Monday, April 8, 2019

Relationships and Trust

What I have surmised after all the years of coaching athletes in both high school and college is that coaching is all about

relationships and trust

Years ago, if athletes didn't go hard or show dedication or didn't at least look like they were trying, I was done with them.

And then I realized that every kid, almost all of them, has "IT" in them and it was my job to figure out what the "IT" was and to push that button in order to help them achieve.

When I coached football in college, I would be in staff meetings with this particular head coach and we would be discussing players. If we came to a name of an athlete who wasn't performing up to par and was on scholarship, the head coach would declare, "I want his money." Meaning make him quit or step up. And if he didn't prove his worth right away, then make him quit to free up the scholarship money. And then we would run drills until the kid quit or rose up and became something. I reckon that there may be some merit to seeing how a kid will react when his back is against the wall. But the way I would approach it these days would be different. I'd talk to the kid, find out what's going on, and most of all, figure out what makes him tick.

I know this may sound crazy but years ago I was talking with a good friend of mine who trains hunting retrievers for a living and he was telling me about a great dog trainer and the dog trainer one time turned to the friend and said to him, "It's never the dog's fault." Meaning, you need to find a way to make that dog learn. You are the coach, that is your job, now do your job.

That maturation of sitting back and observing the athlete , seeing how he interacts with the other players, seeing what exercises he excels in or doesn't excel in comes with time coaching and experience.

And as a coach, you have no idea what is going on with their lives. It's real important to talk face to face with each athlete at some point. Sit down with the kid who is having trouble and don't talk about lifting weights and don't talk about his/her sport right away, just talk to them as people. What's going on? How's class? How's your family? You may find that there is an underlying condition that is messing with this kids life.

I have had athletes come to me with severe depression, relationship troubles, family trouble, you name it. And it may be as simple as just telling the kid that he is worth a damn, and let him know that you think so.

Many times it's an athlete that has a problem with a sport coach. I had one player who had a huge issue with his position coach, wondering why the coach always yells at him, why he doesn't like him, why he doesn't play him. Usually , I knew the coach personally, and in this instance, I knew the coach very well. This particular coach had a tendency to get on kids in a personal manner. Not just about the sport, but also he would comment on the kid's family or who he should have recruited instead of the player. It was tough to take if you never had a father that ripped you or coaches when you were coming up through the ranks that yelled and screamed. This one coach was a yeller but he cared about the athletes well being and as a person. Although I believe that he shouldn't coach the way that he did, he really didn't mean to be a jerk, he just was a jerk on the field,  but it was like he didn't realize the way that he was being, and how it affected the athlete. So we talked, the athlete and I, and he told me that he was thinking about quitting, but I knew that he didn't really want to. He was just confused. So I told him that he has a choice: Either quit, or walk up to the coaches' office and close the door and talk to him face to face. Ask him, with respect, what he can do to get on the field, what skills he should work on, and ask him if there is a personal issue between he and coach. Just don't do it when everyone is around. Man to Man and face to face. It ended up going well, the coach listened and their relationship improved dramatically and the player ended up starting the rest of the year. Basically, the coach had no idea that the player felt this way until he verbalized it. Sometimes it just take a little face to face meeting to work it out. Sometimes the athlete just needs to be shown the way.  

And all the kids are different and all of them have different ways of getting ready to train and compete.

You can still have an intense weight room. But you have to have an understanding of how the athlete's are different. There will be a few athletes who don't want to talk, who are totally locked in and intense. There are some others that can get serious right before they do their set. I didn't care, you could do back flips and laugh and yell or whatever, just bust your ass and do the workout and get your reps.

And another thing: I always wanted kids to look forward to their training and feel great when they left, drenched in sweat but feeling like the session was worthwhile.This idea that the training sessions should be brutal and the athlete should dread it every time is unnecessary. We have to let go of the idea that each workout should cripple the athlete or make them puke. That's stupid.

Is there a place for workouts that teach the athlete to push through difficult conditions while fatigued, like running stadiums and then squatting? Yes, it's important. But that should be done once in a while, not every session.

As a strength coach, you have a lot more influence on an athlete than you may think. More than any out of touch administrator (have the athlete ask the administrator if they even know the athlete’s name) or a sport coach.  It was so great to reach an athlete and have him trust you and to smile when he comes into the weight room, ready to train and happy to be there. And the athlete should enjoy the process. Yes, it's hard work, but creating an atmosphere where each kid feels part of it all, no matter what their personality, is essential to their success.

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.