Use Your Inside Voice and Be Front Stage

TAGS: professionalism, By the Coach for the Coach: Use Your Inside Voice and Be Front Stage, todd hamer, education, training athletes, coaching

elitefts™ Sunday Edition

I'm very proud to be a collegiate strength and conditioning coach. I know that I have a great job and I realize it every time I talk to "normal" people. A few years back, my wife and I drove up the coast of Maine for vacation. While in Bar Harbor (this is a must visit, although they don't have any good place to train), the owner of the bed and breakfast where we were spending a few nights asked the opening question "What do you do?" I told him about my work and he responded with, "You have the second best job I've ever heard of."

This year, I've been able to travel to NCAA tournament games, attend conferences, train at work, and work with some awesome people and athletes. Knowing that I love what I do, I remind myself daily of my responsibility to my students. This job is different than that of a personal trainer, "performance specialist," or speed guy. There isn't any monetary value to my students, and I don't need to worry if they can afford my services or not. I just want to help them succeed.

Teaching the students

As an employee of a university, my job is to not only make my athletes stronger, more agile, and more injury resistant but also more educated. One part of this is social education. I looked around our weight room today and I saw many different nationalities as well as different sports, sexes, ages, strength levels, and other variables. While this was happening, Hatebreed was destroying everything on the radio and everyone was working hard to make each other better. Then one of my athletes told me that I was soft. This made my day! Yes, the statement was made in jest, but it showed how this freshman female from the other side of the world was accepting the weight room culture.

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Front stage versus backstage

Erving Goffman wrote a book in 1959 titled The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. In this book, he presented the idea of front stage and backstage behaviors. Front stage behavior is what you do when all eyes are on you (if you've read my previous articles, think about your secondary audience). Your backstage behavior is what you do when no one is watching. Everyone knows the adage, "Champions are made when no one is watching." The problem is that in the year 2014, someone is always watching. If they aren't watching our athletes (and coaches), all eyes are on them when they're "#grindin #workin #gettinitdone." You get my point.

As strength coaches, it's our job to know when to use our front stage persona and when to use our backstage persona. We work in competitive environments. Often it is loud, aggressive, and abnormal compared to other work places. We must find ways to let this be our backstage behavior. I often joke to my administration that they don't want to see what goes on in the weight room every day (they often agree).

One example of a coach letting his backstage behavior take over happened at a recent game. A coach I very much respect was leaving a game after his team lost bad. On the way out of the stadium, a fan threw a beer on him. The coach almost fought this fan. As I said, I respect this coach and his intensity, but his actions were backstage, not front stage. I'm not saying that he would fight in the weight room, but he would react differently than he would if he were appearing on ESPN. (Even though this coach has been very public about doing this, I won't share his name out of respect.)

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Another coach who I respect and who is a friend told me how his fullback loved to get slapped in the back before squatting. You know the slap I'm talking about...the one that leaves a nice handprint and stings for a good five minutes afterward. One day while squatting with some athletes, the coach saw some of the administration and others in suits come into the weight room. The fullback said, "Coach, I need some heat" (meaning a back slap), and the coach replied, "I can't right now." Then a teammate came up and gave the fullback the necessary heat. Clearly, this coach knew that it wasn't the time for backstage behavior.

So what about front stage behavior? This is what we have when we're on the sidelines at games, right? Yes, but it's also what we need to use more of when we present to peers, speak to classes, walk across campus, attend meetings, and live our lives. I have a few rules for everyone who works for me, and within those rules are specific behaviors when we go across campus. We won't use any colorful language. If we have a meeting, we will look presentable and speak professionally. When someone visits, we will be professional. I don't do this to be fake. I do this to be professional. I spoke in a previous article about code switching. Well, this is code switching on creatine (or something stronger).

I know that in our world it seems cool to drop F bombs while presenting, but the reality is this hurts all of us as professionals. I take pride in the fact that I don't swear while presenting. Remember, anyone in that audience could one day hire or fire you, so don't insult someone who you don't even know yet. Also, when you venture across your school's campus, act like a professional. This isn't in any way being fake; it's being smart. How do you think your president will feel when he's walking some donors into a new building on campus and some sweaty dude is dropping F bombs on everyone in sight?stage todd hamer 040214

Final frontier: Social media

Is social media front stage or back stage? It's front! Again, time to put on our big boy pants, act like a professional, and be one. Nothing turns me away from a strength coach more than rants about how "f*&*ing cool" he is or any type of hash tagging (sorry, hash tags aren't cool or adult). A lot of people on this planet can read what you wrote, so choose your words carefully.

In the book 1984, big brother was watching us. In the year 2014, big brother doesn't need to watch us. We give him free access to all we do. Make sure that you think about this each and every day and with each and every post. There is clearly a time to use both your front stage persona and your backstage persona. Just choose wisely. When in doubt, revert to front stage because you never know who's watching.

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