A lot of coaches have terrible manners! I’ve been both a coach and participant at a variety of events at all levels, and this phenomenon is not uncommon. I’m not talking about “elbows off of the dinner table” type of manners or even just wiping your feet when you come into my house. What I notice is that coaches don’t just coach their athletes, they try to coach mine, and yours.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been competing in national competitions since around age twelve. I’ve done Olympic weightlifting, strongman, powerlifting, and recently started training for a bodybuilding show (long story). Along with that, I played multiple sports in high school, usually earning a captain or leadership role and both played football and ran track in college.  And it’s always the same:

Your coach says this,

That coach says that,

And the internet/books/articles/random dads/friends/douche bags say something else!

Here’s my advice: Leave MY Athletes Alone!

What I would love, in a perfect world would be for everyone to truly evaluate their “coaching” style, strategy, qualifications, etc. First of all, saying words like “periodization,” attending a weekend certification course and talking to a couple of other guys or gals who are holding PVC and talking about the slingshot approach, does not make you qualified to stack the weights in my garage. There are a lot of different ways to learn than just playing with other guys’ PVC (they do so many things with that now).

If you think there might be something my athlete can work on that you catch at a meet or during the game or on tape, send me an email. DO NOT approach them and definitely don’t step in and start coaching them. We can talk about whatever it is and I (as the coach, who is confident in my programming, who understands this athlete more than you, who has a plan—hopefully, and who will have a LOT more contact with them) will decide IF it is THE TIME to add your piece of advice into the program. It may be the greatest thing in the world that you believe could change their performance or it could be a reminder of the little things. But it will be I, the coach, who will determine its importance.

This goes for all people that would like to bother my athlete on their big day, but really it’s mostly directed at all of the new “certifieds” who try out new programs and tactics without giving anything time to work. They seem to believe that it’s a new idea to copy the Russians or the Bulgarians or the Chinese or the Germans or even the Russians (yes, repeated). I don’t really care, honestly, what you think we should do, THIS is what we’re doing today.

My reasoning goes way back to a movie I watched as a kid, The Ghost and the Darkness. In this movie, Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas shoot lions due to their camp being attacked brutally by two big scary lions. There is one scene that I will always remember that relates to readiness to perform. When ol’ Val and Mike head out and finally have a shot at one of the main lions that have been doing the killing, Val’s gun trips up and he is almost devoured. Could have been a malfunction or just the safety or whatever. Do you know what the problem was?

He used a brand new gun that he had never fired.

In the midst of being a lion-killing bad ass for an entire film, he looks like a moron and an entire tribe leaves him (you’ll have to watch it), due to adding something new into his game-day routine. Therefore, I do not want my athletes changing what they do on their big day of performance. So, that includes talking about new ideas, adjusting things in warm ups, trying new foods, new music or anything else NEW you can think of.

Look, I know it’s fun to use all the new terminology that has been invented by the internet and it’s exciting to try all of the new mobility exercises that the cool-WODers told you to try for everything on your body, including making changes to things that had nothing wrong in the first place. We’ve all heard that program hopping is like saying “the grass is always greener on the other side,” and maybe it isn’t so obvious when it’s with coaching versus working out, but “coaches” who run around and try to “quick fix” everyone are just like, as Dave Tate says, "frogs hopping from lily pad to lily pad."

Are you going where the flies are or just trying to be seen hopping around?

Here are some points on both sides that I will end with:

  1. At least pretend you have a plan:

    • If your athlete is truly confident in you, this issue may not arise.
  2. Get a system:

    • There’s the old Marine saying, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."
    • Your athlete should know his or her food, music, warm up, etc. on game day – this should be smooth and uninterrupted – no thinking please.
  3. Just say no!

    • If some guy steps in and starts “fixing," call him out.
    • There are too many people who think they can hop in and fix what they think you missed – tell them to deal with it another day
  4. NEVER approach another athlete at a competition unless you feel it is an EMERGENCY:

    • For example, they are dying and you are an emergency physician.
    • For example, their coach just died and you knew him/her and can step in.
  5. NEVER change form or try new things the DAY OF a competition or performance:

    • No new music, warm up, clothes, tape, shoes, thoughts, plan, reactions, etc.
    • Only if  the change was a PLANNED occurrence (you should know what I mean).
  6. Have the athlete’s interest in mind, not your own weird agenda:

    • Experiment on someone else.
    • Leave the athlete alone.

So seriously, you can talk to me all you want, but if you’re a real coach, then coach—which means managing your athletes on the day of their performance. If you want to hang out at the competitions, then do that and get out of the back room or warm-up area, where people are trying to get jacked, hyped up or in the zone.

And please, if you see me at a competition or sporting event coaching an athlete, do not bother them. Just take some notes, blog about it, tweet about it or maybe even email me and we can have a conversation.