Coaches and Coaching Styles

Originally Posted on Thursday, September 22, 2011 10:53 AM
I've been behind with my blogs lately, and I apologize for the absence.  I have, however, built a backlog of topics I'd like to discuss, including squatting, volume and how it builds lifters, safety and etiquette in the gym, psychological approaches to training, and todays topic:  Coaching.

My first coaching experience was in 1992 with the Immaculate Heart of Mary CYO Wrestling team.  I had about six wrestlers, all of whom were rote beginners; I learned more from that experience than I ever thought I would.  What this experience engendered in me was the desire to have my athletes do more than I did, and to train everyone with these basic goals:  Enjoy the sport, get a sound footing in the basics of the sport, and improve incrementally.

Since that erstwhile group of 4th-6th graders, I've coached Soccer, Football, Wrestling Girls Lacrosse, Track and Field, and Weightlifting.  I've coached Conference and State Champions, All-Star and All-State athletes, international medal winners, and kids and adults who quit.  Sometimes I've made mistakes, but I always try to improve. 

My coaching philosophy is simple and basic:  relate to people, treat them with respect, and get them to improve.  I have a cogent and dynamic training philosophy, which is to get people using basic strength movements accompanied by specific individual skills to improve weaknesses. Coaching begins with this philosophy of programming.  I can't work with people unless I know what I want them to do.  

As for motivation, I can't say the same things to everyone to motivate them, nor do I treat a 17 year old boy the same as I do a 48 year old woman.  What I try to do is treat Jason as Jason, Michelle as Michelle, and my wife as the wonderful, perfect woman she is while telling her to stop talking and squat more (I love you, honey).  The key to motivating people is to build a relationship and find out why they're training:  do people want to lose weight, compete, stop their back from hurting?  When you determine their goal, show them how they're achieving specific objectives on their way, and be positive with them.  A good way to do this is to work, even for five minutes, alone with someone.  Talk to them, see what their problem is; show some special interest in them.  You'll find out something about them, how to relate to them, and you'll also find out a way to help them overcome an obstacle in their training.

Possibly the most important aspect of coaching is to put your ego aside.  Many coaches refuse to treat people as individuals.  This mistake leads to an antagonistic relationship with your athlete or trainee.  Someone might be an extraordinary Olympic Lifter, but they like mixing up their program with other things.  My choice in this situation is to either stop coaching the athlete or accept their goals and work with them.  Otherwise you can turn the athlete off entirely, and you've lost a good lifter and a good client.  Most of all, you've hurt your sport and your business by pushing someone out of it who could have helped them both grow.
For those of you who are looking to become more effective coaches, or who are looking for more effective coaches, I've included some links below to help provoke discussion and understanding.

Michael McKennaComment