Pattern Interruption for Improving Coaching

By John Kessel | May 09, 2013, 1:49 p.m. (ET)

If you have attended any of my clinics live, you know at some point in time I teach the value of using the method of pattern interruption to make important points stand out and be remembered, not just for a while, but often permanently.  One of the finest teachers in the nation, Jamie Escalante, even had a movie done about his teaching, Stand and Deliver, where he brought dozens of inner city high school students to achieve Advanced Placement Test success at a level that the testing company assumed the group had cheated. Retested a month later, even more of the students passed the test under the company’s staff watchful eyes.  If you have not seen the real Jamie in action, and since everyone reading this has had to take math classes, take a look at how he uses pattern interruption compared to what your and my math teachers did to teach us, in this 4 minute clip titled “Math, Who Needs It?” 

What does a great music instrument/band teacher, great dance teacher, great vocalist teacher, great playwright teacher have in common?  They guide their students’ discoveries, let them err and learn, in both private lessons and in group teaching periods. Then, when the performances with body, voice and instruments happen, in front of parents and strangers, what do they do? Yep, they sit there and listen and take notes on what to work on in the next practice.  There is a lesson in that for coaches in all sports…

We have watched “how to sing” for decades, knowing how to hold the mic, move your hands, emote, but you don’t really know how to sing until you sing…and know that I sadly cannot sing, not even in the shower….So this season I have again enjoyed watching The Voice. Not just for the renditions of songs they sing, but for all the teaching/coaching you get to watch going on. Unlike the almost abusive shows fueling a “teaching” method - led by “Dance Moms” and including Toddlers & Tiaras, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo – The Voice has real talent mentoring real talent.

The most impressive part of this season for me is seeing the teaching skills of Usher. I would love to have my kids play for him if he coached any sport… In the last few weeks he has danced a waltz with one of his singers, stood way back in the studio and said capture me from here…put his face right in front of another of his singers to ask her to sing to him intimately,  made the quirky  Michelle Chameul sing True Colors (great song choice by Usher) to herself by holding up a full length mirror…. All great examples of pattern interruption. I have yet to see any of the performers being punished, but rather they are constantly encouraged, guided and supported.

The Voice, American Idol, America/Britian/Australia/InsertCountry Got Talent, and other shows are fascinating examples of the competitive cauldron on a very public stage. That talent comes in so many varieties on the Nation’s Got Talent version is a joy to seen from just the specificity in training point of view. For me over the years, I love to see how music helps bond your team, from shared focus in lyrics to shared memories and so much of the important things that happen off the court.

So I will share two songs that are part of my team’s memories… First, Olivia Archbold a 14 year old sings this version of one of my favorite songs – “In the Arms of The Angel” – she starts singing about 90 seconds in if you just want to skip the lead in story…  Meanwhile, I will close this blog with the passion of a Bulgarian singer… She sings “Ken Lee” and if you have seen it you know what I am thinking about (my singing skills…) and if you have not, take a couple of minutes to laugh along with everyone on the show…

Here’s to using music to broaden the experiences and value of our sport for a lifetime….