Whoa, whoa, did I say that out loud? Guess I did. Sorry, it's presumptuous, I know I'm a newbie, so take this with a grain of salt. It's just my opinion. And sorry, moms and dads, there's a few Eff words in here. Caveat emptor.
This is based on (a small amount of) real experience. I'm putting this in terms of situations I've seen or heard at tournaments; fortunately, the don'ts were other peoples' coaches and the dos were learned by observing my own instructors and how they corner me and my teammates. I will phrase them in terms of absolute rules but we all know rules are meant to be broken, sometimes, in limited circumstances. Let me know what you think and feel free to add some.
1. Don't scream yourself hoarse. I don't know why this is my #1 pet peeve-- maybe because I am sensitive to being yelled at (as opposed to yelled "to" for volume's sake) and maybe because it means you will be harder to hear for the next teammate during their next match.
2. Don't insult your fighter. YES, I have heard this! How "motivating" to have your corner call you a pussy! (May 09 NAGA) or for your coach to tell you, a preteen girl, that you're worthless and storm off the mat before you're finished with the match (and then it turns out your coach is your DAD! August 09 NAGA) I think it's safe to assume that pretty much EVERYONE who bothers to turn out to compete is going to try their hardest and do their best. Insults and pleas and whining will not extract better effort from your fighter- urgency and clarity of instruction will. Insults and childishness just make you and your school look unappealing, to say the least. And don't forget, not everyone at a tournament already trains. Some people come to watch and end up getting hooked. Rep your school with professionalism and grace, you might find your newest student is sitting nearby, evaluating what it would be like to have YOU as their coach.
3. [Edited in 2014 to add: I no longer agree with this one, but left it in for history's sake. Now I think it's great to get inside the other competitor's head, the ref's head, etc.] Don't interject comments aimed at other people. First, when adrenaline is pumping, your fighter might not be hearing clearly, or might only hear snatches of what you say. You've probably already noticed you need to repeat things a couple times to get them to sink in. If you make comments aimed at someone else, your fighter might get confused and you're wasting your breath anyway, because definitely no one else will listen to you in a match. Also, you better not yell at refs or other coaches. Just tacky.
4. Be loud. I don't care what you're normally like off the mats-- shy, softspoken, sweet, whatever-- your job is to support and encourage and provide whatever you can for your fighter for these 4-5-6-10 minutes. You better be loud enough for them to hear. That doesn't mean screaming at top volume-- either position yourself properly on the mat border, or enunciate and project adequately. Do NOT rely on your girlfriend/SO to relay your instructions unless you just lost your voice and there's no alternative.. it adds seconds of delay while she (ok maybe he) looks quizzically at you and says "a real naked what???"
5. Don't get mad if it seems like we're ignoring you. Be louder, repeat repeat repeat, be clearer in articulation, or be clearer with your directions. Trust me, we're NOT ignoring you. Either the adrenaline is making the blood rush in our ears like the sea in a shell, or our ear is plastered against their chest, or maybe we can hear you but you can't see that our leg is trapped so we can't do what you want... or maybe we're just parsing "turn towards them!" Because I tell you, "towards" is confusing when they're on your back; it seems like either way you go they are right there. Be specific-- say "turn to your right!" and definitely not "turn towards their left!" It's hard enough for me to figure out which is their left leg when I'm calm, much less in a match. This past weekend I was in a triangle and my corner said "step over her head" about 20 times, then he realized I was in that cluefree fog... so he clarified "Step over with your right leg!" And then, though I was not coordinated enough to execute, I was at least on the same page and gave it a try or two. Which brings me to:
6. Be encouraging especially when we fuck up. When they land the sweep, when we unbase ourselves and tip over, when we pull mount or when we put ourselves into a triangle, reassure us that all is not lost and start the business of unfucking us.
7. Ask if we WANT a corner. I have a few training partners who really don't want someone else yelling at them. Maybe your fighter is already being cornered; why have two voices yelling potentially contradictory stuff?
8. Don't corner your own child/spouse/significant other unless it cannot be avoided. This should be self-explanatory.
9. Don't give away your fighter's moves. This is tough and takes lots of experience. Not sure I know how to tell anyone how to do this or avoid this mistake. I hear it all the time-- in fact I love it when it's my opponent's coach doing this. Oh yeah, you're going to triangle me? not now, you're not! Or you're going to try for a single leg? I'm ready to sprawl, thanks for the heads up! One thing I love about my corners from my school, so far, is that they'll phrase things in terms of suggestions, and they'll focus on telling me what my opponent is about to do, while trusting that I will know (approximately at least) what to do to counter it, or how to take advantage and capitalize on it.
10. Do use the same terminology we use back home. Don't invent new "secret language." This is tough if you're from a sister academy and get pressed into cornering duties-- how will you know we don't call it quite the same thing? You won't.. just keep trying different similar phrasing, or break it down into movements instead of names.
11. [Most of the time] Don't tell us to do something brand new we don't do at home. Exceptions would be escapes we haven't worked before that you are willing to walk us through step by step. Bad would be judo takedowns we've never done before that, if fucked up, will likely result in US getting taken down and landing in a disadvantageous position. 'Nuff said.
12. Know your fighter. If you don't, ask them before the match what they plan on doing, what their strengths are, if they're injured, what they don't do well. You don't want to get them set up for a bottom half guard sweep to discover they suck at sweeps, or that their knee is tweaked and it won't work.
13. Don't make ad hominem comments under your breath, you never know when video cameras are rolling or other coaches are listening. In short, be professional and be your fighter's #1 fan and rooting section.
14. Make plans for communication amongst your team. Have a schedule in hand and try to note which of your fighters are in which divisions on which mats. Higher belts should be prepared to corner lower belts if there's a conflict and you're already cornering someone or competing yourself. Maybe everyone carries cell phones and is prepared with cell #s if texting is your thing (it is mine.) Try to coordinate so that everyone has SOMEONE watching their match and hopefully cornering it. And it's nice to have a central location where you mass together for camaraderie and the easing of nerves.
15. If nothing else, sound confident and optimistic about your fighter's performance and keep them aware of time left, points disparity, and strategic positioning. IE-- you're up on points, relax, they're gassing, there's 13 seconds, you have other matches, save your energy.
16. Come prepared for those fighters that aren't. Maybe wear a colorful team tshirt or whatever-- something so you can be spotted in a hurry if need be. Bring bandaids, athletic tape, second-skin spray, ibuprofen, bananas, gatorade, water, and maybe if you're awesome, some ziploc bags of ice in a cooler.
Thoughts? What did I miss? What do you love about your corners? what appalling stories about other peoples' corners can you share?