Stevie wonder would have been a great coach.  Ok, no he wouldn't because of the whole not being able to see thing. BUT, he has some characteristics that good coaches also have.

So, my wife and I went to the Schottenstein Center of the campus of Ohio State to see Stevie perform while on tour of the Songs in the Key of Life Tour.  It was a great birthday present and I had a blast. I am a huge Stevie Wonder fan and I honestly feel he is the greatest musician I have ever seen. I love so many of his songs and when he walked out on stage with India Arie, you felt like it was just you and them. The interaction between him and the audience was amazing and it was the best birthday present anyone could ask for.

But, like all things, the little hamster in my head starts spinning the wheel and when I get impressed, I get inspired and think about coaching.  Here are a few ideas I thought of during this unforgettable night.

Why Stevie Would Make a Great Coach

Guess who got Stevie Wonder tickets for his Birthday? My wife is awesome. And, not just because of the tickets. 😉

A photo posted by Mark Watts (@mjdubs_elitefts) on

He Could Do it All

Stevie sang, played piano, harmonica, clavinet, and a Marcodi harpejji (I had to look that one up).  To say the dude is talented is an understatement. This may be a stretch but is a lesson to all coaches wondering how to seperate themselves from the other 200 applicants of the same low-paying job.

Gone are the days when you can align yourself to one training methodology and join the good ol' boys club. The fraternity of coaches is saturated. In order to be competitive in the coaching arena, you have to have a much broader scope of the profession. A crude analogy would be similar to MMA. Back in the day, you had fighters that would specialize in certain fighting skills. You would even see their descriptive styles on the tale-of-the-tape.  Striker vs. ground & pound, BJJ vs. kick boxer, etc. You never see this anymore. Everyone fighter (at least good fighter) can do everything. They all have striking, wrestling, submission, and take-down defense skills. Same thing with coaching. What I suggest?

  • Don't know GPS, VBT, or HRV technology? Learn it
  • Aren't familiar with the FMS or PRI? Learn it
  • Not sure how to program in a weight room predominantly comprised of machines? Learn it
  • Don't believe that the Olympic lifts are the best ways to develop explosive power? Doesn't matter. Learn it.

I am not saying you have to be an expert in all fields. Nor am I saying you can't have some aspect of your philosophy you hold your hat on. Your differences will be welcomed but it's never about whether you or your head coach is more right. It's about you adapting to the program. Be a sponge and become a more well-rounded coach.

  Stevie Wonder. Songs in the Key of Life. Best Birthday Present I could ask for. #Stevie   A photo posted by Mark Watts (@mjdubs_elitefts) on

He Shared the Spotlight

Stevie knew he was the star of the show. You would have never known it though. He constantly made jokes, often at his own expense. But, he knew how important the musicians and singers were around him. In fact, it was like he was thoroughly enjoying their performances above his own.

Coaches can learn from this. Here are a few things I learned . The first I got from Jack Hatem as we were at an Ohio State Buckeye Football Spring practice. We would always like to go to the jersey Scrimmage which was the weekend before the spring game. It was always full contact, but more of a situational scrimmage. One thing Jack asked me was, "if you didn't know who Jim Tressel was, could you tell he was the head coach just by watching practice.?" The answer was no.

Because of how organized everyone was and how business-like the practices were run. There was never a need for the rah-rah ego stuff. The second was working for Shawn Griswold at Tulsa. I learned so much in one summer but one thing that stood out was players perceptions of coaches molded by other coaches. I firmly believe that a lot of how a coach is perceived by his athletes is dictated by how the head coach treats that assistant in front of those players. Everyone knew Griz was in charge. He just never had to prove it. We all felt empowered and responsible for the success of those players.

Stevie Wonder gave all of the respect and accolades to everyone else on that stage that night. His respect for them earned mine.


A video posted by Mark Watts (@mjdubs_elitefts) on

He Challenged his Musicians and Singers

At one point, Stevie would sing a riff and had one of his six background singers to mimic his. It was a cool combination of scripted and ad-libbed. He allowed them to break off into covers of other artists as well.

Next, he asked one of the symphony viola players, chosen by the conductor to just jam to the beat and rhythm they started. She was visibly nervous at first. Stevie gave her some time and encouraged her to stand back up and keep going. She killed it. It was almost like you could see her confidence growing the longer she played. This type of stuff happened all night.

The most impressive was he sang a riff and asked the entire orchestra to repeat that same funky set of note. Now either these middle-aged white folks were really good actors or Stevie did this off the cuff. It took them a few bars to figure out the notes but being professional musicians, they figured it out and it sounded badass.

Challenging athletes as a strength coach is always tricky. You have to establish that trust and you must ensure it fits within the culture of that team. I would challenge my players often. No more or less than any other coach. Any time a team would ask why they had to perform a very demanding circuit or conditioning, I would simply say. "because  the  teams you play, aren't."

One of the best opportunities to teach confidence and challenge athletes was using accommodating resistance. This worked well with female athletes especially. Now I am a big believer in bands and chains (if used correctly) even for beginners. We would often use 2 chains per side on the squat and allow our athletes to work up to a 306 reps max depending on the time of year and week of a cycle. The ladies new it was challenging, but their sheets would only include the bar and plate weight. So after they would finish a set of 5 with 95 pounds for example. I would let the know how much the chains weigh. "So, that was 175 at the top of the squat (I know it was really less)." The next response was almost always "GTFO. Really?" 

Now if I would have told them how much that bar would weigh before the set, it would scare them out of any attempt for a set. One thing I learned is the harder you push an athlete, the harder they will work for you. As long as they trust you, they will run through walls for you.

I'm just going to put this here as a reminder of who is coming to Columbus 12 days after my birthday. Hint hint.

A photo posted by Mark Watts (@mjdubs_elitefts) on

Stevie Wonder made everything about that concert NOT about him. But, no matter how hard he tried to take the spotlight off of him, it couldn't hide the fact that he is one of the greatest ever.

My Favorite Six Songs by Stevie Wonder


Buffalo Bar Front Squat

  • 200 x6
  • 200x6
  • 200x6

Glute-Ham Raise (hole 2) x5

GHR Sit-Ups x15

Glute-Ham Raise (hole 3) x10

GHR Sit-Ups x10


Hand Stand Push-Up x 5,4,3,2,1

supersetted with...

Neutral Grip Pull-Up x5,4,3,2,1

Bench Press

  • 225x20
  • 205x10
  • 205x10

supersetted with...

Ring Rows x20,15,10