If you’ve ever been an athlete, then you’ve been lucky enough to have a coach who’s had a positive effect on your life. Even if you’re a guy (or girl) whose career was a disappointment—like mine kind of was—I’ll guarantee that at some point someone said something that still rings in your ears. I know I have, and it’s helped me out a lot.

One of the best examples I can offer came during a contact drill when I was in high school. I was the only one in line on one side during this drill, which forced me to keep taking my turn over and over again. My defensive coordinator at the time was a guy named Coach Grasso. After going two or three times and realizing I was the only one who wasn’t getting a break, I looked over at Grasso to see what the deal was. I didn’t say anything to him, but he knew exactly why I was looking over. All he said was, “Keep working, Bobby.”

Those three words have been in my head for twenty years now. It’s hard to convey the look on his face in writing, but it told me that this wasn’t something I was supposed to be suffering through. Instead, he was telling me that this was an opportunity— instead of getting four or five reps on this drill, I was getting three times as many chances as everyone else. So, I therefore had the opportunity to learn how to do it better than the other guys.

I have shitloads of other examples like this one, where stuff coaches have said has helped me. The question is, how can we, as coaches, turn around and say stuff to our own players that resonate like this one thing did with me? The way I do this is to actually learn from coaching.

Dave Tate once explained to me that he considers elitefts™ to be like a funnel or an hourglass. He pours a lot of shit into the big opening at the top. It doesn’t matter what the shit is. You just get it into the top. Then, he gets all the guys on the site to try all of it out on themselves and their athletes. They refine it, tell Dave what works and what doesn’t, and the stuff that comes out the small opening on the bottom, once it’s all been processed, is the finished product. When this process works as it’s been designed, you come out with Prowlers®, the best GHR on the market, and the best power racks in the history of weight training—among other things.

I like this analogy a lot for coaching. When you coach, you’re constantly refining the way you do it. You take all the information you got as a player, and then you add to it everything you’ve learned as an adult once life gets a hold of you. You pour all that into the top of the funnel, and what comes out the bottom is your coaching style. You figure out whether you’re a player’s coach or an authoritarian dictator. Whether you’re a screamer or a quiet guy. A disciplinarian or a John Madden type. That’s what comes out the bottom, and it’s all a product of the experiences you’ve had— from the first time you ever picked up a football to your ride to work this morning.

This works the other way around, too. The best way to learn how to do something is to teach it to someone else. I understand WAY more about football now than I ever did as a player. From organization and the need for discipline in practice, to the obvious importance of physical preparation and the ability to pull my vision back and see the entire field—the big picture, I have a better handle on the sport now than I’ve ever had in my life.

What’s consistently surprised me is how coaching is such a microcosm of the real world. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve had my share of challenging life situations over the past decade or so. There have been times during my coaching career when, despite the organization and motivation I’ve shown with my teams, my “outside life” has been a monumental train wreck. This is analogous to Dave’s “Under the Bar” and “Raising the Bar” situations where he talks about knowing so many guys who are disciplined, motivated and competitive in the weight room, but who are completely unfocused and in the shitter when it comes to the real world. They’re unemployed, broke, depressed, fighting failing marriages, and dealing with everything else that goes along with not being completely ready for the real world.

This, admittedly, has been me from time to time, but I’ve managed to do a decent job of fixing things and moving forward. How? Well, partially through coaching, in a variety of ways. First, it helps if you actually listen to the shit you tell your kids, practicing what you preach. It’s easy to sit back and critique what other people are doing because their mistakes are obvious to you. It’s a lot harder to take your own advice.

Next, coaching is something we love to do. If it wasn’t, we probably wouldn’t be doing it. If you’re just doing it for the money, you’re not here on this site in your spare time, looking for shit that will make you better. So, I’m going to operate under the assumption that you found this piece of writing because you love to coach. When we love to do things, we want to get better at them, and we’re constantly refining our technique and methods. Over the past year or so, I’ve taken a lot of that shit from coaching and applied it to my own life, and it’s been working. Over the next week or two, I’ll share some of this. I’ve taken lessons from life and applied them to coaching my new team, and I’ve taken lessons from coaching and applied them to life.

I’m very happy with the results, and I’ll try to explain as we go along.