On Becoming Coachable
* Contributed by EGA Black Belt and Coach, Joe Pomarico
In every major combat sport, from novice to the professional level, competitors rely on a coach or series of coaches for guidance before, during, and after competition. Competitive Jiu Jitsu is no different, and having an experienced coach is a necessity which should not be overlooked. Even Gordon Ryan, who is hailed as the No-Gi G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) has John Danaher in his corner as he enters into battle on the big stage.
Prior to competition, the coach has several responsibilities including informing the competitor of the specific rule set and points system. The coach helps develop a strategy or game plan, utilizing one’s strong suits while also providing adjustments to areas in need of extra attention. Functional and live scenario drilling is incorporated into the training regimen as we look to mimic possible situations which the competitor may face in the heat of battle.
During competition, the coach serves as the controller or ‘joystick’ (as Coach Mike Palladino has been quoted) by articulating direct and detailed instructions in real time to the competitor with the goal of providing the most efficient way to victory. Other responsibilities during the competition include but are not limited to; informing the competitor of the time and score, reminding the competitor of his or her position and objective, and keeping the referee in check. After competition, both the coach and competitor can review film, with the coach offering his or her unbiased opinion, citing strengths and areas in need of improvement.
Without question, having a coach in your corner is more beneficial than not, and having the right coach will give you a competitive advantage over your opponent; it’s equivalent to having a ‘cheat code’ in some regards. It is worth nothing, however, while having an exceptional coach is a blessing, it’s only one side of the coin. Being or becoming coachable is the other.
Being coachable begins with having unwavering trust in your coach and the experience he or she brings to the table. It is necessary to remind ourselves that our coach is analyzing our training and matches from a third person perspective. Simply put, the coach can see things the competitor cannot, giving them the ability to convey the correct adjustments in real time. In a competition, it is up to the competitor to use that unwavering trust to react without hesitation…something I personally struggled with for many years. To be clear, trust was always there. My ability to react, however, has been a work in progress.
Becoming coachable also entails developing a game plan with your coach while attempting to execute it during functional training, even if it’s at the expense of losing rounds. Just like anything, practice and dedication is the foundation of success. To no surprise, the majority of my wins at brown and black belt have all come under the coaching of Mike, while my short falls have come at the expense of not having a coach or failing to execute when Mike presented opportunities.
Even as a black belt, the hardest rounds I experience in the training room have always occurred when Mike coached my training partner, regardless of their experience or belt level. My main pitch as to why one should become coachable to improve their jiu jitsu: an exceptional coach has the ability to bridge the gap between experience, skill, and belt levels.
The video below is from our last Grappling Industries competition this last August. In this video, you will see one of our dedicated students Hanami Robles execute her game plan, listening intently and reacting without hesitation to gain top control and win the match via armbar. Hanami has been putting in a tremendous amount of work the last few months, developing all aspects of her game. Her hard work paid off as she took double gold in both her gi and no gi divisions. I’ve been lucky enough to not only coach the many talented students at EGA but also shadow Coach Mike during competitions in attempts to improve my coaching, as well. Strive to be coachable as you may one day find yourself guiding others.