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When you're a coach, particularly a strength coach, you need to be very competent in your given trade. You need to understand the needs analysis of the sport and the athlete. You need to understand the proper sequencing of the annual plan and what needs to be trained when. You need to understand what the training results indicate. Do the athletes need to train to produce more low torque force? More high velocity force? Do they need to absorb force or reverse force? And you need to understand how the kinetics and kinematics of sprinting and change of direction are affected by what strikes the ground at what time. There is a lot to know.

However, none of these are the most important thing that you can do as a strength coach. People will never remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. They won’t remember the sets of squats, benches, cleans or snatches. They won’t remember how many runs or plyometric workouts they did. They remember how you made them feel. They remember the feeling of being inspired. They know when you have their best interests in mind and try to lift them up.

Think back to your favorite coaches or teachers. What was it about them? Was it how they taught technique? Was it how they set up training cycles? What was it? I can remember someone who was both a coach and professor of mine. He was very influential, and I’ve talked about him before in various articles. Dr. Rick McGuire had an innate ability to know what to do, what to say and how to say it at any given time. It didn’t matter what else you had going on at any given time. If you talked to Coach McGuire for 10 minutes (sometimes that turned into an hour), you felt like you could change the world when you left. What did he say to me in those times when I stopped by his office? I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is that I remember feeling invincible when I left his office.

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It isn't the squats. It isn't the cleans, nor the reverse hypers or pull-ups. It’s the value you show the person that he has. That is what makes the difference. It isn't what he did in the squat, but the fact that you set him up for success and he knows that you, his coach, believes in him when it’s all on the line. It wasn’t the extra reps that helped the offensive lineman blow the defensive tackle off the ball when it’s the fourth quarter and inches to the goal with three seconds left and the team is down by six. It’s the fact that he believes in himself because he may not have when he started, but with your help, he does now. It wasn’t the push jerks that helped the basketball player sink the free throw. It was the fact that he was confident in himself to make the shot.

As a coach, you have some important decisions to make in your program. I can tell you that debating over what exercise to put in where is one of the easier decisions. The most important one is how to reach the athletes. Any gains that you may make in the weight room are transient. At some point throughout the athlete’s life, he will get weaker. He will get slower. The gains that you gave him will go away. However, if you invest in the athlete as a person and try to help him improve his character and become the best version of himself possible, you create lasting “gains.” You can create gains that effect not only that athlete but the other people he comes in contact with. He will go and improve the world as well as other people's worlds.

My good friend Martin Rooney talked about something called the butterfly effect in his book Train to Win. He discussed how small things can make big changes in training, but this was my introduction to it:

In case you don’t get a chance to watch this video, Andy Andrews talks about the butterfly effect in an inspiring way. He talks about Norman Borlog who was in charge of developing hybridized corn and wheat to grow in arid climates. This saved the lives of 2,000,000,000 in the mid-1860s.

So every time you interact with your athletes, you have a chance to make an impact. You never know what you will say or do that will stick with them. Try and make sure that whatever you say to them will be worth sticking. You may be making a long-term “gain” for the athlete that will go on to be the cure for cancer. And you set it in motion because you helped him have the greatest gain of all—confidence. Far better results in terms of wins and losses come from confidence rather than bigger squats, higher jumps or faster runs. The athlete who is successful on the field is successful because he believes that he is good enough to get the job done (and he's competent enough).

While I'll always push the envelope with the implementation of science into strength training, I'll always remember what is most important. Every day I try to encourage and empower the athletes as best I can. I always try to do so through story. In the Hagakure, a book of the samurai, they state something to the effect of a person will resist you with trying to make direct change, so instead lead him with personal story or parable and let him come to the conclusion for himself. If he doesn't come to the desired conclusion at first, this is OK because he wouldn't have had the desired outcome anyway from your command and you have another opportunity to come again. I try and give the athletes stories from my personal life and from others such as the story of Victor Frankl, Stephen Covey, Joshua Chamberlain, Thomas Edison and others. The upperclassmen often ask for a story because they think it will help someone on the team who is struggling with something.

Our job as strength and conditioning professionals isn't to just make the athletes strong(er) of body but strong(er) of mind as well.