The 10 second rule

In this blog post we will argue why coaches should be able to introduce an activity within roughly ten seconds.

It is not an easy task, but nothing worth doing ever was - you will see the benefit soon!
We will provide some background and some advice on how to do it. But before we really dive into it, here’s an introduction.

(Psst - scroll to the end if you just want the advice without the story and explanation)

On a coaching course not so long ago, coach and friend Jakob Lønskov came up with an idea. We wanted to show the coaches that they sucked.. they were all quite skilled, but to prime them a little for learning we figured it was good to let them fail at something first. After that, we could focus on the importance of communicating clearly and effectively.

So here is what we did first, the coaches were partnered up and asked to find examples of well known games or challenges that could be used to teach a theme. Each group was given different themes such as flow, precision or creativity. Then the coaches were asked to try to explain the game in 10 seconds. Only one or two of the total 8 coaches succeeded in the first try.. a few more in a second attempt. Try it out yourselves.. Go ahead and try to explain one of your favourite challenges or games in 10 seconds. Well? Probably not as easy as you may have expected, and if you did succeed, I bet it was either a very simple game, or you rushed it, or maybe you left out information. Hopefully, trying this gives the same feeling that our coaches got - “I suck at this” and/or resisting the idea that you only have 10 seconds in real life. This is where an explanation is called for.

- Picture by Riccardo Saiu Calli.

- Picture by Riccardo Saiu Calli.

The why

All the coaches on the course were working with kids that have mental issues, and we have experienced the importance of simple concepts communicated very clearly for them - hence the exercise with reducing the time to explain. Now, even if you don’t work with this target group, I can assure you that you will benefit enormously from practicing this skill. The reason is that your learning goals with the class are at stake - if you don’t manage to communicate well, you will lose the motivation among your students and thereby see a drop in activity and progress.. and you can never blame the students - you have so many tools, you just need to keep them sharp and choose well.

It’s simply too complicated

The main issue is that we often try to explain the entire activity in all its complexity all at once, and thereby raise an array of good (and bad) questions that will only complicate your explanation further. So, the result of trying to save time by getting it all done at once, may very well mean that you have to start over entirely and/or simplify the activity. The main solution we offer is to split up the activity or simplify it to a point where it can fit in the 10 seconds frame. You may think that this is silly, and yes sometimes it is a little silly, but often it can be done while still keeping the idea growing naturally and yes.. keeping the class running smoothly.

It happens to all of us..

We often use the “21 Game” for students to get better at sticking precision jumps, also often coaches also try to explain it all at once resulting in some or a lot of confusion. Let’s hear:

 “Listen up students! Find a jump and keep repeating it. When you fail a landing you drop to zero points, but if you have reached a “safe-zone” you only drop to that number. The safe zones are 3-6-9 and so on until you reach 21. If you never fail it’s too easy, so go and find a more difficult jump - If you never make the first safezone it’s too difficult, then go and find an easier jump. If you complete the game, find a new and more difficult jump” 

After this explanation we probably get some questions to clarify, and maybe also some about what it means to stick a jump... five minutes later we are still not moving, and still not getting better at precision jumps, and on top of that, also the students are getting colder and colder. Yes.. The clock is ticking.

Another way to approach the “21 game” is to split it up thereby making it simpler.

Let’s have a look at that simpler introduction

“Listen up students. Find a precision jump that you can stick around half of the time and see how many times you can stick it in a row. I will call you back in around 5 minutes. Those of you who need help to choose a good jump or have questions may come to me first”

Now, we may spend a little more than 10 secs, but the explanation is short and consise - it’s what you must do - even if some students don’t understand, they are not wasting time for others who got the message. In addition, it also feels safer to come and ask for clarification when you don’t feel everyone else is watching and waiting. The follow up is then done, and even after helping some chose a jump, we may still have time to see that all others have chosen well. So, the next message can be given after around 5 minutes of jumps:

“Now you must stick three jumps in a row to reach a safe zone, whenever you fail a landing you will drop to the nearest safezone. So if you haven’t reached three sticks, you drop to zero. After three sticks the goal is to get to the next safe zone at six points and so on all the way to 21 points.. Go ahead or come to me with questions.”

There you have it.. and we could even split it up further if needed - you give it a try... or are you resisting? Well! Even if you think that all may benefit from further explanations, what is the worst that could happen? Even if they don’t understand, but think they do, it’s not a big deal - they will still do a lot of jumps focusing on sticking and after answering questions you can go to check what they are actually doing.

SO, to sum it all up:

  • Make it a habbit to simplify your content and the explanations to a point where they are very easily understood. This way movement can begin quickly.

  • In the end of the explanation leave an opening for individual questions and let the rest of the students get started right away.

  • Develop the activity in complexity as you see the students being ready and finally, (maybe) arrive at the intended complexity/level - even if you don’t get there that’s probably still better than the alternative.

  • Challenge your colleagues to try it, and find best practice together.

We hope this was useful. Let us know what you think and please share if you have thoughts about the matter.