elitefts Sunday Edition

By the Coach for the Coach: Be a Better Coach

I've been doing a lot of soul searching about what the goals are for this article series. I think this must be examined if anything is to be gained from these articles. Ultimately, I hope we all become better coaches from this series. At the same time, I hope to open a dialogue about our profession. Where are we going and how are we getting there?

Anyone who has been to the CSCCa conference knows that we're trying to find ways to be better professionals. The conversations that I overhear and am a part of are often about how we can move our profession forward. One way to accomplish this is to do our jobs so well that no one else can do our jobs but us.

With this in mind, I'll cover some ways that I believe we can become better coaches:

  1. Train (but don’t let training control your life): Every member of my staff competes in some form of lifting. We've had Olympic lifters, powerlifters, Strongmen, and even a bodybuilder working on our staff. While I truly believe that it's important to keep your fire ignited and that you must train to understand training, you must also be prepared to miss training. More times than I can count, I've been training and a coach, administrator, or athlete interrupts me. I have to stop my training and go back to work. So while training is a great perk of our jobs, it isn't a right. Always keep that in mind when you're interrupted while training.


2) Don’t waste the athletes' time:When training athletes, there are endless exercises and tools to make them better. Some of these are very useful while some are just gadgets. We can easily come up with a list of the different tools we use—barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, ropes, bands, chains. Notice that I didn't add speed ladder to this list. In my opinion, this is one example of a gadget and a waste of time.Let’s use basic science to examine this. As we know, when children are learning to walk, their brains are basically learning the timing. One foot comes off the ground and reaches forward as the body moves horizontally. When a child tries to walk for the first time, he will fall down. This occurs because the brain doesn't know when the foot will hit the floor. As the child continues to try, the brain learns when the foot will hit the ground. This become ingrained and now the child can walk and eventually run and jump. If you're a college strength coach and you're spending large amounts of time teaching your athletes how to move through a speed ladder, you're just training them to learn a new walking or “running” pattern. As Dave Tate said years ago (I'll paraphrase), if I can teach you something in five minutes, it probably isn't worthwhile, but if it takes you years to learn and perfect, then it's useful. I couldn't agree more.


3) Diversify your education: As I've said many times, we're good at what we do—making athletes faster, stronger, leaner, and better all around. We fail at dealing with our administrators, speaking on an academic level, and supporting each other and our profession. If we become more educated, we'll become a stronger, more diverse profession. Remember, ignorance is bliss and with knowledge comes responsibility.

4) Stop believing that chocolate milk is the greatest post-workout shake on earth: It isn't! I won't go on my anti-milk rant here, but how many times have you heard someone say this without being able to tell you the results of one study about chocolate milk? All I ask is that you research it for yourself. If, after researching the topic, you believe that it's an amazing supplement, please use it liberally. Just research it for yourself before you blindly repeat something you heard from someone once.


5) Spend more time building relationships and less time programming: I may get beat up for this one, but if you're a great programmer but a terrible communicator, you will be a terrible coach. However, if you're a bad programmer, but your athletes believe in you and work hard, you'll have some success. Remember, we don't do the work. The athletes do the work. All we do is ask them to work hard and move themselves forward as athletes and people.


6) Make 'have to' into 'get to': This is a simple change but a huge change. From this point forward, don't say, "I have to do…" Say, "I get to do…" I stole this from my men’s basketball coach who read it in a book by Jon Gordon. While I haven't read the book yet, I definitely plan to soon. With this simple change, we can now appreciate our opportunities. So the next time you have a meeting, try to say, "I get to go to a meeting," not "I have to go to a meeting." You just might change your perspective going into the meeting.


7) Be a better steward of your current resources: I stole this from a good friend and great coach, Anne Tamporello, from Baylor. She had a great article in which she said, "Don't expect more resources until you are a great steward of your current resources." If we combine the last two points,  just think how much happier and more motivated for work our profession would be!


8) Learn from the best: Clearly, the next question is, "Who is the best?" In this unquantifiable profession, that's a hard question to answer. The best is whoever you're currently learning from. I was speaking to a former intern of mine the other day. He interned for me at the university I'm currently at and is now working at Tulsa. He's a great programmer and probably one of the best I know. I contacted him to tell him this. It's important that we share our admiration with each other. While doing this, ask questions and learn from the experts.


9) Don't be afraid to say, “I don’t know”: I like to think that I'm well-educated and well-read, but the world is a big place and there are many topics I know little to nothing about. I'm always amazed by true Renaissance men or women, but even they don't know everything. So while we are educators, we must also be students. In order to be intelligent, you must always be learning. When I think about people like this, I often think of Henry Rollins. I've seen Henry speak four times. Each time I see him he knows more and has a more diverse view of the world than on the previous occasion.


10) When in doubt, play Hatebreed and Public Enemy: If this doesn't bring life to your weight room, your weight room is on life support! Remember, there are many ways to motivate your athletes, so use everything you have.

I hope these ten points made you think about your approach to coaching and life. If we don't question our beliefs, we'll never grow.