Featured Top 10 Tips for Coaching a UKBC competitor.

After Will’s success at the 2022 UKBC championships we wanted to share as much information as we can to help others competing. So here is our 2nd blog in our UKBC series written by Nicola, who was part of Will’s team.

Disclaimer: I feel a little uncomfortable with the title ‘Coach’. Will is both extremely knowledgeable and was extremely determined to do well in the UKBC. I never had to push him, he was a stickler for the rules and he is a much more dedicated competitor than I ever was. I also need to acknowledge that Jenny was just as much a coach as I was and will probably know Will’s UKBC speech off by heart for eternity. All these things made my job both easy and pleasurable! However, I did the best job I could, and these are the tips I would pass on to anyone else who finds themselves being called a coach! 

1. Read the UKBC rules. 

The UKBC rules are long and in places a little bit boring, but they’re also absolutely vital. Everyone in the team needs to know these inside and out because it’s very easy to get disqualified for something like having too many electrical items or having someone put something on your trolley after your set up time has begun, or even running over time by 61 seconds!  

2. Question everything. 

From ‘do you need to say that?’ in a speech to ‘can we use something else to measure that?’ question everything. As baristas we always reach for the scales to measure something, but this isn’t always the quickest / cleanest / highest points scoring way to measure something. This is just one example, but there are hundreds – if it doesn’t score you points, don’t do it, and if it might lose you points, ask yourself if there is a better way to do what you’re trying to achieve.

3. Be a cheerleader.  

Sometimes this is hard to do because you feel like it’s your job to point out all the places your competitor could have lost or gained a point, but when you’ve just drunk the best milk drink of your entire life (this happened to me) make sure you say so.

4. Be cool as a cucumber.

When it comes to competition day, all the work is done. Your competitor might be a little nervous or stressed, make sure you’re not. If they’re forgotten something, get it for them, if they need you to clean something, clean it. You’ll have rehearsed the set-up time as well as the actual presentation, so just make sure it goes to plan, pay attention to the details but mostly be cool and calm.

Any support you can offer will be appreciated

5. Practice Everything.

I need to give thanks to Dan Fellows for this one – don’t just practice your routine, practice your behind the stage time, setting up of your trolley and your 15-minute set up time. This should all be second nature by the time you come to do your set for real. You don’t want something unexpected to happen in this time as it might throw off the competitor for their set.

6. Wash up – that’s your real job here! 

When it comes to run throughs try and wash up as much as you can, it just means you can get more run throughs in! Your competitor will have milk to weigh out and signature drink ingredients to prepare so if you do all the washing up you’ll be ready for the next run through much quicker!

This is the reality of coaching but your reward is getting to drink amazing coffee

7. Make Mistakes. 

It's so important for competitors to make as many mistakes as possible when doing run throughs, the more you make then, the less you’ll make later and just as importantly, if you do make a mistake, you’ll know how to handle it. A classic example of this is: pulling a bad shot. If this happens in your performance you need to know what you’re going to do (e.g. pull the shots again, accept it’s a bad shot and keep going, only repull it if it’s a long way off recipe…) if you’ve made this mistake in training, you’ll be ready for it if it happens in competition. 

8. Don’t Stop.

When you’re doing run throughs, there is a temptation to let your competitor stop if something goes a bit wrong. In my opinion, no matter how terrible a run through you should always keep going until the end. There is lots more to learnt from a terrible run through, than half a terrible run through!

9. Be clear about your thoughts and opinions.

You’ll get asked for feedback at every point from your competitor. Always give your honest opinion. Ultimately, it’s the competitor’s choice as to what they do or don’t do, so don’t expect everything you suggest being used. A good routine is one that the competitor feels comfortable with, not one that’s been dictated to them.

10. Consider entering the UKBC.

If you’re coaching and haven’t already entered the UKBC before, consider it. I have learnt just as much from Will as I did competing in the UKBC. If you’re a great coach, it’s likely you’d make a great competitor!  

Nicola has competed 3 times herself