Coaching 101

Some of the questions surrounding coaching and training really surprise me. For me, it is all about how you model, literally how you see the big picture of training. People think I am joking when they ask me about how I train track athletes:

Throwers throw.
Jumpers jump.
Sprinters sprint.
Runners run.
Hurdlers hurdle.

I had a question recently about why we/I don’t approve of “Fat Man’s Relays.” That is that fun event when the throwers go out and do a relay race. First, seriously, in this day and age, we are calling our male and female athletes “Fat,” then getting a chuckle out of their flaying efforts to sprint around a track.

Great idea. But, really, we are calling kids “fat,” or, at once invitational, calling it the “Twinkie Race?” This is one of my key pillars to long-term success as a coach, and I quote: “Don’t make me look stupid!” I love elegance, mastery and grace above all in sport and life and making fun of someone for not having had the time, opportunity or genetics to succeed is against everything I ever learned from quality people in life.

Oh, trust me, I have read and heard some simply awful things by people I don’t consider quality individuals. I have this story that comes to mind but my little Cricket on my collar told me that writing about it will really ruin my point here.

How can we live in community, both in sports and the world, where the highlight of one’s day is to ignore elegance, mastery and grace and laugh away at the poor efforts of others? One of my best memories of coaching is taking two hurdlers and fourteen throwers to a track meet. I had just finished a book that emphasized that rich people cheer on the success of other rich people. It struck me that this is a tool that we used at Skyline College and Utah State on our teams. “Team” is the key here and many may have forgotten that some of us were trained to put country, church, team and family ahead of our own needs and desires. Don’t worry, I fail miserably on this teaching just about every time my brain sparks a synapse.

So, my idea was to encourage the kids to cheer for each other madly to get Personal Records that day. It was magic: not only did we take the first six places in the girls discus throw, for example, but EVERY athlete scored lifetime bests that day. I treated the team to a fast food banquet and the memory is among the top five memories I have of teaching and coaching at Juan Diego Catholic High School.

It’s easy to recruit to a team after an event like this: my athletes became the best ambassadors I could ask for after this meet. So, building excellence also seems to breed an interest in more excellence.

So, I see Results, Community Involvement, and “Don’t make look stupid!” as the three looping concepts that make the core ideas of Goal Setting and Never Ending Assessment work over the long term. These three are so intertwined, it is hard to separate them out, as in our example where the results and community excitement seem to be one in the same.

So, when someone asks me about coaching, we can get stuck in that middle a bit. That’s fine, by the way. That’s the key, the core, for a reason. Goal setting is so crucial and it sets us immediately into assessment: where are we now and what do we need to do to get you on the right path? But, the looping concepts become one’s assistant coaches here: excellent results, a joyful community that enriches and enlarges, and elegance, mastery and grace support the goal setting better than any magic herb or potion.

It’s a concept I am developing. If you want a workshop on this, let me know: let’s charge a good fee and make a DVD. I can’t wait to hear what I am going to say!

I have some fundamental TRUTHS that support this Triad.

1. Your body is one magnificent piece. Congrats. There is no arm day or leg day. A bad day with the family is going to hurt performance somehow. That’s also good news as taking care of all the factors of health and life will support your fitness goals.

2. Everything works. I’ve said it, now officially, one million times. Every idiotic idea that you come up is going to work.

3. Everything works…for about six weeks. Oops, forgot to mention this. The research supports this and it is funny to watch people who sell equipment and magic devices try to explain what happens after this Honeymoon period ends.

4. Time will magnify all errors and omissions. It is something that I argue practically every time I speak. My usual example happened a few years ago: “Dan, should I go back to college?” Me: well, in four years, if you don’t go or you do go, it will be four years later. If you go, you will have a college degree. If you don’t learn to squat correctly when you first start to squat, four years of bad squatting is going to be hard to fix.

5. A system is not a collection of workouts, programs or e-books. A system is something that can survive if the creator or coach gets hit by a bus. If you find that you jump from this to that to this, please see these five truths and slap yourself on the face.

Let me toss in a few tips that work in every system every time:

1. Train the way you want your body to adapt to training. (I can’t believe I type this stuff, but it is as true as anything I have ever said!)

2. Train regularly.

3. Get in shape or condition gradually. The longer you take to get there, the longer “it” stays.

4. Warm up and cool down really have a role. Now, I try to make mine seamless, literally so built-in that you might not know we have changed gears, but there is a need for both of these keys.

5. Be sure to train for volume before you train for intensity. Be sure to read, for example, EVERY thing Barry Ross says about training, not just the cool stuff.

6. You must cycle the workouts somehow. I love two-week blocks and constant vigilance concerning omissions, errors and poor movement and mobility.

7. Train in community, of some kind. First, success leaves tracks so you will constantly follow the successful tracks of others, but don’t forget, second, that community seems to increase intensity.

8. Train your mind. Tommy Kono says it is fifty percent of the performance. I’m not going to disagree.

9. Keep your training program in perspective. It’s just a Gold Medal or World Record. In the big picture of things, not everything we do is just very important in the big scheme of things.

10. Yes, it is going to be the Fundamentals (the basics) that trump everything else: fundamental movements, basics of flexibility and mobility, basic techniques, and basic nutrition.

I’m known for being good at the basics and keeping things simple.

Simple ain’t easy.

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