Applying Qualities of Special Teachers to Strength and Conditioning

This past weekend I wasn’t feeling great so I decided to take it easy for the weekend. I also made use of my time by catching up on some reading and podcasts.

I grabbed You Haven’t Taught Until they Have Learned by Swen Nater and Ronald Gallimore, a quick and easy read that I was able to finish over the course of the weekend. The book is based on legendary basketball coach John Wooden and his teaching principles and practices.

In one section of the book the authors talk about qualities that all great teachers have in common. It didn’t take long for it to dawn on my that these very same qualities are extremely important in the world of strength and conditioning.

Here is how these qualities can apply to the world of strength and conditioning.

They Make Learning Engaging
No matter the material, even the most demanding or difficult material, can be made engaging through the hands of a teacher that makes learning enjoyable. Teachers that make learning engaging

As strength coaches, we need to make the training environment fun and enjoyable to go through. The weight room needs to be an environment that athletes want to come back to, not need to come back to. You can still challenge an athlete to get better, push them to get better, and work hard all while having fun.

They Have Passion of the Material
If a teacher has passion for the information that they are presenting it becomes contagious for the people they are teaching. They make the material exciting. They want to share their vast knowledge of the subject matter so others can learn and improve from what they have to offer.

As strength coaches we do a pretty good job of having passion for our material but don’t do a great job of developing passion in the athletes we lead. Spend time to explain to athletes why they are doing what they are doing. Explain how it is going to make them a better athlete. If athletes understand the how’s and they why’s they do what they are asked to do, they’ll buy in more and have more passion for what it is that they are doing.

Deep Knowledge of the Subject
Teachers that are special have a deep passion for the subject they teach on. No matter the field that they are in, they are always looking for ways to improve their knowledge. They go to seminars, conferences and read everything they can get their hands on. They visit other great teachers, watch them intensely and learn from them.

As strength coaches, it is our responsibility to continue learning on a daily basis. The field changes extremely fast. If we were to look at strength and conditioning programs 10 years ago we would probably be appalled by the exercises be prescribed. Things change in this field, and they change fast. Keep learning, daily.

They Recognize Even Small Progress
Great teachers are always pressing their students to get better and improve, challenging and stretching them on a daily basis. However, great teachers are masters of balancing the challenging with encouragement. Additionally, even when the student is struggling with the challenges that are throw at them, a great teacher never gives up on the student.

As strength coaches, we ask a lot of our athletes. Olympic lifts can be very technical and challenging. Even as you push athletes to get better, while they are struggling to get their form down and getting frustrated with their lack of progress, keep finding small things that they are doing correctly, and recognize it.

They Are Extremely Organized
Great teachers are extremely organized. They have clear objectives as to what they want to accomplish. They have clear objectives on when they want to accomplish it. Everything they do is calculated through trial and error. They set a plan and then let the plan work.

As strength coaches, we need to have a detailed plan of what we want to do with athletes and when we want to do it. We can’t leave anything for chance. When we leave things for chance, don’t have a plan of attack at all times, and don’t progress athletes properly, injuries occur.

They Treat Everyone with Respect
Great teachers treat everyone with the utmost respect at all times. Great teachers understand that in order to get respect they need to first give respect. They respect each individual, their unique learning needs, and tailor their teaching style to meet those needs.

As the saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Live it everyday.

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