Over the course of the last week I spent some time reading Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent. The book is essentially 52 different tips that Daniel Coyle has accumulated over the course of his work studying how people that are exceptional talents in their field and what it took for them to get there. This sparked me into thinking what it takes for a coach, more specific a strength coach, to be great at their jobs. Here are four quick thoughts on what it takes to be great in our industry.
The first thing a coach should try to do is connect with their athletes when they first see them. The field of strength and conditioning is less about science and exercises and more about relationships, connecting with people and earning their trust.
In the world of strength and conditioning connecting with your athletes on a daily basis can be relatively easy. For example, as our athletes walk into the weight room the first thing they do is grab a foam roller to foam roll and then go through a series of stretches and mobility drills – this is a perfect and easy time to coach less and connect more. You have to show that you care before you teach and/or coach.
Be Quick & Direct
When it comes to actually giving direction make it short, sweet and direct. No one wants to hear a long winded speech or some long description of the exercise or exercises that you are about to perform – plus we know attention spans leave a lot to be desired. Explain it and explain it quickly. Explain it to them in a direct manner. John Wooden was known to show something correctly, then not what to do, then show it correctly again – a shit sandwich. Do this, not this, do this is what Coach Wooden’s philosophy was. Be quick, direct and to the point as often as you can.
Aim to be Useless
At the end of the day, I want the athletes I work with to be able to do exactly what I want, with great form/technique, without me standing by their side taking them through it. I should be able to sit there and watch them take themselves through the program and do it 95% correctly. Why do I aim for this and essentially make myself useless? Because this means I have done a great job of teaching them what they need to do to be successful and how they should be doing it. Is this every going to happen? Probably not as programs continue to evolve as we learn more about the human body as well as a new set of freshman coming into the program every year, but its still a goal that I keep in the back of my mind.
Catch People Doing the Right Thing
As coaches we are essentially around to help athletes improve both as athletes and as people. In doing so we spend a ton of time correcting what it is that they are doing wrong. If you are coaching a big group like a football team, you know you can literally walk around from platform to platform correcting something – and this is a good thing. However, I think as coaches we don’t spend enough time praising things that athletes are doing well. As hard as you work to fix things