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The Language of Coaching


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Table of Contents

Part I. Learn

Chapter 1. Learn This
Learning: A Primer
Motor Learning: The Profile
Motor Learning: The Process
Motor Learning: The Distinction

Chapter 2. Pay Attention
Attention: A Primer
The Movie Theater of the Mind: Attention at Work
The Mind Part 1: Out of Focus
The Mind Part 2: Coming Into Focus
The Mind Part 3: In Focus

Chapter 3. Remember When
Memory: A Primer
What’s in a Memory?
Part 1: Working Memory
Part 2: Long-Term Memory
Part 3: Making Memories

Part II. Coach

Chapter 4. Finding Focus
Cueing: A Primer
Part 1: A Cue Is Born
Part 2: The Dark Side of the Cue
Part 3: You Gotta Be Choking Me

Chapter 5. Cue It Up
Constructing Cues: A Primer
Part 1: Cueing in 3D
Part 2: Cue-Tips
Part 3: Clarifying Internal Cues

Chapter 6. Going Analog
Analogies: A Primer
Part 1: Mental Maps
Part 2: Similarity
Part 3: Familiarity

Part III. Cue

Chapter 7. The Road Map
Habits: A Primer
The Habit Instinct
A Habit of Cueing
Habit Upgrade: A Three-Step Process
Fishing for Cues

Chapter 8. Strong Cueing
Upper-Body Push/Horizontal/Two-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
Upper-Body Push/Vertical/Two-Arm Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Upper-Body Pull/Horizontal/One-Arm One-Leg Dumbbell Row
Upper-Body Pull/Vertical/Pull-Up
Lower-Body Push/Two-Leg Front Squat
Lower-Body Push/One-Leg Squat to Bench
Lower-Body Push/Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
Lower-Body Pull/Two-Leg Romanian Deadlift
Lower-Body Pull/One-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Chapter 9. Powerful Cueing
Countermovement/Vertical Jump
Countermovement/Horizontal Jump
Countermovement/Vertical Hop
Countermovement/Lateral Bound
Noncountermovement/Squat to Throw
Noncountermovement/Vertical Toss
Noncountermovement/Chest Pass
Noncountermovement/Rotational Throw

Chapter 10. Fast Cueing
Linear Speed/Three-Point Start
Linear Speed/Acceleration
Linear Speed/Absolute Speed
Multidirectional Speed/45-Degree Cut
Multidirectional Speed/Side-Step Cut
Multidirectional Speed/180-Degree Cut
Multidirectional Speed/Crossover to Sprint
Multidirectional Speed/Crossover Run
Multidirectional Speed/Drop Step to Sprint
Multidirectional Speed/Backpedal

About the Author

Nick Winkelman, PhD, is the head of athletic performance and science for the Irish Rugby Football Union. His primary role is to oversee the delivery and development of strength and conditioning and sports science across all national and provincial teams. Prior to working for Irish Rugby, Winkelman was the director of education and training systems for EXOS, where he directed the development and execution of all educational initiatives. As a performance coach, he oversaw the speed component of the EXOS NFL Combine Development Program, and he has supported a variety of athletes across professional and elite level sport.

Winkelman completed his doctorate through Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions with a dissertation focus on motor skill learning and sprinting. He is a recognized speaker and consultant on human performance and coaching science. He has written numerous book chapters and peer-reviewed papers focusing on the intersection between coaching language and athlete learning.


“It would take you an entire career of coaching to pick up, just by chance, some of the competencies he outlines—and even then, you’d come up short. Nick’s work will fast-track coaches to effective communication—and, in turn, outstanding results—for their athletes and clients. I wish I’d had this book 20 years ago!”
—Eric Cressey, CSCS, President and Cofounder of Cressey Sports Performance

“Nick is one of the bright young minds in our field. The Language of Coaching continues Nick’s excellent progression from coach, to speaker, and now to writer."
—Michael Boyle, Owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning

"Nick Winkelman is what I like to call a ‘coach’s coach.’ He is one of the few people I lean on for advice in our industry. He’s my go-to resource. I will be gifting The Language of Coaching to dozens of coaches and athletes."
—Don Saladino, Celebrity Trainer, Health and Performance Specialist, and Founder and Owner of Drive Health Clubs

"Nick Winkelman takes the science of coaching to another level with this book and delivers effective real-world strategies to improve not only communication but also the ultimate goal—client results. The Language of Coaching is a masterpiece. It's already mandatory reading for all my coaches."
—Alwyn Cosgrove, Fitness Coach and Owner of Results Fitness

“Nick Winkelman’s passion, wisdom, and knowledge have helped to turn the science of motor learning into a digestible, applicable framework. His book, The Language of Coaching, will serve as an invaluable tool for driving results with athletes and clients.”
—Alex Zimmerman, Senior Director of the Tier X Program at Equinox

"Nick Winkelman helped me gain an edge on the combine and take full advantage of my training. His book, The Language of Coaching, will help other athletes do the same."
—Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle for the Carolina Panthers

“The Language of Coaching is a groundbreaking and meticulously researched book that delivers practical and user-friendly ways for a coach to connect for results. This book should be on every coach’s shelf.”
—Martin Rooney, Founder of Training for Warriors; Coach to Hundreds of NFL, UFC, NBA, WNBA, MLB, and Olympic Athletes; and Author of Coach to Coach

"Nick Winkelman helped improve my mind-set and introduced me to a new way of performing at the highest level. With The Language of Coaching, he will do the same for you.”
—Prince Kelechi Amukamara, Cornerback for the Chicago Bears

"Using a logical, evidence-guided approach, Nick essentially obliterates the communication barrier between coaches and athletes. If your job description includes conveying ideas with the intention of improving the physical capabilities of others, read The Language of Coaching.”
—Andreo Spina, BKin, DC, FRCCSS(C), Sports Specialist Chiropractor, Movement and Mobility Coach, and CEO of Functional Anatomy Seminars

"Drawing on Winkelman’s vast personal experience with high-level athletes, The Language of Coaching unpacks the flaws in our assumptions, examining how apparently small changes in what we say and how we say it can result in more durable learning for the athletes we teach. It will surely prove to be a significant and enduring contribution to the literature of coaching.”
—Doug Lemov, Author of Teach Like a Champion, Teach Like a Champion 2.0, and Practice Perfect

“In The Language of Coaching, Nick has offered an important contribution to the coaching world. A combination of a comprehensive scientific text and a practical operator’s manual, this is a must-read for all coaches.”
—Stuart McMillan, CEO of Altis and Sprint Coach

“I was privileged to spend an intense period learning from Nick in a formal workshop setting. These sessions were Olympic-coach-level workshops and presentations. I can honestly say that the guidance on cueing was evidence based, highly practical, and immediately applicable. Nick’s knowledge, manner, and communication skills make available a level of athlete performance enhancement that is off the charts. His work and process are highly recommended across a broad spectrum of sports; his methods will make you a better coach—period!”
—Bobby McGee, Olympic Coach (With Medals in the Atlanta, London, and Rio Olympics), Team Leader and High-Performance Support Staff

“As a coach of athletes who are blind, I am constantly looking for better ways to describe actions and motion without needing a visual reference. After working with Nick, I have the perfect set of verbal cueing skills to best teach my team!”
—Jake Czechowski, Head Coach of the USA Women’s National Goalball Team

"Nick's guidance on cueing gave me the most effective coaching technique I have ever practiced. It has taught our coaching staff how to prevent manufacturing complexity and has given our athletes laser focus on what truly matters in performing at the highest level."
—Mike Kohn, USA Bobsled Head Coach

“Nick’s work is a valuable component of our national team coach course, providing unique and practical insight on communicating with athletes to elicit better performance. His practical approach and methods help enhance coach–athlete understanding in a strategic, logical way. Coaches who have gone through his training as part of our course have seen significant results right away. Nick’s work is a valuable tool that can be applied across a variety of levels and sports.”
—Christine Bolger, Coaching Education Department of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee

"The very practical tactics I learned from Nick (at a USOC National Team Coach Seminar) helped immediately with my pair figure skating athletes. My improved understanding of cueing and the use of purposeful and targeted analogies guided faster skill acquisition, specifically with triple twists."
—Bobby Martin, U.S. Figure Skating Coach

“Nick has unlocked the superpower shared by highly effective coaches around the world. Great coaching is directly correlated to precise and purposeful communication. Cleaning up communication is as critical as correcting compensatory movement patterns. Nick has relentlessly worked through the research and has the practical knowledge that comes only from thousands of coaching sessions. The Language of Coaching will make you and our field better.”
—Mark Verstegen, Founder and President of EXOS

“Knowing your stuff is only part of the coach’s task: The more important part is transmitting that knowledge. That takes not only advanced speaking skills—mastering both what to say and how to say it—but also conscious listening, because listening is the doorway to understanding, and understanding is the access to effective relationships, not to mention motivation. Nick’s excellent book is long overdue, focusing as it does on communication, the most critical and long-overlooked aspect of performance coaching.”
—Julian Treasure, Five-Time TED Speaker and Author of the Award-Winning Book How to Be Heard

“The longer I’m in the ‘movement game,’ from rehabilitation to performance, the more I appreciate it when equal value is placed on information, experience, and reflection. In The Language of Coaching, Nick guides us to not overvalue one aspect and undervalue the others.”
—Gray Cook, MSPT, OCS, CSCS, Cofounder of Functional Movement Systems and Author of Movement

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