Thursday, June 19, 2014

How to pick a coach

This topic is ignored all too often. With the growing popularity of strongman (and the fact that no expert or pro has come out and spoke about this) I felt I must speak out and address the proper way to pick a coach.

Before narrowing the scope of this article to just strongman, I want to let it be known that this is applicable to all sports. If you are picking a coach for powerlifting, olympic lifting, baseball, football, wrestling, or any sport, you should ask yourself a series very important questions.

1. Has this coach been where I want to be?
2. Is this coach qualified?
3. How long has this coach been in the sport?
4. Does this coach have any successful athletes?
5. Is the coaching style conducive to your character?
6. Does your coach care?
7. Is this coach an effective communicator?

I will tackle these questions one by one so you can see the importance of each question.

1. Has this coach been where I want to be?
With a coach that has been "there" before they will know how to get "there" again, this is an important quality because all of the communication, qualifications, experience, etc means nothing if they do not know how to get you to your goals in the first place. 

2. Is this coach qualified?
For some sports the term "qualified" is clear and concise (USAW cert, Lvl 1 CF cert., etc), but it should not be forgotten that the term "qualified" is a convention set to a somewhat low standard. The qualified that I am talking about is a little bit more selective and specific. My qualified refers to the coaches level of knowledge. This is really a question to clarify that the coach knows what they are doing. There are some freaks that are just good with no real reason, and conversely there are individuals who possess the skills and knowledge to be a great coach who have not done so well in competition. It should be noted that these individuals are far and few between and are the exception to question #1.

3. How long has this coach been in the sport?
Obviously if your coach was just introduced to the sport and is talking about how they know everything about it, odds are that you know about as much as that coach. It is important that a coach has been in the sport for quite a while and seen not only what works, but more importantly what does NOT work. Athletes are individuals and a good coach knows this, a good coach also knows that different programming works with different athletes, a cookie cutter program is the most obvious sign of a novice coach.

4. Does the coach have any successful athletes?
I want you to read my question again... Recognize that I did not say "athlete" I said "athletes." Anyone can come across a driven, knowledgeable, gifted athlete and make them into a champion, those individuals can not be stopped from being great. To do that more than once tells you that there is proof in the pudding. Coaches that are good, have good athletes. This may not be what they started with but it is the end result of effective coaching, athletes who perform well.

5. Is the coaching style conducive to your character?
Within the coaching world there are several different styles of coaching, in fact there are too many to list. Just for a qualitative understanding of this topic we can talk about two opposing styles, positive and negative reinforcement. The positive coach will always be uplifting, giving encouragement through positive reinforcement . Lifting their athletes up after a poor performance or a disappointing workout. Some athletes really need this, but other athletes need more of a foot in the ass approach.
A negative coach (not to be confused with a poor coach) will see you perform poorly or have a poor lift within your training and get in your face. They will get you riled up and if it is an effective technique for you this will encourage a stronger performance, but this is where individuality begins to play a role. Some people cannot handle the hardass (negative) coaching style and conversely others would not be motivated by the encouraging (positive) coaching style. Like many things in life, to get what you want you must first know what you want.

6. Does your coach care?
A good coach cares not only about winning but about the individual. This may seem self-evident to the individuals who have had a coach who cares, but for those who have not had the experience I will do my best to elaborate. When a coach cares it comes through, the athlete can feel it. This bond will form in both ways, you will care for your coach and your coach will care for you. To fail to do your best truly feels like you let down not only yourself, but your coach. For the coach it is no longer about a job, and for the individual it is no longer about performing for you, it is about representing yourself and your coach. This subject strikes me very personally. While I was in high school I met my wrestling coach Chris Feist. I can say without a shadow of a doubt he change my life. Even 8 years later, I can recall all of my teammates, the way that it felt to step on the mat, the way it felt not just wrestling for myself but to wrestling for what felt like family, if that feeling is present with a coach then the chemistry is right.

7. Is this coach an effective communicator?
Being an effective communicator is just as important as having the knowledge in the subject that you teach. Someone who has all the knowledge but none of the skills to convey the ideas is effectively useless, like a car without gas. I do not have a direct test to determine if a coach is an effective communicator however, this is something that becomes self-evident after working with someone for a short period of time. I will give you a few additional questions you may find useful for determining if a coach is an effective communicator:

A) Are they articulate?
I am not talking about them using big words, I'm asking if they are using words that help you to understand.

B) Do they convey ideas quickly and clearly?
When I teach I go through the technique three times with students and then watch them go through on their own, I am not claiming this is the best method, but sometimes quick and clear does not mean "just once." People can only process so much at once, the real question is "Are the students getting better?"

C) Do they sound confident in what they're talking about?
A coach should be confident in what they are teaching, if you have evaluated your coach correctly this far, you will not need to worry about them teaching you cookie cutter crap out of muscle and fitness or bodybuilding.com like "strongman for fat loss"
---> http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/strongman-for-fat-loss.html Do not listen to this kind of crap.

4 comments:

  1. Zack--

    Can't help but disagree on point #1. By that logic, the NE Patriots would have never won a game under Belichick and there are plenty of other coaches who have it all mentally but weren't granted the physical hardware to succeed. Highly recommend "Education of a Coach," the bio of Belichick, if you're interested.

    Will

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I address the circumstances where point one is not accurate under point two (listed below).

      "there are individuals who possess the skills and knowledge to be a great coach who have not done so well in competition. It should be noted that these individuals are far and few between and are the exception to question #1."

      As with anything, each of these can not be taken out of context or they will fall apart. These guidelines are meant to be assessed together. To be clear, I agree with your point, perhaps I was not clear with mine.

      Delete
    2. Whoops, no that's my bad for not reading thoroughly enough. My book recommendation still stands though.

      Will

      Delete
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