The origin of this post comes from a conversation I had with one of my young athlete's parents. We will call the athlete "Billy". Billy's mother came to me one day after we had finished a training session and asked, "Hey Adrian, how is Billy doing in the classes? Does he seem to be improving? Is he working hard enough? Some days I notice that he isn't sweating very much and makes me wonder how much he is really trying? Ya know?" Yes mam, I know exactly what you mean. My reply will be summarized in the few paragraphs to follow.
With this question being presented to me, I have really been reflecting lately on what it means to be a good coach at all. So what is it? Is it the coach that yells and screams? Is it the coach that makes you most sweaty? Is it the coach that leaves you unable to walk the following day of a session? Is it the coach that uses his "Zen" like coaching technique with his/her quiet demeanor? How about the coach that tells you how much better you need to be, that you can't ever be satisfied? Or even more common nowadays....the coach that tells you how great you are and how amazing your doing? What is it, which coach is the one? Well.....non of them, or all of them. In fact the style of coaching doesn't really matter to me, what matters are the results!! Isn't that why parents and athletes make investments in training anyways, to see improvement? And it doens't always have to reflect in the athletes ability to perform but how about attitude? Mentaility? Menal toughness? Maturity? Any form of positive change is growth, which is what we are all aiming for.
Now down to the sweaty....I mean the focus. I am a Strength/Conditioning and Speed/Agility coach. No where in my job description do I go into detail on how well I make athletes "sweat" or even suffer. I don't brag about how hard my workouts are nor do I say that is what sets me a part as a coach. Can't anyone pose as a coach by finding a few hard things to do and make you do them fast and heavy and then say, "Well that was a great training day!! Great job!!". Sure as the athlete you may have suffered and I'm sure you sweat quite a bit, but what was accomplished? Was suffering for an hour the purpose? Or was it to get faster and jump higher? Because I will tell you that these are two totally different things. While there is a time for suffering ( it builds mental toughness, conditioning and an array of other positive characteristics in athletes) it is used TOO much to try to cover a coaches inability to really improve an athlete using more productive ways.
Speed, Agility, Strength and even explosion (i.e. vertical jump, broad jump, starting off the blocks) are all, at their peak, very technically dependent SKILLS. When I am working with a group of athletes to try and maximize these things it takes a lot of coaching, correcting, cueing, watching, then repeating! If your coach is bringing you in the gym, having you jump, run, lift, throw etc...and you are working hard and you sweat and you're dying because you're so out of breath, that's great.....BUT have they showed you how to do all of things properly first? Have they broken down the mechanics of a successful jump? What it looks like? What it feels like? Why you can't just wing it? How about lifting? Does your strength coach explain the purpose of a lift, and why technique is important....no not only for safety, but of OPTIMAL performance, and not just in the gym but how it correlates to your specific sport? Are your coaches on your case about correcting what is wrong? I can tell you from personal experience that when an athlete rolls their eyes because you continue to say their name and to correct them, you are being a good coach....the one characteristic that should show is being "relentless" not settling for "ok". (Then after you notice the athlete rolling their eyes let them know you saw it....and then say that's ok you can just give me 50 burpees before you leave today, I'm fine with that.)
The funny thing about learning new skills and trying to apply them is that when you are tired....you're usually pretty awful at it. If you came into my facility and saw a training session, you'd probably here me running my mouth quite a bit early on. You'd see numerous skill development drills being practiced, that at times the athletes practice EVERY SESSION, why? Because it is necessary. No not becasue they enjoy them becasause non of my athletes really care for Wall Runs or Stationary arm pump drills, I'm sure they'd say they are boring....and I'm 100% fine with that.....if boring makes you faster, more explosive, and get's us measurable results...then guess what? BORING it is. As the session goes on the intensity rises as we exit the 'SKILLS' portion and get into the 'WORK' where the athletes apply the skills practiced earlier in more of a game like scenario or speed. (I run my mouth less here, they enjoy that I'm sure) The purpose of every training day at Apex is to achieve our goal of always being productive, not just working out. Any athlete can go "workout" by themselves or with their parents or with some guy who was a really good athlete back in his day.....our goal is to be set a part in what our athletes learn and can apply to the skills we use and teach on a regular basis. Now do we get intense? Absolutely, conditioning, mental toughness, courage, bravery, no quit, attitude, presence(the kids nowadays call it "swag") are some of the things I enjoy coaching the most.(Ask any athlete that resides at Apex) But we must always keep in mind our goals and what must be applied daily to acheive them.....if you want to move better/faster we must teach you technique and you must be able to show the ability to apply it before we move on. The athletes I get to coach learn what is taking place, they trust that just because they don't feel crippled after one of our strength days, that in fact, must be a small piece of the puzzle in the grand scheme of things, when you experience positive results, it is easy to trust what is happening.