Planning a Coaching Session

I’ve had about 3-4 conversations in the last few weeks about planning coaching sessions so obviously that means its time for a blog! Now there are a lot of resources out in the world on how to plan coaching sessions as well as wealth of example ones so this blog isn’t going to cover everything but more some top tips from my perspective.

BJJ Minion prepping for Judo ExamSo starting at the beginning – why do I have an opinion of coaching sessions? Well essentially I used to work in sports development and coach education so it used to be my job. I’ve been lucky enough in the past to coach athletics at regional, national and international level with a specialism in the F20 category (learning disability). That included attending various CPD and tutor training sessions around not just what to coach but also how to coach and how to tutor coaches themselves. I’ve also taken coaching qualifications in basketball, badminton, swimming and Judo so also been assessed a few times too. None of this makes me an expert just that I have personal experience. In fact that’s the wonderful thing about coaching is that we all have our own style and methods!

Dave the Minion WTip Number 1 – Write it down

Writing down your session plan is actually really important for two reasons. Firstly, it helps you think the structure and key things you want to teach. Its amazing how many “ooh I need to mention” technical points come out as your think things through to write them down. Secondly a record is really useful in the event of a liability claim / injury claim. This is important for all classes but particularly when your covering or guest teaching. Although you may not see top coaches looking at their notes all the time I can vouch that they have them!

Tip 2 – Who are you planning for?

Typically in BJJ you know where you are coaching and have the mat space etc. But also try and find out rough numbers / audience. You can’t always predict how many people will show up to class but you do know if its a white belt class, advanced etc. You also have a rough idea if your gym has a lot of more “mature” practitioners. A recent example of this was a young coach who planned a great session but it was going virtually straight into inversions which might have been fine for a younger audience but his classes bendy back days were a few years in the past so they couldn’t do the move and felt regression rather than positive progression when they had to move onto the leg drag / mount variations that required less athleticism.

Tip 3 – Set your goals, What do you want to achieve?

Decide what the main aim of the session is -is it an overview of certain techniques, the introduction of a key concept like “loading” the sweep or just introducing beginners to key words and terminology e.g. what an omoplata is? Keep it 2-3 key points and when planning reflect back if adding something complements your goals.

Tip 4 – Thinking about your demos

  • Female Fighters Coaching PicWho’s going to do the demonstration? It might be you and if so you’ll need spot a suitable uke / demo bunny (contrasting gi colour is an added bonus) but ultimately someone who’s can do what you need / is an appropriate size. If what your demoing is complicated there is no harm in quickly running through it with them whilst the class is arriving, drilling or warming up etc. The coach doesn’t always have to do the demonstration esp if injured or unable to do the move – pick someone who you know can perform it or worse case things like video whilst not perfect can help.
  • Plan your highlights – when doing your prep don’t just write demonstrate the armbar or something similar. As daft as it may sound but pop down the key 2-3 point you want to emphasis so you don’t forget the important bits in the heat of the moment.
  • KISS – Linked to the point above Keep It Short and Simple. Keep explanations simple and brief. Try not to emphasise more than two or three key points at a time. We’ve all been there where an instructor talks through a lot of things over a period time, next thing you know your suppose to be drilling but have no idea what bit!
  • Don’t do This, Do That! – Try not to focus on “don’t” as you have the potential to overload people and guarantee that someone will do the one things you said not to! Always finish with the correct skill so the last thing they see and hear is the right version of the technique

Tip 5 – Have some progressions / additional content 

Minion watching judo techniqueObviously your class is going to have moves that link together as a topic area, sequence or progression but what I mean in this tip is that It’s better to over-plan rather than under-plan. It is way easier to omit technique than to add unplanned ones so have either some progressions, submission options or other bits and pieces up your sleeve just in case the class work through and pick up your content way better than planned.

Tip 6 – Don’t forget to finish the class

Not every session ends with a line up or similar as it depends on your gym – you may be delivering a class that leads straight into rolling for example. Make sure to save some time to check for understanding. That might be Q&A (using open ended questions) or getting the class to demo the techniques.

Bonus Tip – Evaluate how things went

Obviously its nice when you get feedback from a class but generally people do only say the nice bits. Once the session is over check back to your plan. What went well, what didn’t go as well and what would you change or improve for next time? This has two positives, reflection helps improve your own coaching but it also improves the plan you just wrote. The more plans you have the easier it is to plan other sessions in the future. Before long you’ll have an evolving syllabus or curriculum of sessions! It’s essentially the same pain that newly qualified teachers have – a lot of work in the first year to make life easier moving forward!

As always I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog – I’m always happy to chat to people so if you think I’ve missed any top tips or got any queries just drop me a line!


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