You can't rush growth. Lasting growth as a coaching is like using a slow cooker versus a deep fryer. It's slow and steady, kind of boring, but works everytime.
If you're committed enough to make it past your first few years as a coach, it's important to look back and reflect on what you've learned. If I could only go back in time and tell the younger version of my some of these tips, I'd like to think that I'd bypass years of development as a coach.
So, for some of you brand new strength coaches out there, here are five things I wish I knew when I started coaching.
1. Go Deeper Not Wider!
This is me yelling at myself. Just recently, I caught myself getting back into old habits:
- Being shallow with my information and not deep
- Flying through books, podcasts, audio books, training programs, etc. as fast as I could
I was crushing 2 audiobooks a week at x2 speed and then speed-reading the latest book of the week (one I had seen a strength coach recommend on social media that was supposed to be amazing). Then I caught myself.
WHY? It was the fear of not knowing enough. The fear that there was some hidden secret that I did not know. What are the secrets of the strength and conditioning? Well, guess what? I solved them. There are no secrets. There is no one perfect program, exercise or anything. As Dan John has said before, anything works for 6 weeks.
Takeaway: Slow down. Absorb information and really soak it in. It’s okay to take your time and explore every nook of anything. Master it. Which leads me to my next point...
(P.S. ALL of those books are amazing. No, I did not read Super Training from cover to cover.)
2. Be A Great Technician
Know each exercise in and out; own the movements. Have the utmost attention to detail. However, that does not mean that you need to over-coach and never let the athlete do a slightly imperfect movement. This is where the art of coaching comes in. Be articulate and direct with your words, then let the athlete move and solve the problem. Mistakes will happen, but this is how the athlete will learn and improve.
Do not always demonstrate the movements. I became a much better coach when I ruptured my right Achilles tendon. How? Because I had to. I could no longer demonstrate every movement. I had to effectively communicate each movement so that the athlete would understand. Less became more and my athletes continued to thrive.
Takeaway: Communication is key. Perfect it.
3. Always have a “WHY”
There should be a reason for every single thing you do. Period. Simple explanations need to be available for an athlete’s curiosity. ("I did this because it looked cool" or "Someone said it would work" are not reasons.) Have a real reason why.
Takeaway: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” – Einstein
4. Always Return to the Basics
I have gone to many seminars, camps, clinics, etc. and one thing always stands out: the basics. We want things to be complicated and fancy with all the bells and whistles (squats with bands and flashing lights). Yes, these things work great and are awesome - but most of the time, all our athletes need are basic squats, some quality hard work, and volume. There's nothing sexy about 5x5 except the results.
Takeaway: Train the basics, don't get fancy. Hold true to your foundation.
5. Don’t Forget to Have FunWe became strength coaches because we love what we do and are extremely passionate about it. Do not lose that passion. It shines through with your athletes. It will help to build relationships with them and get more out of their training. Be involved. Play games. Have challenges and keep the energy up! Your athletes should have a smile on their face.
Takeaway: Enjoy the process and have fun!