As a teacher by profession and a coach by trade, I have seen Strength and Conditioning change over the years.

However the biggest changes have been in myself and my approach. Specifically this is how my Quadrant Management System came into being along with the development of a gym chart. Originally, it was all about me, running a dictatorship of sorts. But this has changed over the last three plus decades to the point where today I want players to control the narrative of their own story in the weight room.

I will always be there coaching technique and watching for the small things. My role is being available to answer questions and advise when required. In a coaching environment, whatever you walk past, without comment, is viewed as acceptance. This is all based on education and this role as a coach never stops. Its up to you as a coach to give your athletes the information they need to make good decisions.

This is what the chart is all about. It allows us to have those conversations each and every gym session. You can see the chart in the format it was used with Houston SaberCats.

The chart will continue to evolve and be remodelled to match the group I am currently working with.

As Joe Kenn extols, “Words Win.” For learning to take place you need to carefully choose the words and phrases you use to ensure the group takes in the meaning of your words, not just the content.

The Power of Media

I have been very fortunate over the years to have been involved with programs that give power to words and phrases in order to aid in building team culture and performance. Also, the use of movie clips and dialogue to theme and frame a season are powerful tools in the performance process.

I am reminded of that classic scene in the 1992 movie “White Men Can’t Jump”, where the character played by Woody Harrelson (WH) goes to change the channel on the radio of Wesley Snipes’ (WS) characters’ car. The dialogue goes something like this:

WS: "Never touch a black man’s radio"

WH: "I listen to Jimi"

WS: "But do you hear what he is saying"

Some of the films and television shows that I have seen used exceptionally well in this context are:

The St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V

The William Wallace speech before the battle in Braveheart

The echoes in eternity speech from Gladiator

These are a few of the most memorable ones and they still get the hair on the back of my neck raising up as I listen to the meaning and significance of the words within them.

Words Win

Along with these there were numerous phrases used to emphasize the importance of living each day together as teammates:

"In the belly, never in the back" - If you have something to say to someone, do it face to face and not behind their back. If you have a problem I want to hear it first hand. This can lead to comments getting lost in translation and becoming a collection of Chinese whispers.

"Start with the end in mind" - this is a great phrase that Coach Deans always used. Work backwards from where you want to be, whether in the context of your physical development or other aspects of performance. Its a similar principle to writing your own eulogy. What would you like others to say about you after your passing?

"You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable” - I first came across this idea back in the mid 1990’s when my coach at the time was always challenging the group to improve in the areas that would benefit the team the most.  He would often say that “comfort, does not lead to improvement” and that comfort can lead to the worst of all malaises for a team; “going through the motions”

“Frater Gladius” (Sword Brothers), “ME WE” and “One Breath” were all short effective phrases that were used to focus the group in teams that I have been involved with over the years.

Wisdom, Knowledge and Experience

In closing, I have developed this equation to show that the value of experience over time is greater than the knowledge gained through academia. Both are important, but never discount what you learn on the job.

W = K E


W = Wisdom

K = Knowledge

E = Experience (measured in the number of years of experience-based application)

This is another reason why I would recommend that all those wanting to become strength & conditioning coaches to do a Diploma in Teaching concurrently with their Exercise Science degree of choice.

I can always track down someone who knows the science far better than myself to ask a pertinent question. Having a teaching diploma however, gave me a head start in the two most important skills I use each and every day in the weight room, Communication and Organisation.

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Ashley Jones has worked in three professional sports across 30 years and four continents. He was awarded the NSCA's Professional Coach of the Year in 2016. Ashley holds his CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) since 1988 and is an honorary lecturer in the School of Therapeutic Sciences, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, SA.

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