elitefts™ Sunday edition

Coaching Axioms

Recently, I was able to observe a high school football team lifting. While the coaches sat in the corner and talked, the athletes proceeded to do their version of a power clean. To my amazement, I saw about 10 or 15 different variations of the power clean that I would have never imagined, nor would I ever want to try. They followed that display with some kind of push press and finally dumbbell incline presses, with the spotter assisting every rep and giving the typical command, "It's all you!" I do not blame the athletes. There was a lot of energy and you could tell that they wanted to get stronger. It is ridiculous to expect a 15-year-old to know exactly how to perform each lift, but I can't imagine being a coach and allowing these things to happen. I sat there and wondered if I would ever become so lackadaisical about training athletes or about my own training. At what point would I stop caring? I thought of some ideas on how to prevent such a wayward approach and how to become a better coach and lifter.

1. Start Training.

Many times coaches do not train or have never done the lift. I got this idea from Dave Tate's article "Strength?" and it really opened my eyes. How can you expect to fully teach something without having ever done it? This may be acceptable in the world of academia, but in the weight room, it is imperative that the coach knows how to both perform and teach the lift. I guarantee that most athletes will be able to see through the coaches' smoke screen. Not only will it help you as a coach, but also it will gather the respect of your players. Plus, by doing the lift, you can learn certain tricks and better ways to coach. Does this mean that you have to be some 300-pound monster that squats 900? No. In fact one of my friends who is a strength coach probably weighs less than 175 pounds and is not what one would consider strong. But he does train and he does try different exercises to help him be a better coach.

2. Have a Purpose.

The program's exercises should have a valid purpose. You should be able to explain exactly why you prescribed every single exercise in the workout. Don't just simply throw an exercise in just because you read in it in the new NSCA journal or because your competition is doing it. If you truly believe in your program and the exercises planned, you'll be invested more in your program. It is easy to justify any exercise, but ultimately you know if you are lying to yourself. If you can't justify it, throw it out. More often than not, programs could sacrifice a few exercises.

3. Set High Standards.

There are several ideas that I want to touch on here. The first, deals with form. If you want your athletes to squat at parallel, expect nothing less than that. Do not count reps that are done incorrectly. Whatever your standard, set it and stick to it. Also, have expectations for athletes. A 275-pound lineman should not think a 500 pound squat is acceptable. The athletes will rise to the expectations set, however high or low. Give them a chance. Last, have a record board and don't water it down. It should be an honor to be on the record board, so don't have as many categories as there are players. If you are doing Max Effort work ala Westside Barbell, keep track of these also.

4. Educate the Athlete.

I know that the athletes aren't strength coaches, but they should understand the basics of the program and why they are doing the exercises. More often than not, athletes want to do things right and want to succeed. Simply saying, "because I said so" doesn't cut it anymore. If they ask why they do Glute-Ham Raises (GHR) tell them that they will get faster and stronger and have less hamstring pulls, and thus a better shot at the pros. Put it in terms they can understand. Of course it may not be that simple, but nonetheless, it can be effective. Handing a workout sheet to a player and saying "do it" is a cop-out. The athlete should be able to explain the program in basic terms.

5. Find a Way.

Both athlete and coach alike suffer from this. For every reason they give why they can't do something, they could be spending their time finding a way to get it done. It's exhausting listening to the laundry list of excuses. It has gotten to the point that when I hear someone say, "I can't..." I tune them out immediately. If you really want something, whether it is a personal goal or a program goal, educate yourself and figure it out.

6. Listen to your athletes.

No matter how well-structured you think the program is, there are going to be flaws. I understand the theory of "Program Response Training" and that at certain times, the athlete will be run-down and feeling less than adequate. That may be the goal of whatever phase you are currently doing. But if there is an overwhelming negative response at an inappropriate time, find out why and remedy the situation. I know this may be a blow to the ego, but allowing the athlete to get the most out of the program is crucial, even if it requires adjusting your program. Ask questions, monitor the bar speed and max effort work and adjust accordingly. If the athletes aren't getting stronger, have too many knee or shoulder injuries or are slower than last year, fix the problem.

7. Educate yourself.

In the world of my friends and family, I am the expert on training. When I got to sit down with Dave Tate and talk with him, I realized how much I've got to learn and how far I've got to go. To me, it's not discouraging, but a challenge. When I converse with other strength coaches, I say little and listen. There is a wealth of information out there, and it's easy to get. There are numerous books, video tapes, and seminars that you can always pull something out of and use, no matter how off-the-wall. The question is: are you willing to put in the time and effort to do such things?

8. Use your athletes.

Dave Tate mentioned this in his seminar, and I thought that it was a great point. Most athletes today are arrogant, loud and very competitive. Use this to your advantage. The weight room should have a game-like atmosphere. Since incorporating max effort work in certain portions of our training, the athletes are constantly encouraging each other and trying to beat one another. There is a bit of trash talking and a great deal of competition. With dynamic days, the athletes expect their teammates to be fast and they are willing to correct them as needed. The athletes are helping, coaching and encouraging each other, which is how it should be. At game time, they are the ones fighting the battle on the field, not the coaches.

After re-reading some of the points above, I know that I need to reevaluate my own coaching and my training. There are a lot of things that I need to improve on and I hope that I've given you some points to consider.