Every once in a while, I think it's good to look back and take stock of things that could have been done differently. While I don’t really regret anything or think that things would be completely different now had I made some changes, I think it's important to look to the past to avoid future mistakes.

In this article, I'll list things that I could have done better as an athlete, student, lifter, and coach. I'll choose three things for each category. I don’t intend for this to be one of those cornball “if I knew then what I know now” pieces. Odds are, I may not have done things any differently. However, acknowledging these mistakes may help down the line.

As an athlete

To throw it out there, I was an average athlete. I wasn’t great at any sports I played, but I was serviceable and started. While I played a variety of sports, the last team sport I played was football. I don’t necessarily think that these things would have made me much better than a serviceable player by any means. However, they may have helped me be more consistent.

In my opinion, for any athlete, the following things apply to almost any sport:

1. Being tentative when I was unsure of what to do: One of the biggest mistakes I made was not going all out at times when I was unsure of my assignment. While some of this will depend on the coach, more often than not, most can forgive a mistake if the effort is there (at least in the early stages of learning an assignment). Many times going hard can make up for being slightly out of position or having poor technique. This isn’t to say that you should just go hard and never make the attempt to learn the assignments or techniques, but allowing yourself to overthink everything and fear making a mistake will definitely affect your ability.

2. Spending too much time working on strengths and not enough time working on weaknesses: This is different for everyone. For me, I loved training. Lifting, running, and so on were enjoyable to me. Looking back, I almost don’t know if I liked the sport as much as the training for the sport, and I wanted somewhere to go after school. This is probably why I chose to take the path that I did.

To be a better football player, I should have been spending more time working on skills for my positions. Watching film of myself, I clearly wasn’t very skilled in the technical aspect of the game, but I always defaulted back to trying to lift and sprint myself into a better player. I should have worked on small things like stance, proper pad level, tackling, and positioning on blocks.

3. Not studying the game enough: While I understood the game, it was on more of a surface level. I wasn’t what I would consider 'football smart.' If I made a great play, I didn’t always know what I did to do that. If I blew an assignment, I didn’t always understand exactly what happened and what issues had caused the play call. This was something that could have been corrected by watching more film, meeting with my coaches, and asking questions about my assignments in each week’s game plan. Some of this may go back to not wanting to ask because I didn’t want my coaches to know that I didn’t know. However, learning the how and why of the game would have made me a better player.

As a student

As a student, I always got above a 3.0 grade point average. I was capable of more but was disinterested in school. In courses where I was able to have an open-ended curriculum, I did very well because the material interested me. However, in courses that were rigidly structured, I had problems because I wasn’t able to choose the material that I studied. I also had a hard time seeing the uses of things in the future and couldn't see past the use of something outside the current point in time. This applied to both high school and college.

So I would have done the following things differently in my academics:

1. Looking for the easy way to get credits: This is the biggest issue that I had. While I took college prep courses in high school, I was on the border of taking the AP classes or what my school called “college” classes that weren't really much above general education. I only took one AP course in high school but could have had the majority of my schedule made up of these courses.

In college, I should have taken more of the true science classes and possibly studied a different subject for my undergraduate work. I say this because the sciences like biology, physiology, biochemistry, physics, and so on interest me. However, I would have to back track in these subjects now because I don’t have the basic knowledge that possibly could have been gained through course work.

2. Having tunnel vision: This is a problem that many students have. Often students look at classes as something that they're in for the time being and they can’t see why they need to learn the material. They only memorize and regurgitate but don’t attempt to use the information. This was my problem. I saw many classes as just something to complete in order to graduate.

One example is foreign languages. I studied Spanish for three years in high school and two semesters in college. I always did well in the classes, but I still didn’t feel that Spanish was important enough for me to establish any higher level of proficiency. At the time, it wasn’t needed on a daily basis. Fast forward to now. In many areas where I've lived, there have been significant numbers of Spanish speakers. In addition, my wife is Dominican and her family’s first language is Spanish. While I can speak the language with moderate proficiency, I wish I would have tried to become more proficient at it because it's of use to me on a daily basis.

3. Not taking more direction in my course selection: Rather than actively select my courses, I usually just went with the basic schedule of what was required and saw what was open. I let my advisors tell me what to take as opposed to actively seeking out what was in my best interests. Because of this, I probably ended up with more courses that didn’t fit what I wanted to learn. This led to disinterest and the feeling of “just pass.” In most majors, there are different courses that can meet the same requirements, but rather than seek those out, I just took whatever was available.

As a lifter

I consider myself to be a middle of the road lifter. I still need a lot of work and I'm by no means great at the sport. When I look at what I've done, a few mistakes jump out and may have prevented me from putting up better numbers:

1. Turning to gear too early: While I compete in gear and plan to do so indefinitely for the most part, I think I jumped the gun in my early development as a lifter. In my first two meets, I used the most basic gear on the market, which didn’t do much more than make lifting uncomfortable. However, after that, I jumped into multi-ply briefs, shirts, and suits. While I actually did a large amount of my training raw even during this time, I still think I may have been better off slowly working into this.

I see this mistake a lot both in training partners and at meets. While I like lifting of all kinds and plan to continue to compete in gear, I'm not a fan of seeing the novice lifters at meets without any real idea of what they're doing jammed into an advanced suit or shirt wobbling through three near dumps. I think building a good base will pay off whether you choose raw lifting or geared lifting.

2. Not focusing on volume and technique early on: When I was younger, I don’t think I put enough stock into performing the competitive lifts with enough volume or really focused on perfecting my technique. It wasn’t that I used terrible form, but I never really tried to see if I could be more efficient. I blame some of this on the fact that me and my fellow training partner were both beginners and we tried to do what we read online. In addition, I did a ton of accessory work but didn't track how much work was going to the big lifts. I made the beginner's mistake of performing lifts with too much intensity and not enough total work.

3. Going into meets with an “all or nothing” approach: I went into meets always wanting to hit certain numbers instead of focusing on PRs and objectively going for what I could get on that day. I remember a few meets where I said, “I came here to lift (insert amount here) and if I don’t, I’d rather bomb.” This resulted in many subpar performances, including three bomb outs in a row back in 2007. I learned not to live in the moment but to focus on steady progress.

As a coach

I'd like to continue to grow the most in this area because while the other areas only affected me, this area affects every athlete, team, and coach I work with. The most important thing to keep in mind is that as a coach, results are all that really matter in the sport. Nobody really cares if you are the best at lifting weights unless your sport is lifting weights. The other thing to remember is that coaching is a position that requires the ability to communicate with others. In the past, I struggled with these areas.

I either didn’t focus enough on or still need to work on the following:

1. Having better communication with other coaches or administrators: This is the number one problem that many coaches struggle with, and even now, I’m no different. While being able to program or get on the floor and coach athletes matters, many times there has to be a level of communication with other coaches or administrators. I didn’t include communicating with athletes because more often than not this isn’t as much of a problem for many coaches. However, being able to convey the purpose of training to other coaches or administrators is often an area many stumble on. I've dealt with this issue in the past and sometimes still do.

I didn’t like people to question what I was doing. People will always have questions, especially in sports with traditionalist mindsets. The ability to answer these questions and not come off like a condescending asshole or take these questions personally is something that I will always continue to work on.

2. Too much emphasis on lifting weights early on: When I was first getting into coaching, I always defaulted to the weight room because it was what I knew best. I looked at athletes with a lifter’s mentality and thought that many of the numbers they were putting up were weak. While strength can help a lot of things, it only helps to a point.

Within each sport, event, or positional grouping, there are certain requirements. Sometimes strength isn’t needed at high levels (at least in reference to weight room maxes) in order for an athlete to make progress in his sport. As I grew as a coach, this is the biggest error that I've eliminated. While I still believe in weight room work, I don’t see it as the ultimate factor. It's one tool of many that may have varying levels of application depending on the needs of the athlete.

3. Not being open minded: I struggled with getting stuck in one mindset. I'm a coach who doesn’t use Olympic lifts. When I was younger, I didn’t want to listen to anything from coaches who used these lifts because I was against using them in the weight room. It didn’t matter how much they may have had in common with me in areas other than this.

Now that I'm older, I really don’t care what lifts anyone else uses. I know that this is all general to everything but powerlifting or Olympic lifting. It isn’t only in this area. Just because a coach may have misguided ideas as far as training is concerned, they may be great at the administrative side of coaching. While I may not agree on principles that some may use in their actual program design, I've become more open to listening to others because there is much more to coaching than just the exercise selection. Coaches have to also play the role of an administrator, teacher, and mentor at times and many coaches are great at these roles.


As I said earlier, I’m not making and playing the “what if” game, nor do I regret anything I’ve done because I haven't met any crippling consequences from past mistakes. However, I think it is a good practice to look back and make note of things that could have been done differently. By acknowledging past errors, further development can be made athletically, academically, and professionally.