As coaches, we often deal with athletes that seem to be uncooperative and non-compliant to what we ask them to do. However, sometimes as coaches we ourselves can be of the same attitude in various ways. It can either be when dealing with others that we work with, or even worse, in our own training.  The aim of this article is to examine the issue in the latter.

Would you let your athletes do it like that?

Whether you work with athletes in the private, scholastic, collegiate, or professional sectors, it is with some certainty that you have a standard of performance. It really doesn't matter what drill or exercise we are talking about. If you are training someone you will always have what you think is acceptable.  However, sometimes in our own training, ego gets the best of us.

I remember when I really had the light bulb go off in my head with this particular situation. Back when I lived in the Washington, DC area I used to travel around an hour to train at CVA Barbell in Fredericksburg, VA. This gym was a great place to train, with top-of-the-line equipment, and a great atmosphere of good coaching, combined with the usual shit talking that accompanies powerlifting and strongman training. The owner, Carlos Osegueda, is the type of person that won't hesitate to tell you if what you are doing is incorrect. To put it quite bluntly, I was doing some f*#king stupid things in my own training that he pointed out to me.

I recall one situation when I was squatting at his gym and he was watching my sets. I was doing paused squats in what was supposed to be a volume-based accumulation block. The intensity should have been nowhere near maximal and my form should not have been breaking at all on these particular sets. I was still fairly green to block periodization at this time and Carlos had been running it for a while and knew what this type of work should look like. In an egotistical move, I kept adding weight each set. I thought that I needed to be training with certain numbers year-round to hit what I wanted to at a meet that probably was 16 weeks away. I remember my knees shooting in badly, and the sets looking uglier and uglier with each jump. Carlos at first told me simply to correct the form issue. He then told me to lower the weight.

Of course, being a coach myself at this time, I brushed it off and kept doing what I was doing. This also prompted a few of the other guys to tell me it looked like shit. I then started to spout off shit about how if I wasn't training with a certain weight, there was no way I would hit the numbers I wanted to hit. This is when Carlos said “Would you let your athletes do it like that?” It was at this point that I realized he was right. As a coach, I would definitely have made the athlete either correct the issue at the current intensity or lower the weight until it matched what it should look like. I would have told them to check their ego at the door and do things right.

Overall, doing things with poor form is not going to help reach any goal faster. This really can be applied to anything you are training for. Therefore, if you know how things should look, be corrective, and make it applicable to yourself.

Constructive criticism

The criticism I was receiving was constructive.  Sure, there was some shit talking back-and-forth, but at the end of the day, there was a point to it all. The intentions were for things to be done correctly.

The other thing I realized is how it feels to be on the other side of this.  Sometimes it is easy to get frustrated as a coach, especially when an athlete isn't doing what you tell them. I know more often than not I can fly off the handle when one of my players makes an error on a movement, or asks a stupid question. However, the difference that probably needs to be sorted out is this: Are they doing it wrong because they think they know better? Is it because they don't know any better? A lot of the athletes I coach are high school kids with little training experience. While I do have a few slapdicks that do things wrong because they are lazy, do not care, or are just assholes in general, the majority are compliant yet unskilled at the movement. The reality is to make some kind of technical cue no matter how irritated I get.  For example, there is a big difference between, “That form needs work because...,” and “That f*#cking sucks." Hell, a lot of times I might say, “That fucking sucks because...,” and give some technical cues, explaining why it should be done that way. Overall, there always should be some educational aspect to this.

You can't save 'em all...

Know that not everyone will ultimately come around. I have had a few training partners that are flat out uncoachable. They will attempt to take advice, but end up doing the same goofball shit, week-in and week-out, with no results. I still attempt to help these guys, but I don't really waste tons of effort on it. In some cases, they are guys with impressive lifts and may think, “Who the fuck are you to tell me what to do?”  I also have had this myopic mind-state before. However, I realized that not everyone that you take advice from has to be a monster that can lift thousands of pounds more than you.  If we are to look at some of the best NFL coaches, they were in fact not anywhere near the best players of their time. In other cases, guys like this have been stuck doing something for so long that anything else is blasphemy. It is one thing to do the same things over and over and keep getting results, but it is another thing if you have plateaued for years and have gone backwards.

In conclusion, always be open to coaching when there are things you can improve on. If you are constantly doing things wrong or disregarding sound advice, you are no better than the athletes that piss you off on a regular basis. Do not judge the validity of a person's advice on their numbers alone, but on the actual quality of their coaching.