Trained Eye

“At Level I (certification), they told us we would be practicing and refining the basics for the rest of our career, but the truth of it is that I and many others had approached it looking for the step-by-step instructions that made us worthy of the title “Coach.” We came for our checklists and expected to leave with a certificate. But it doesn’t work like that. Because no amount of technical know-how can substitute for a seasoned coach’s eye. That’s what I was missing at my Level II: I was aiming too low.”      – Greg Woods,  SFG II-Certified Fitness & Training Coach

It is the eye that makes the difference. The eye which is developed through hours and hours upon hours of watching and learning. The Trained Eye as we often call it. The Coach’s Eye. Something that the most effective coaches have.

Something that the most effective coaches have.

Something ineffective coaches lack.

It is the ability to watch and see the correct movement. The ability to see the incorrect movement, diagnose the problem and take the proper corrective action. The ability to recognize and analyze the patterns of a skill or game is vital to success. It is gestalt psychology put into action that often separates skill level. Mastering the necessary patterns should be the goal of any training or coaching endeavor. This is what the Trained Eye is all about.

Hitting a baseball, for example, is a skill I like to think I have a pretty decent Coach’s Eye for (see Hitting Position: The Hosmer Breakdown post). This particular eye for hitting a baseball has been a 50-year work-in-progress. I’ve been a hitter since I was old enough to lift my Carl Yastrzemski-signed 28” Louisville Slugger wood bat above my shoulder. I had great coaches, brothers, and neighborhood baseball gang to lay the foundation of growing up a hitter.

I studied hitting by watching live games and batting practices and games on the TV and by hitting. Later as a coach, I became a disciple of front hand hitting and learned from observation, videos, books, and the old standby…trial and error. To make a long story short, my eye for coaching hitters took hours and hours upon hours. (And I’m still learning!)

Football offensive and defensive line coaching was no different. Neither was strength and conditioning coaching. The Coach’s Eye was necessary to teach proper footwork, body positioning, hand placement, and leverage. Knowing what these skills look like, knowing how to teach them effectively, and knowing how to correct them, are vital to success.

I often get strange looks while coaching hitting sessions or watching games when I make a comment about how a hitter is off-balance or a defensive end loses leverage and gives up a big play. What earns strange looks from these otherwise normal human beings? In these situations, I can see the pattern when others can’t. The spatial relationships of a swing at a low, outside fastball or weaknesses in a defensive front stand out when I watch them.

As the 2016 Olympics draw near, pay attention to the judging and coaching with the world-class athletes competing in Rio. Challenge yourself to try and see the patterns. To my untrained eye, all the gymnastics routines look pretty much the same—unless somebody falls. Finding the consistent patterns in these sport movements is tough to the casual observer. The difference between a gold medal and simply being there for the post-event party in the athlete’s village is often a whisker-thin-line only noticeable by the trained eye of a coach or a judge.

Not surprisingly, the Trained Eye goes beyond the realm of sport.

In science, trained eyes make great discoveries.

In art, trained eyes produce beautiful works.

In writing, stories get “easier” to create at a higher level of quality as the development of the Writer’s Eye improves.

Just about any skill or ability to teach any skill improves with hours and hours upon hours of development of the Eye.

Find your passion and get started on your own Trained Eye.

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