When I made the decision around age 18 to become a strength and conditioning coach I had a vision of my future self as a solid 260lbs of steel with forearms like a blacksmith, a full beard, shaved head, and of course donning a polo with my school’s emblem on the breast. I envisioned myself inspiring some of the greatest athletes of all time. In my day dream, I would yell as a giant vein grew from the side of my apple colored neck. At my will, said athlete would perform a task never seen by man.
When I broke into the collegiate ranks as a coach that day dream was somewhat reality for many of the coaches around me, sans miraculous feat being achieved. I quickly saw the flaws in this approach and adapted my own style—more cerebral, but occasionally letting that neck vein show.
My transition to the private sector has only added in my growth as a coach and business owner. Although I still work with some elite and professional athletes, most of my coaching time is spent with athletes who will never earn a dime from their training. Less veins come out of my neck and my approach is much more consistent.
Occasionally I will have a former athlete drop in and accuse me of being to soft. This is not the case at all—I am more demanding than ever, but offer greater perspective earned from 15 years in the industry and roughly 10 of them coaching has offered new perspective.
One thing that has become apparent is the increased amount of chatter that infiltrates and grabs hold of the private training sector. The explosion of social media is one culprit. Everyone is posting about their training and leaving you to believe that what they are doing is/has always worked. It seems that no one on the internet has ever made a mistake, learning the old fashioned way.
Instagram is famous for making coaches instafamous. Nice abs, a low butt angle, and muscles are the new precursor for quality coaching. Everyone is offering an opinion on nutrition, periodization, and how to run a gym.
These avenues of communication do offer a lot of positives; however, more people are talking without really saying anything or having much perspective.
As a coach I find myself talking less but saying more. I find myself encouraging athletes to stay off of social media, video less, and try to maintain perspective on how far they have come.
Olympic weightlifting is notorious for being an unforgiving sport. The challenge in the sport is the thing that drives people to pursue it. Because weightlifting has so many variables—a coach could literally tell an athlete to change something on every rep.
Over coaching is a terrible problem in the sport.
When I coach I have decided that I want to try to stick to simple messages and only communicate in the following ways.
Only speak the truth. I have a lot of athletes that comment that I never give compliments. That is not true. I just only give compliments when I believe in them. I see no point in telling an athlete good job, when in reality they didn’t work towards what we want to achieve. I also don’t want to water down my compliments. When I tell you nice job—you know I MEANT nice job. I strive to be impeccable with my word.
Say things that have value. If I wanted to I could comment on every single lift. That does not mean that those comments would be valuable. Some athletes have a hard time with this. They may think that I am disengaged or do not like them or whatever. But the truth is—good communication and coaching doesn’t equal talking.
What I say I want to be positive and come from a place of genuine care and authenticity. If I were to just tell an athlete good job, knowing me personally, they would call bullshit. They know that authentic Dan does not sugar coat things. I also do genuinely care about the success of our athletes. I share in the success and failure of the athletes that I am working with. When I tell them something I want my actions and words to be conveyed to them in a way they know I care about them. I don’t want to give empty advice.
Having enthusiasm in coaching is critical. However, you do not have to be jumping up and down and yelling you have enthusiasm. Believing in what you do, conveying a strong message, and being authentic with your word will lead to success.