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How to coach singers who resist coaching

As featured in The Harmonizer.

4 Coaching Techniques

Helping resistant learners become successful is a pretty easy fix. A resistant student may be scared of failing,embarrassed, uncomfortable, or trusting of the coach, shy, or lacking in understanding and/or knowledge. It can be any combination of these OR all of the above. Make a change in yourself and see if you can nudge your singers to a better barbershop experience.

1. Meet singers where they feel comfortable and successful

Start by recognizing the skills the learners already know and do well. Have them repeat those same skills other places in the song or in other songs. Doing this will build a strong foundation of trust as well as musical or visual stepping stones to work on later.

2. Always use positive teaching skills and instruction
Reward right from the very beginning. Catch them doing things right! Acknowledge the successes no matter how small and do it as often as possible. We all love to know when we are doing it right.

3. Understand their past coaching
A performer may resist because your coaching conflicts with habits and skills acquired through previous coaches. Many of us coaches and educators are trying to undo some of the things we ourselves taught performers to do in the past. Recognize and acknowledge any outdated techniques that may have been honestly acquired, and recognize the need to show why your newer tools and skills will take them further.

4. Always demonstrate what you're looking for and ask for the correct skill set

A lot of the time, we coaches get caught up saying what the student is doing wrong vs. showing them how to do it right or what will make it better. The more often the resistant learner hears or sees the correct skills, the more those skills will start sinking in. Repeating and demonstrating the incorrect way they are doing it will also have the same effect. Meet the singers where they are. Catch them doing it right. Reward them for every success. Understand their past. Always teach what you want them to do.

Cindy Hansen-Ellis,