Here's a paper I penned for my masters, thought I'd share it here as I believe it has some interesting topics, hope you enjoy it, Ben.
(Obligatory picture of me looking thoughtfully into the middle distance).
Eight thoughts and reflections
St Marys University
I do not want to give a big biopic of who I am, but I do think some background information is useful for setting the scene of my coaching philosophy. I started training at the age of 17 to pass the Royal Marines PRMC entrance weekend, and then to obtain my green beret. After leaving the marines after a fantastic five years I fought as a Thai boxer for ten years and got to a pretty decent level, and was a contender for a couple of titles, but unfortunately was a bit of a ‘nearly’ man. I then took up endurance running as a hobby/sport after a nasty snowboard accident put me out of action. I now run religiously and race as often as I can and enjoy it tremendously (although it has not been kind to my ego). I am trying to garner as much knowledge as I can to become a coach to endurance athletes/enthusiasts and other clients in S&C. I have been a PT for 16 years in London, in many vastly different gyms, from eight years teaching in a boxing gym to most recently a small boutique S&C studio. I now work 99% online.
1. THE WHY AND THE WHAT.
To get someone to work, I believe you must find two things out about them. WHAT they enjoy and WHY they are training. Sometimes the WHY is so powerful the enjoyment is not important, they will do whatever is necessary no matter what, I usually find this in clients with an athletic goal. Sometimes the why is so small that the enjoyment is necessary to get them to work, I usually find this with clients who want to lose weight or ‘look good’. However, no matter who the client, I believe these are two traits as a coach I NEED to know. Sometimes a highly motivated athlete might turn up after a terrible day/week. If I know what he/she enjoys I can quickly put more of that into the session, to get him/her motivated for the ‘other’ stuff. If I know why training is important to him/her I can remind them of that, it’s easy to forget the why after a long tiring cycle of training. If a client turns up and drags their feet doing the stuff they dislike, it’s my job as a coach to find a way of getting them to do something that will elicit similar gains in a way they can enjoy. This can be hard if we are working on a specific goal and they do not want to train! However, getting them warmed up and motivated with exercises they do enjoy can make the other stuff more easy to swallow.
One thing I have found as a coach is that negative feedback is a killer. This is something I always try to live by if I need to correct someone I will always start with a positive. I try to use the old sandwich approach when giving negative feedback. Good effort there, your back is arching, but I can see your working hard. I think as a coach one of the biggest impacts you can have on someone is being positive, almost constantly, until it rubs off. As an athlete you need to feel like your coach is in your corner and believes in you. I have had coaches who have screamed and shouted after a loss and had coaches who have been positive and got to work correcting what went wrong. The latter works much better in my experience.
3. THE NUMBER ONE ROLE OF A COACH IS TO MAKE SURE YOUR CHARGE STAYS INJURY FREE.
I have injured clients before (thankfully nothing serious) by trying to push them too hard too soon. The worst-case scenario for an athlete or client is an injury. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to heavy lifting and other high intensity sessions.
4. MOST ATHLETES ARE ALREADY SPECIALISTS, THEY NEED GENERAL STRENGTH
“The problem is you think your sport is different.” I cannot remember where I heard this quote. But I agree with this thinking, most people need the exact same thing in the weight room, a good general base to then specialise from. But trying to specialise too early or even too often will (in my mind) lead to injury risk. Many athletes want a S&C coach to work on their strengths and make them even stronger/faster. The first thing I look at with an athlete is where are they weak? What is being overused? What is being neglected? Where are muscle imbalances developing? What aren’t they getting from their sports sessions? I would rather have a robust athlete that can peak at certain times than a racehorse that is constantly on a knife edge with injuries. You need to have a good long talk to let athletes understand this, however.
7. EVERY SESSION SHOULD BE THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT
This is just how I like to structure my sessions; I cover the same basic movements every week, however I try to make the feel of the session different. I do this by varying the warmups and cool downs/accessories. Not only does this make it more enjoyable for a coach, but the athletes are kept engaged. It also means that clients are practising many different exercises and movement patterns while they may not be in the main lifts and movements. If you are getting bored coaching then athletes and clients WILL pick up on this, what is more you won’t put as much into the session. So, you should not think badly about trying to make your job as interesting as possible, its win/win.
6. THE SPORT ALWAYS COMES FIRST
I remember trying a strength and conditioning coach when I used to box, and the main thing I found was being too tired to box the next day. I always try to work with an athlete’s coach, or at least get a detailed plan of their week. I then plan sessions around the athletes’ schedule. Sometimes you have to compromise on strength sessions, but you always should remember what the focus is, the sport, not the gym.
7. IT IS BETTER TO BE 10% UNDER TRAINED THAN 1% OVER TRAINED
I have really learnt this from training in endurance sports. For instance, it is so easy to look at mileage as a marker of how hard you need to work, without taking in to account LIFE. Some athletes have lifestyles that allow for lots of rest, some have physical jobs, families, and other commitments. Stress is multi-faceted and can come in many forms. You must be so careful not to overcook yourself and your athletes because once that happens it can take months to get back on track. In my experience depression is linked to exhaustion. Regular check ins are needed with athletes, making sure they are feeling positive and adequately rested.
8. I AM ALWAYS LEARNING AND MY APPROACH NEEDS TO BE FLUID AND OPEN TO NEW IDEAS AND CHANGE
I hope this speaks for itself, but I have to be open to new ideas and practices, and be able to let go of old ones.
Thanks for reading,