Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Becoming a Coach and Learning How to Coach

Between my 30 minute breaks of Candy Crush I have been gaining inspiration.  I found myself questioning a lot of things as I sucked away part of my life to the sound of “sweet, tasty and delicious”.  In the past, I would spend my time reading at least 1 article each night. I actually have done this for years.  I read what others in the industry write, scientific journals, research articles, business articles, coaching information etc.  And I found myself getting more and more pissed off.  Pissed to the point where I started to feel like I didn’t care what others in my industry were doing. And this pissed me off because I believe that caring is the last bastion of hope in this world.  I pride myself in my level of care to my clients, athletes, friends and family and I felt this was starting to carry over into my daily life.

I care enough to realize that everyone reading this is probably way smarter than I am and I hope that they can take a small tidbit of information and make it their own.  I do not have anything to sell or look to gain anything to sell and for years I believed that others in the industry felt the same.  See, I believe that if you are actually publishing relevant information, you should have a consideration for the audience that may be reading it. The only thing less sexy than my writing is the philosophy that I learned from one of the best coaches I have every met. Ian Hyde-Lay had always preached to his athletes the importance of doing the basics and doing them well.  I see this philosophy get pissed on daily from people in our industry because they have something to sell or are looking for a level of fame that is undeserved.  I urge you to convince me that there is a flaw in this logic.  I know this is getting super ranty (just made up a word there) but wait, there is soooooo much more!


I know that I can come off as a Negative Nancy quite often, but I feel it is my calling sometimes.  It is not my intention to write to rip people apart but to hopefully offer and alternative way to thinking on certain topics. Today’s topic is understanding the difference between learning how to become a coach vs. learning how to coach.  Both are equally important in my opinion, but the concern I have is all too often too much merit is put into learning the how to coach part. 


The underlying difference between the two (albeit they are similar) is harsh.  It will piss off the young or egotistical (or both) coach that lives in the most informative time in history and has a plethora of information at their fingertips.  Please understand this may seem harsh, but like everything in life there needs to be balance.  One of the key steps to becoming a good coach is learning how to coach and the rant below will discuss the comparison.



Are you one of these guys?

To the coach that has every great coach’s handbook, informative video, motivational quotes and mannerisms.  The ones that coach the way they were coached without questioning if it’s the right way for the population you are dealing with at the moment. The ones that can’t quite understand the difference between knowing and knowledge. The ones that don’t understand that expertise is more than reading a book and writing an exam that leaves them with the title of expert, specialist, master or some other bullshit title.  The ones that feel the need to write of their experiences and share it with their social network instead of actually trying to live the non-glamorous life of a coach that quite often requires more than an 8 hour day, working weekends and vacations spent with the teams you work with instead of time spent with your loved ones.  The ones that talk when they should be listening. The ones that spew regurgitation from the seminar they just attended without fully understanding it or how it may work into the population they are working with.  The ones that are unsure of the difference between confidence and ego.  The ones that believe there is only one way to do things and that systems work for all populations.  The ones that put a movement, drill, exercise, technique on a pedestal without questioning if it is correct for the athletes they may be working with.  The ones that don’t question themselves on a daily basis and continually ask themselves “why”.  The ones that fear people that may challenge them and write off any information that may contradict or question what they were taught by their mentor(s). The ones that lack empathy or the ability to have the slightest clue about the outside stressors the athlete may be going through. The ones that don’t understand there is so much more to sport than running drills, technical sessions and games.  The ones that don’t believe discipline, heart, grit, temperament, desire and will can play more of a role in sport than the athlete’s ability to dead lift or lift heavy shit.  The ones that don’t believe you can draw from leaders in other disciplines and industries to help you get better at your craft.  The ones that think “these athletes just don’t get it”. The strength coaches that would rather only work with athletes and don’t quite get the fact that the human body hasn’t changed in the last 100 years or so and either has a barbell (and can’t adjust things to react to the differences in central nervous systems).  The ones that don’t believe it is just as important to learn from people that you disagree with as it is to the ones you do.  The ones that don’t eat, sleep and in my case not sleep thinking about what I can do better. The ones that are afraid to trust their gut because there isn’t a scientific journal that says it’s ok for a coach to use an Olympic lift for something other than a power exercise. The ones that negate scientific evidence because what they are doing worked for them when they were a high school baller. The ones that can’t understand the fact that what works for one, works for one.  The ones that think it is more important to spend countless hours testing athletes when they have limited time with them.  The ones that regurgitate tests that take the human element out of things and are willing to push forward even though it may not be best for the athlete. The ones that don’t understand it isn’t hard to get an elite athlete to work hard, it’s hard to hold them back when they need it.  The ones that question the work rate and toughness of athletes that have been at the top of their game for years.  The ones that can’t grasp the fact that chances are, the people they are working with are in fact not “elite”. The ones that don’t seize an opportunity to work with any age group or skill level because they can’t grasp the fact that our best coaches should be in fact working with these populations.  The ones that can’t grasp the fact that every team you work with is a cornucopia of different ages, abilities, ethnicities, personalities and drive.  I hope you are picking up with what I am putting down, and as always; if you are offended, than maybe you need to be offended.



Do the basics and do them well.  Learn from everyone you meet. Listen to your athletes.  Chalk every experience (good or bad) as a success in making you better.  Care about your athletes as if they are your family or friends (this means answering texts, emails, calls after hours).  Take advantage of people that are willing to let you learn from them.  Don’t question their methods, ask them questions.  Be approachable by all and willing to share what you have learned to those you work with.  Spend countless hours coaching, observing, watching movement and learning.  Become athlete centric, it is your job to make them better and in the process guess what happens? Understand that you cannot speed up the process of experience. Take the information above regarding the “how to coach”, dissect it and understand how it will make you a coach.  Be passionate in everything you do.  Volunteer your time.  If you want to gain experience, you may not always get paid for it and if you can’t give a little bit of your time, coaching isn’t for you.

Sorry for the repeated use of the words “piss” and “the ones”.  As my high school report card always used to say “best of luck in your future endeavors”.


Yours in Strength,

Joe McCullum

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