the Rugby coach and the S&C/Athletic Development coach to ensure a rounded development of the individual player into a highly skilled and physical, elusive runner.

If you are interested in learning more about Long Term Athlete Development you can join a host of practitioners from across the developmental continuum at Child To Champion on April 9th & 10th 2016 in Gloucester.

Hip Hinge Teaching Progressions

Hip Hinge Teaching Progressions


Over the last few months I’ve been working with two new groups of athletes within the Elite Performance Pathway at St. Peter’s R.C. High School.

The athletes are all 11-12 years old and there are 15 athletes in one group and 19 in the other which presents logistical challenges when trying to coach and teach them all new movements.

Over the first two half terms we focused on developing Squat, Lunge, Push, Pull and Brace movements and recently we began learning the Hinge.

The first couple of lessons were pretty unproductive with the athletes really struggling to grasp the movement and with such high numbers in the group and only me in there to make adjustments I decided to start playing with some different progressions using an external constraint in the form of a resistance band to help the get a feel for the correct movement.

Having now completed a few sessions using the bands the athletes have progressed much further in terms of nailing this movement down. We’ve also added in a wooden broomstick held across the shoulders (back squat position) to reinforce a retracted shoulder position throughout the hinge.

If you are interested in joining in with more discussions around LTAD check out the upcoming Child To Champion conference.



3 BIG reasons why our early LTAD programmes, didn’t make it to the long term!

3 BIG reasons why our early long term athlete development programmes, didn’t make it to the long term!


Long Term Athlete Development is a phrase we hear a lot now.

It’s certainly a phrase I’ve used a lot for the past 8 years, but when I really reflect on the early days of running what we were calling LTAD/Youth S&C programmes, they didn’t make it to the point where they could really be called long term, for a number of reasons.

#1 People didn’t understand S&C / LTAD programmes

People were less aware of S&C back in 2008, what the high level/elite guys were doing was not as visible on social media platforms and there were less people engaged in strength and conditioning. When it came to working with younger athletes I much more frequently encountered the traditional ‘myths’ from concerned parents – “Isn’t that dangerous?” and “Will it stunt their growth?. At times we simply did not get the parental buy-in required to convince them to invest in a long-term programme, so our contact with the athlete may only have been 8 to 10 weeks, limiting the progress that could be made.

#2 Competition with sport-specific training schedules

Getting a regular time slot with a talented athlete in their weekday evenings can be nearly impossible, especially when they perceive their sports-specific training to be the be all and end all of their development.

That evening time slot between 4-7pm was chaotic for most of the teenage boys and girls – it could be any of the following that would need to be negotiated around: schools clubs and fixtures, local clubs and fixtures and representative (e.g. district/county/regional) training and fixtures.

As much as I tried and educate parents and athletes of the value or S&C as well as rest and recovery the pressure to be involved in all the training sessions and games was huge from all the different parties.

The result was less consistency on the physical development process, less progress, working around a great number of injuries or having athletes arriving completely fried at sessions limiting what we could do.

3# I got it wrong!

Something I’ve learnt from my time teaching at school, is that sometimes when something goes wrong in a lesson it can quite often be down to you NOT the pupil or athlete.

When I look back at my involvement in these LTAD programmes and the battle to engage athletes and parents for the long haul, I’m certain I got it wrong, not them. Even though at the time I was couldn’t understand why they didn’t want to train.
The bottom line is, whilst my programmes were effective they didn’t do a lot to excite or enthuse the younger athlete or I hadn’t done a good enough job of helping athletes to understand what we were going to do; why we were doing it, how it was relevant to them and how it was going to help them.

Fortunately, I learnt from my mistakes and I’ve now managed to build a much more successful LTAD programme. So what did I change?

Painting the BIG picture

I began taking more time to educate the athletes and engage with the parents to explain the different stages of our LTAD systems and the relevance of the different aspects of the programme, in a way they could understand and relate to has been a big step forward in improving engagement in our programme. We also tailor our focus points to the recipient of the message.

Rather than talking to kids about the long-term health of their spine as they maintain their neutral spine, I save that conversation for the parents to explain why it’s safe for their daughter to be squatting more than her Dad. Also, we always relate back to the big picture of where similar movements/positions occur in their sports and how the exercise will help them perform better.

Another important part of the big picture is understanding what I call Point B. For each key physical variable – strength, power, speed and agility we paint a clear picture of where they need to get to and what they need to do to get there.

Introducing A Games Based Approach

For me there’s an art to making sessions ‘fun’ and ensuring it’s still achieving some of your important outcomes. What I’ve come to appreciate over the years is that whilst I love pure S&C and getting super geeky about the technical intricacies of squatting, cleaning and snatching, kids often do not!

What I have introduced over the last few years is a game based element to my programmes (especially with the youngest groups) around a foundation of strength work. For example, this week alone our athletes have played tag games, speed games, chase games, relay races and even tackled this Ninja Warrior course:

Whilst on face value it may appear that we are just having fun, the games/play elements are selected because they challenge certain movement patterns in an open environment or a different physical or skill related quality that we aren’t getting from our foundation strength work.

The Impact

The impact of implementing these changes, along with a few others, has been huge. What it has enabled us to do is achieve a much higher level of engagement from the athletes in the programme. At the school I am based at now we have in the region of 120 athletes training regularly each week. With this greater consistency have come better results in the key physical performance elements: strength, power, speed and agility. With better results and the data to evidence it we’ve seen even further engagement and interest in the training process from athletes and their parents.

James will be presenting on his approach to ‘Building An Athletic Foundation’ at the Child to Champion: LTAD Conference on the 9th and 10th April in Gloucester. Where leaders from the field of S&C, including Dr. Mike Young, Dr. Rhodri Lloyd, Dr. Ian Jeffreys and Dr. Neill Potts, are also coming together to present tried and tested systems and training methods that have been successfully applied at all stages of the developmental continuum from primary school right through to the elite international level. Find out more here!



The Impact of S&C In Schools – An Athlete Case Study

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The Impact of S&C In Schools – An Athlete Case Study

There is no doubt in my mind that all schools should be working towards implementing a long term athlete development pathway. In schools, we have the more time than anyone to be able to positively impact up on young athletes.

We are at a point in time where the physical capabilities of young people are much lower than they used to be in a large number of cases.

Whilst many are actively playing in sport and developing sport specific skills, most are not being exposed to high quality movement training that enables them to develop a high level of athleticism to support their technical tactical development.

The Elite Performance Pathway

We have just completed the second academic year where we have delivered an in-curriculum Strength & Conditioning programme at Key Stage 4 (14-16 years old – Year 10 & Year 11).

Athletes on the programme receive 5 hours support across a two week timetable and are exposed to high quality training. We have developed a curriculum / pathway that covers movement preparation, strength training, jump/plyometric training, linear acceleration and top end speed, change of direction speed, agility and energy system development. In addition, they have completed psychological preparation workshops.

What the time in the school timetable provides is an incredible level of consistency, they have to turn up like they do to English & Maths. So what we’ve got is consistency beyond which I’ve ever been able to achieve with young athletes before.

When working as an external coach in schools previously, attendance at after school sessions was always variable due to other commitments in the evening, issues with travel getting to & from the sessions and clashes with sport specific training/fixtures.

The Impact

So people can understand the positive impact this type of programme can have I have included a real athlete profile of one of our 15 year old Rugby Players from this academic year.

Pre-training (Sept 2014)

Weight 64.1kg
10m Sprint – 1.96sec
Squat 10RM – 30kg
Bench 10RM – 30kg

Squat Jump* 35.8cm
Countermovement Jump* 47cm
Depth Jump (12″)* 39.4cm

*March 2015 measured with a Jump Mat

Post-training (July 2015)

Weight 64.5kg
10m Sprint – 1.81sec (-0.14sec)
Squat 10RM – 90kg (+60kg)
Bench 10RM – 65kg (+35kg)

Squat Jump 47cm (+11cm)
Counter Movement Jump 51.3cm (+4.3cm)
Depth Jump (12″) 46.7cm (+7.3cm)

There is still a long way to go with this athlete but what we have managed to put in place over the last 10 months is a foundation of strength to build up on over the next couple of years he is with us on the programme.

Another exciting development is that we are moving towards having a similar amount of time in the timetable at Key Stage 3 from September. We have been worked with an 11-14 year olds already but with much less time and consistency due to it being an extra-curricular session but we are really excited to see what the next academic year brings.

You can check out a more detailed insight to our school based LTAD system here with the full article featured in the UKSCA’s Professional Strength and Conditioning Journal.

Interested in joining other coaches to discuss LTAD? Check out the upcoming conference Child To Champion where a wide range of practitioners are coming together to present from different stages of the developmental continuum.

2 Lower Body Strength Exercises for Young Athletes

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2 Lower Body Strength Exercises for Young Athletes

We’ve been working hard with lots of junior athletes on the Elite Performance Pathway this year and I’ve been reflecting on things I’ve done this year that have been particularly effective with the age group when it comes to improving strength.

Enhancing the force producing capabilities of our young athletes is a big priority in the Athletic Foundation (Year 7 & 8) phase of our LTAD system. Below are two exercises that are becoming common place in this phase as the athletes learn to train to get stronger:

The Bottom Up Split Squat

Bottom Up Split Squat

In my experience lots of young athletes struggle to get in to and maintain the correct start position when learning the Split Squat, even under just their own body weight due to various issues including poor stability. I’ve found that starting them in the bottom position of the split squat and making them work up from there a more effective way of teaching them this particular exercise.

Starting in the bottom position allows you to establish a solid, stable base before they lift themselves up to initiate the movement. It’s much easier for them to adjust their foot position whilst in the kneeling lunge position, as they won’t lose their balance.

I’ve also been getting them to execute it with their arms overhead, which fixes the common problem of the torso falling forward. As they get stronger you can provide some additional resistance from a medicine ball in the overhead position or at chest height.

The Kettlebell Deadlift


At the minute this is probably my favourite exercise to introduce to young athletes to lower body strength training after they’ve done some body weight squatting. It strengthens the posterior chain and is great to teach them how to get into and hold an extended spine position, which is particularly useful for those athletes that ‘fold’ over when performing any kind of body weight squat.

They can also start to get stronger in this lift even with a limited ROM in their squat, and means we can start to safely enhance their lower body force producing capabilities at the same time as addressing problem areas in their flexibility and mobility.

For those struggling to learn the movement, or struggling to get into the correct start position. I’ve been raising the Kettlebell on a 15 or 20kg bumper plate to make sure they are starting with the spine in a neutral position. Alternatively, starting from standing at the top of the lift (opposite to the Bottom up Split Squat) and working down to where they are able to maintain the neutral trunk position, gradually increasing depth over reps/sets/sessions as improve ROM becomes available.


Both exercises set us up nicely to introduce more advanced variations of the exercises in subsequent blocks/phases of training as the movement pattern is already in place with the athlete. Example exercise progressions for each exercise are:

Bottom Up Split Squat -> MB Split Squat -> DB Split Squat -> Barbell Split Squat

Kettlbell Deadlift -> Kettlebell Swing -> Trap Bar Deadlift -> Traditional Deadlift

If you are interested in learning more about best practises to develop strength, power, speed and agility for athletes across the developmental continuum, join us for #ChildToChampion in Gloucester in April.


Elite Performance Pathway Open Evening 15/04/2015

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Elite Performance Pathway Open Evening

Venue: Sports Pavilion, St. Peter’s High R.C. High School, Stroud Road, Gloucester, GL4 0DD.
Date: 15/04/2015
Time: 6.30pm – 8.30pm

We are running an open evening for the Elite Performance Pathway for current athletes and their parents to attend to review the progress of the programme and to outline the recent developments within the programme.

The evening is also for prospective parents and their sons/daughters that are interested in joining the Elite Performance Pathway to find out what is available to athletes who join the programme.

There will be a presentation on the structure of the programme and a chance to observe a live session with our Key Stage 4 athletes. The athletes and coaches will also be available after to chat to.

Schedule for the evening:

6.30-7.00pm Presentation for Existing Parents
7.00-7.15pm Tea & Coffee
7.15pm-8.00pm Observation of a Key Stage for EPP session
8.00-8.30pm Presentation for Prospective Parents

This is an open event, so you are welcome to bring friends and family members from around the city to come and see what is on offer from the programme.

If you are planning to attend the event please register with us below.

Open Evening

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Movement Is Your Weapon


Movement is your Weapon

When you step on to the field of play your sport specific skills and your movement skills are your weapons to defend and attack against the opposition. Do you want to go to war with one weapon or an array of different weapons with different functions that are fit for different purposes? Carlin Isles (USA Rugby 7’s) is a man with an abundance of movement skills at his disposal (and ridiculous pace to boot!) that he can call up on and utilise to suit different scenarios such as the one in the video above.

A lot of young people I have worked with have spent many years practising and honing their sport specific skills but few have been exposed to really high quality movement training. When they arrive with us they often do not have a broad selection of movement skills to utilise. Many favour one or two specific movements often to a favoured side of the body making them more predictable.

Building the arsenal

U.S. Army soldiers and its M2A2 Bradley fighting vehicles take part in the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise against possible attacks by North Korea, at a shooting range near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju

As a coach it’s important to develop a knowledge of all the basic movement patterns that an athlete will need in their tool box, and then systematically work through them teaching the athlete the correct way to execute them.

I’m a big fan of Ian Jeffreys’ 3 categories of target movements for developing locomotive agility:

INITIATION MOVEMENTS – i.e. starting or changing direction 

Example movements include the hip turn, drop step, speed cut, power/sharp cut, directional step, acceleration pattern.

TRANSITION MOVEMENTS – i.e. waiting to react, in motion or deceleration

Example movements include the athletic positions (static & dynamic), jockeying, controlled running, side shuffle, back pedal, plant/chop to athletic position (deceleration)

ACTUALISATION MOVEMENTS – i.e. acceleration, max speed or curved running

I want my athletes to be able to perform all of these movements effectively. This would initially be under closed conditions then progressing to patterned closed conditions before challenging them under progressively more random, open and reactive situations that mirror the demands, patterns and stimuli they will have to react to in their sports.

“Position, Pattern, Power”

ebarc-main-pyramid-113012An athlete’s ability to execute each agility movement properly is not only down to their knowledge and understanding of the movement their problems/errors/faults could be caused by a number of different factors in the same way that their linear running mechanics can be effected.

Listening to Nick Winkelman of EXOS at the UKSCA conference he shared various elements of the EXOS system, one of which was – Position, Pattern, Power.

This is a great way of looking at the key factors that will impact on the execution of a movement.

  1. Does the athlete have the flexibility, mobility and stability to get into the optimal position to execute the movement skill effectively?
  2. Does the athlete have the co-ordination to produce the optimal technique for each movement consistently?
  3. Does the athlete have the strength and power qualities to produce and reduce force in a manner than allows them to accelerate, decelerate and re-accelerate effectively?

It could be any combination of these factors holding them back and with a comprehensive athlete profiling system in place you should be able to identify the areas that need to be addressed.

Find the Challenge Point

In my experience as we progress the complexity of speed and agility tasks (closed > patterned > open > reactive) there comes a point for each athlete where their execution of the skill will break down as the task is beyond their current capabilities. We do not want to reinforce bad movement patterns so we need to find the point at which they are being optimally challenged.

At the optimal point you will most likely see a mixture of success and failure, with the execution of the movement appearing inconsistent, sometimes great other times not so. It is tempting when you see the inconsistencies to try and intervene all the time and provide feedback. I’ve definitely been guilty of over coaching and overloading the athletes with too much information in the past and I now limit the detail and frequency of feedback, with a preference toward external cueing of movements and allowing athletes to have a go without me interrupting!

Optimising Learning through Language

What we say as coaches and how we instruct has been shown through research to effect how well  people learn and retain movement skills.

External cues have been shown to be more effective in helping athletes learn motor skills than internal focused cues.

External cues take the direct the athletes attention away from specific body positions, preventing paralysis by over analysis of their own movement and position/co-ordination of limbs.

Here’s an example of the differences for teaching the Athletic Position (credit to Lee Taft for some of these – if you’ve not checked out his DVDs you should!)


“Get in the tunnel” or “Imagine you’re in a room with a very low ceiling”“Bend at your ankles, knees and hips”
“I should be able to slide my credit card under your heels”“Weight on forefoot, heels slightly raised off the floor”
“Show me the logo on your t shirt”“Back straight, chest up, spine in neutral”
“Get your feet on the train tracks”“Feet between hip and shoulder width”


When selecting the external cues that you utilize it’s important to consider your audience, for example if you are using analogies then make sure they are relevant. If you want to learn more about external cueing I’d recommend checking out this book – Attention and Motor Skill Learning by Gabriele Wulf it’s not cheap but definitely worth the investment.

To help coaches further develop their knowledge and ability to deliver high quality agility training we are also running a speed, agility and change of direction clinic with Nick Grantham on Sunday Feb 22nd 2015. 

In this practical 0.5-day clinic Nick will explore key topics in speed, agility and change of direction training, including: The difference between agility and change of direction, the sub-qualities of speed, physical preparation strategies for speed, agility and change of direction, programmed and random decision making agility training and CHAOS training.

This is an essential workshop for all students of strength and conditioning or exercise science, as well as any coach or trainer working with to improve their athletes speed, agility and change of direction.