By the Coach for the Coach: Be the Bee

TAGS: bees, communication, strength and conditioning coach, by the coach for the coach, todd hamer

elitefts™ Sunday Edition

“That which is not good for the beehive cannot be good for the bees.” — Marcus Aurelius

If you're a strength and conditioning coach, you must deal with multiple (I wanted to use the word plethora here, but my editor says it's overused and was in The Three Amigos) people each day. Something that is different with us versus the private sector trainers is that we have athletic trainers, coaches, team doctors, an administration, and athletes to deal with. Now, I'm not in any way saying that working in the private sector is easier. It is just a very different job. Those of us who work for universities or professional teams as our full-time job are a cog in a much bigger set of cogs. Many times, we can have a huge impact as that cog, but we're still just one of many cogs.

One thing that I see our profession doing way too often is looking past the big picture and then fighting against other cogs. Then there isn't any rhythmic movement of the system. Think of it like this—as we all know, the human body will create movement even if we aren't prepared for that movement. An example is a hurdle step under. If someone is tight in the hips, he will get under a hurdle by collapsing in the mid-section. The body will get us down one way or another. Now think of your team (athletic trainers, coaches, athletes). If one area is failing, the system will keep moving by making the stress move somewhere else. If we aren't a smooth, functioning cog, the system will work around us.

Now be the bee!

Anyone who has read any of my articles or knows me at all will know that the natural world is of wonder to me. I don't think that one can separate human performance from the natural world. We can never overcome nature. Our jobs are to try to make an organism do things that it doesn't want to naturally do. Anyone who has a serious interest in the natural world and how humans relate and react to it knows about honey bees. Honey bees lead the most perfect utopian society ever founded. The average honeybee lives three weeks in the hive and then three weeks flying around playing in the fine nectar of life (this is during the warm months).

OK, now that I lost the uncommitted readers, how does this affect us as strength coaches? This is simple. During the first three weeks while the bees are in the hive, the bees' job is to learn and slowly move up the chain until they're ready to leave the hive. Then they spend the next three weeks collecting and moving nectar until one day they just die. We're doing the same. We each spent years learning our job (intern, graduate assistant) and then we moved to where we had some responsibility (assistant) until we were allowed to go out on our own. The key with all of this is that in order for the hive to survive and thrive, each bee must know her place in the hive (actually, if you've ever wanted to understand bees and sex, this is very interesting—the queen is more of a sex slave than a queen).

Take all this and put your team in that hive. Each person has a different job. If each person doesn't perform his duties, the hive will fail. Currently, one big issue with bees is colony collapse disorder. One theory behind this is that pollution as well as genetically-modified organisms have reduced bees' life expectancy by just a few days. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but if this happens, the hive is missing a cog. When this happens, the cog that goes missing is basically the air traffic control. These bees are responsible for making sure that when the bees get back to the hive, they know where they're going. Without these bees, all other bees get confused. The drones never make it back to the hives and the colony collapses. So as professionals, we must be like these bees. Each bee knows that she has a certain job and she does a great job at it. At the same time, she's always communicating with the other bees so that they can more effectively do their jobs (again, this is very interesting; if you ever want to read about this, email me). In order to be the bee, we must do a great job. If we see that there's somewhere else we can help, we must communicate to improve the function.

Now, I'll address some areas where I think we could be stronger as professionals. While I go through these, think about the bee colony. If one area is failing, another area needs to step up to fix the problem. With bees, they have to dance and show others what they're trying to communicate. With us, we can just email or speak to others, so don't let a little bee be better than you.

  • Athletic trainers: This is an area in which every strength coach could work more closely. First and foremost, find a quantifiable communication process with this group. I've used injury report forms, weekly meetings, and daily or weekly emails. If this communication breaks down, the system will fail, as the athletes will see that we aren't working well together.
  • Coaches: Find a way to attend some of each team's practices. I know many of us (including me) work with many teams. My women's ice hockey team practices at our rink five miles off campus. I still make a point to drive to some practices. Be proactive with this group. We must understand what the coach's philosophy is if we want to effectively communicate to a team.
  • Administration: Don’t be afraid to speak of your success to this group. Try to think like someone who is in the administration. Most administrators have no idea what we do on a daily basis, so it is our responsibility to communicate this to them and let them see the success we have. A few years ago, the Baylor strength department did a great presentation about dealing with this group. If you want to know more, I have saved their presentation. I'm sure anyone on staff there would be more than happy to share what they had prepared as well.
  • Outliers: This group includes anyone you work with who is very successful at his job. Find these people and work with them on something, anything. I was recently at a university event, and a professor came up to me and asked if I was Todd Hamer. My answer was, "Ummm, depends. Do you like Todd Hamer?" After a laugh, he told me that he had read a few of my workout programs and was using them. We began talking, and it turns out that he teaches courses on native cultures. This just happened to be an area I've been looking to study. So now I'm taking his class and he is using my workouts. Not only will my staff be better for this, but the goodwill that has been created is immeasurable.

As you can see, with each of these people we must know our jobs while also creating a positive work environment for their jobs. If we do this, we can help keep our team/hive in a strong position to be successful. I always like the term 'rhythmic' when describing good athletes. They tend to make movement look easy. This is also true with a healthy hive, a healthy team, and a strong team. So find ways to not only do your job but know your place and assist the rest of your team in doing their jobs.

Now, for those of you who made it through all this talk about bees, I'll wrap up this month's article with a story from sports about doing your job. At my current job, our director of basketball operations (DOBO) has a very important job at practice. His job is to make sure the dry erase markers work so that when the coach tries to write, he doesn't have to look for a marker. Every time I'm at practice, I watch the DOBO test each marker. He is a man who truly knows his job and does a great job at it. Some may think that his job isn't important, but if he fails and we have to wait for a new marker, the head coach will be upset and he won't be coaching at his best. Then the team will lose focus, and we will be worse for it. Just like a drone bee, know your job and be the best at your job. There aren't any large or small jobs. Just jobs. You must do yours well while empowering those around you to do the same.

“Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will take care of themselves.” — Dale Carnegie

Loading Comments... Loading Comments...