Monday, 25 March 2013

How do you learn?

This will be short and sweet, like me.

We are in the most informative time in history. 25 years ago, the internet was just the lining of your swim trunks and was used to keep everything in place, now it is used for so much more! Everything is at your fingertips. With this, not only is the way we learn completely different but how we access and retain information has changed.  I used encyclopedias at the start of my University career.  If you are not sure what an encyclopedia is, Google it on the internet thing (not your swim trunks). 

As a coach I am continuously trying to learn and hone my craft.  Not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new and this is something that I am very proud of.  I am surrounded by an amazing staff and client base of all different ages and skill sets and talk with others in the industry on a daily basis.

The point of this article is not to knock on the current methods of education, internet learning and coaching, but to give some advice to those who may be new to the industry.  The following is a guideline and are all free opportunities for you to better yourself. 


1.      You can’t force experience no matter how many credentials you have after your name.  Educate yourself and learn as much as you can with the understanding you need years of experience to put what you have learned to practice.  I am not knocking going to conferences and educating yourself, I am just stating that it is better to pick and choose your learning, utilize it and master it instead of being a jack of all trades and a master of none.

2.      Gain experience by volunteering as much as you can.  The more contact hours you have with actual people, the better.  One of the biggest assets to me when looking for trainers or coaches is their ability to relate to people.  The more people you meet and learn their mannerisms; watch how they move in different positions and circumstances the better.

3.      Try to do as much public speaking as you can (coaching is a form of this).  Volunteer to talk to teams, coaches, running groups etc.  Get excited about the possibility of sharing information and building your confidence.

4.      Network with real people.  Your social network doesn’t pay you.  You have to actually talk to people so you can both learn from them and spread your message.  The more contacts you have the better as everyone you meet has something to offer.  On occasion, what we learn may not seem to be of value at the time, but it is information that can be utilized at another time in our careers.

5.      Be genuine and caring to everyone you meet.  It is easier to be a grumpy ass than it is to wear a smile all the time.  The greatest coaches I have met in any field all have an outstanding amount of care for their athletes and it shows in the way those athletes perform.  This is something that is lacking in our industry and can’t be learned from a certification or course.

6.      Share everything you have with coaches and fellow staff members or your real people network.  If you think you have created some new dazzling product, chances are no one will do it better than you.  This also gives you contact hours with people in the business and may help you understand it more than you already know.

7.      Don’t just read things related to work.  History repeats itself; including human behavior, so read everything from poetry to business articles and books.  We are in the “people business” and the more you can relate to your clients or athletes the more successful you will become.  If you can’t talk to people, this is not the best industry for you. 

8.      My Grand pappy always used to say “believe nothing of what you read and half of what you see.”  I do not think there is anything wrong with being skeptical.  Critical thinking is a lost art and at the very least, this mindset will help you search for the correct answers instead of falling into the pit of regurgitating information.

9.      Spend time with likeminded people within your industry (this includes other coaches, therapists, business people, teachers and doctors).  The ability to learn from other people’s mistakes and success is a very valuable tool.

10.  I do not believe you have to have competed at the highest level of whatever sport you are coaching, but you have to have a clear and concise understanding of how everything you do will affect those you are working with.  If your goal is to be a strength and conditioning coach, you should show a very high level of competency in all of the movements you will be coaching (just because you completed a certification saying you are an expert, doesn’t make you an expert).  Quite simply, this means you need to work out and experience things for yourself.  Using yourself as a guinea pig is a great start for honing and teaching technique and mastering the art of programming. 


As always, these are just a collection of my thoughts.  I may be a little “old school” in my methods, but I feel there is some definite merit in trying to turn every opportunity into an education and learning experience.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.


Yours in Strength,

Joe McCullum

Director of High Performance Training and Staff Development

Level 10 Fitness Inc



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