Last week, I met with a few student-coaches about progressions, regressions, and lateralization of exercise movements in a team setting. Throughout my 10+ years in coaching, I’ve noticed that new or younger coaches tend to look at things from a very narrow focus, assuming the mentality of “one size fits most”. And while that is true to a large extent, my challenge to them was to explore which size will fit all.
In other words, how could we individualize the generalities?
How could we take a suit off the rack and tailor it to a very snug and specific fit?
So, in true coaching fashion, I had to come up with a simple collection of questions to help guide someone who needs to make decisions, especially on the edge of possible chaos. If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of syllables or verbose coaching cues.
So, we came up with the 3 Ws.
W #1: WHAT IF?
What if that person isn’t ready for X?
(Where X is the task you want them to perform.)
Often times, we are told to push through it, suck it up and coach it better. After all, it’s their fault they can’t do it, not ours, right?
Building in an automatic layer of “What if?” into your planning ensures that you are truly athlete (or client) centered.
W #2: WHAT ELSE?
What else can we add/change?
Like W #1, we can’t just assume that what we write, ask or tell them is what they need (or want).
Whether it’s an exercise movement, a nutritional habit, or leadership lesson, we need to consider slowing down AND speeding up in coaching tactics.
I’m sure you’ve heard at least one of the following over the years:
- “This is too easy.”
- “Why are we only doing this?”
- “I’m not feeling this. How can we make this more challenging?”
And while I am a big believer of the phrase “SHOW ME,” I also understand that if I don’t meet my client where s/he is, I will lose them — both physically and mentally.
So instead of proving your coaching superiority and sticking to the script, find ONE little thing you can change to cater to your client’s wishes. After all, the law of receptivity states, “The key to effective giving is staying open to receiving.”
W #3: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN?
All hell breaks loose?
Shit hits the fan?
The Army of the Dead shows up at your front door?
(Hint: It WILL happen!)
When I first met Nate Kesterson of Columbia Strength and Conditioning, he told me one of his three values of living for his children.
“Don’t freak out!”
After all, the only constant in life is change.
Things will not go as planned.
A diaper will blowout onto your arm and new dress shirt.
The power will go out (and stay out) while you host a dinner party for friends.
And guess what?
You will adjust. You will overcome. And you will adapt to whatever is in front of you.
“The best thing you can do is MASTER the chaos around you. You are not thrown into the fire; you ARE the fire!” ~ Mama Indigo
/ / /
So, the next time you get the opportunity to work with someone, remember the 3 Ws.
What happens when?
Your bottom line (and your bottom) may be dependent on it.
One of the best parts about going back to school is having the opportunity to help young(er) students develop into great coaches and practitioners.
Whether it’s an informal chat after class or a training session in our garage gym, my wife and I are taking great enjoyment in giving back to a place that has given so much to us.
After all, if it weren’t for Springfield College, we would’ve never met. (You’ll have to ask her about how that went!)
But one of the biggest lessons we try and focus on is this:
You don’t need a title to be a leader.
I want you to think about when you first started “working.” Maybe you were an intern, a volunteer or just an “entry-level” associate.
- Did you have a great idea and not share it?
- Have an opinion about something and kept your mouth shut?
- Felt like you hadn’t earned your “time” yet to express how you honestly felt about something?
Probably. So did I.
But I finally learned that…
Titles are NOT job descriptions!
They don’t explicitly define what a person does.
Rather, the influence and inspiration we aim to provide to others come from PEOPLE, not the actual positions.
Real people and real leaders bring the same commitment to excellence to whatever they do, whether they are on stage or behind it.
Mark Sanborn once wrote that:
If you had no title or ability to reward or penalize others, could you still get people to follow you?
I think so.
But to do so, it starts with these key points:
- You’ve got to believe that you can positively shape peoples’ lives and careers. You can’t stand behind something you don’t believe in.
- You’ve got to lead through your relationships with people instead of your control over people.
- You’ve got to collaborate, not control. (Remember what it was like to not have been asked: “What do YOU think?”)
- You’ve got to find ways to help persuade others to contribute, rather than ordering them to.
- You’ve got to get others to follow out of respect and commitment rather than fear and compliance.
Wherever you are, whenever you started, whatever you do: You won’t make a difference, you can BE the difference.
Be the difference today.
Guest post provided by Doranyi Figueroa Sanabria, RPh, PharmD, PN1, PN2(c), VPS(c)
- The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape, also known as elasticity.
- The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, also known as toughness.
Puerto Rico, Paradise Island, Borinquen or merely “Preciosa,” as we call it. (Preciosa means Precious in Spanish).
It is an island that when seen from above is an ocean of green, surrounded by an ocean of blue, where people are always happy and always create a song even about the bad things that surround us. As some of you may have heard or read, Puerto Rico was recently struck by not one, but two Category 5 hurricanes less than two weeks apart. The first hurricane didn’t affect our island, but seeing the chaos it left behind in the rest of the Caribbean it did give us a taste of what we could expect should we ever get hit by one. But, being the kind of people we always are, we got confident and cocky thinking “something like that will never hit us.” Well, two weeks went by, and Hurricane Maria blasted through us.
It entered our island at around 6 am EST, September 20th, thru the south-east end of the island, in a town called Yabucoa and left the island at around noon of September 21st, thru Arecibo, a village on the north-west of the island. We experienced steady winds of a Category 3 Hurricane and sporadic winds over 200mph, for over 24 hours, with the occasional tornado (even though they weren’t officially reported.)
The first days after the storm we were making lines of over 12 hours just to be able to get gas for our cars and our generators. We lost all communications including landlines and cell signals.
There was no electricity, no running water, and no internet. We were left uncommunicated from the world for literally almost a week. Houses fell, rivers overflowed, new streams were forming through existing towns, countless trees fell, bridges collapsed.
People got frustrated trying to reach their families in other parts of the island and not being able to. There were no supermarkets opened, half of the gas stations had stopped working, and the banks weren’t open.
It was chaos.
But why did I start this talking about resiliency? Well, because of the following:
Just a mere 24 hours after the hurricane hit, everybody started coming out of their houses and refuges and came together to clear pathways, gather food and water for their neighbors, and to help even the people they had never before seen in their lives. 48-72 hours after, some of us started working again very long hours at hospital and health institutions, military personnel arrived and began gathering around the island to help us out, and a mere week after the hurricane hit, we saw green again in our trees.
I will never forget the words of one of the military pharmacists that came to help us out told me, with tears in her eyes, before she left.
“I am amazed that this island and you guys can come together and keep going with everything that has happened to you.”
Resiliency. That’s what that is. The ability to jump back after the chaos and keep going. The ability to make the best of the situation with what you are left behind.
And what does this have to do with fitness and nutrition? Well, imagine you are an athlete who trains for hours a week and follows a strict nutrition plan and suddenly. You can’t train, and you can’t eat what you used to. All you have in your reach is canned foods loaded with sodium, barely two bottles of water a day (if you’re lucky), no fresh fruits or vegetables, and to top it all off, your gym has closed down. Do you give up? I would think not.
You make the best you can with what you got.
Canned foods? Loaded with sodium? How can you reduce the sodium? Try and rinse them off before you cook them, or get the low sodium version if you can. No fresh veggies? Use the canned ones or even better the crystal bottled ones. No fruits? Have you seen the packed ones in their juices? Just throw the liquid out and eat the fruits. Not enough water? Instead of grabbing sodas (which is what most people do) grab juices, that sugar is way better than soda’s sugar. What if the gym is closed and you can’t work out? Grab a shovel and start clearing pathways. Put on your sneakers and go for a run or a walk. Make up your little routine with or without weights and keep the body in motion.
I know this is not ideal by all means. Will your weight fluctuate? Yes, it will, but mostly from water retention because of the sodium levels. Will your strength diminish? No, but you will feel weaker because you’re not eating enough nor the proper nutrients in the right amounts. You will also not rest enough, and emotionally you will get drained.
Is it the end of the world? Of course not. This is merely the way nature uses to get stronger; this is survival of the fittest and the strongest.
Strive for survival, and you will make it through the storm.
On top of a 12-14 hour day, the last thing many of you want to do is work on nutrition with your athletes.
It’s easy to print off a handout or give out a meal plan.
It’s easy to say “Just stop eating X and eat more of Y.”
But does it really work?
What if you took a different approach?
You know, actually took the time to understand behavior change.
- Found out an athlete’s WHY.
- Understood where they’re coming from.
- Met them where they’re at.
Would the outcome be different?
Yeah. BIG time.
Many thanks to the NSCA for giving me this opportunity to share this approach on the national stage.
If you can squeeze out 75 minutes of your week, check it out.
I went for a foot massage last night. Well, it started as a foot massage. Then it turned into a full body rub down. Oh, and they even gave me a deep ear cleaning, too.
Yup. It’s true.
I indulged in a cultural experience that most “Western” travelers would question, debate, or even raise their eyes at.
Guess what? It was absolutely incredible.
After 28 hours of flying, three days of presentations, and a 12-hour time zone difference that could cripple the novice traveler (although THIS works well)—I learned a man really hasn’t experienced life, until he gets a Chinese foot massage.
Trust me. Give it a shot
This whole experience was made possible through the incredible opportunity to present at the China International Health and Fitness Conference this past week.
I caught up with my incredible alumni network of Springfield College and even shared chopsticks and Tsingtao beer with powerful researchers, former Olympic gold medalists, and organizational directors in the field of strength and conditioning.
And as a coach, you know our minds are always in ludicrous speed.
What can we do better? What can we fix? How can we get the best results for our athletes and students?
So, after driving back in a Chinese Uber with my gracious host “Jerry”, I reflected on what this experience reminded me about the parallels of coaching and living.
1) Raise up your SAY/DO level
I have to credit this to my personal nutrition coach, Dominic Matteo. A few weeks ago, Coach Dom challenged me to match my actions with my words—a little bit better, a little bit more often. In the scope of management, leadership, or even behavior change, often, we SAY things without following through on them. Our requests and promises fall on deaf ears to those who’ve “heard it before.”
In its simplest terms, the more you say something, the more you should be doing something.
So, as I sat there soaking my feet, drinking hot tea, and watching news anchors report of the struggles between Russia and the United States, I couldn’t help but notice that my “therapist” would constantly show me the time left on our treatment session.
She would show me the oven timer of a 90-minute countdown any time she would stop working on my body, walk out of the room, or swap positions.
She LITERALLY worked on my body for 90 minutes. (The session took about 2 hours.)
So, it reminded me…
How often do we say X, but do Y?
Or fail to deliver on an investment or opportunity because of something “outside our control”?
Do we walk our talk or simply make excuses for why things didn’t go as planned?
Don’t make false promises.
Don’t cheat yourself.
Don’t say one thing and do another.
2) Client-centeredness puts the capital C in Coaching
Throughout my massage, I was constantly asked how I was feeling (albeit, through my translator).
Perhaps, it was the coughing fits and tears from a metal Q-tip grinding along my ear-drum.
Maybe, it was the position of my body in the recliner.
Or the wrinkled brow and head tilt when I didn’t understand what was going on.
Whatever it was, my “coach” was actively listening to me.
She didn’t go through her normal routine and carry on like every other client.
She didn’t do things without asking for approval or giving me a heads-up.
She stayed present, mindful, and client-centered. While she had a plan, she made sure I was ready to go along with it.
But how often do we NOT do that with our athletes or students?
Give a diet plan, write a workout program, and offer our advice without asking if our clients would like to hear it?
Probably a little too much…
Client-centered coaching puts the client, not the coach, in the driver’s seat.
It reinforces that this is THEIR journey. We’re simply riding shotgun, giving a little nudge and navigation when they veer off-course.
3) The devil (and angel) is in the details
Have you ever watched a real technician at work?
They don’t concern themselves with the outcome until they methodically prepare and perform each step with precision and purpose.
Every tool. Every motion. Every client.
During my massage, I sat in complete awe and witnessed extraordinary detail with the working of the human body.
The way she applied pressure.
Adjusted her body angle.
Manipulated each and every little joint from my ankle to my pinky toe.
She was 100% focused on the process with ZERO concern for the outcome.
Yet, many of us coaches and trainers still worry about the end of the road, rather than the road itself.
John Wooden, arguably one of the most successful coaches of all time, would take time out of his practice plan to ensure his players’ socks were folded PERFECTLY to avoid blisters.
He knew that attention to detail and emphasis on each step would contribute (or take away) from achieving success.
When you focus on the processes, the outcomes take care of themselves.
4) A better future is created by reviewing your past
How often do you rush to finish coaching a group or reading a book, only to move on to the next one, with no sense of retention of relationships and information.
Or push through a training session, simply because that’s what the script calls for that day?
Often, we fail to give ourselves any opportunity to take in what is happening around us.
Blame it on your Type A personality.
Or lack of time.
But, imagine if you actually took the time to breathe, think, and reflect on what’s happening around you.
Maybe perform an end of the year review?
Or put together your notes from that latest Kindle binge?
What if you made time to make things stick?
Spending time sitting in that massage chair allowed me to take an inventory of what was happening to my body.
I felt pain, struggle, stretch, tenderness, tightness, and growth.
I was reminded that, regardless of how fast I was going, I needed to slow down and change speeds, once in a while.
Because, as much as we want to think we’re always Superman, we still have to work at the Daily Planet.
5) Self-care sets up sustainable success
In the past 3 weeks, I’ve had to “stretch” myself to accommodate a lot of projects and deadlines.
I wrote an entire chapter for a new youth training book, put together five presentations for two global and national conferences, on-boarded a new coaching staff, hosted a weekend speed and power summit, orientated nearly 200 students to a new coaching program, and recorded 11 presentations for an upcoming female training project.
But I also MADE TIME to get a float tank treatment, two massages, and a sweet manicure and pedicure for the first time since my honeymoon (thanks PN!)
So, what’s the point?
We spend so much time worrying about recharging our iPhone batteries that we forget to recharge the one battery that needs it the most—our own.
Trust me. I’m the stereotypical “I don’t have time” father, husband, business partner, and coach to the T. I never have time!
But guess what? We do have time.
We just choose to do something else (and sometimes, that’s OK).
We can talk about the never-ending quest for life-work balance, but it doesn’t exist.
The only thing that exists is the choices and consequences of our actions (and inactions).
So, whether you slow down, speed up, or simply hit cruise control, remember this: innovation is driven by your intent to inspire.
Learn from everywhere and everyone around you.
Practice saying NO (and yes).
And get yourself a foot massage, once in a while.
You deserve it.
(And if you know a coach, who could benefit from a foot massage, please consider liking and sharing this article with them.)
I recently gave a presentation at the NSCA Coaches Conference in San Antonio regarding my journey thus far in coaching. As many of you know, I have been fortunate enough to work in every sector of coaching, all before the age of 30. From working with our nation’s best at the Olympic Training Center and in the NFL, walk-ons at the Division I level and now middle school all-stars and all-county high schoolers, my journey continues to be an incredible story that I am proud to tell my kids someday. Each opportunity has taught me valuable lessons in not only coaching, but with life in general. From loyalty and sacrifice to time management and relationship building, coaching such a wide spectrum of athletes and people has allowed me to view the world from every angle possible.
And as I have emotionally matured throughout the years, I have been able to reflect back on each experience whole-heartedly and bring my experiences to the national stage. The path that has been shaped for me by my mentors allows me to share my experiences with younger coaches in hopes that they don’t make the same mistakes I did. It reminds those that are serious about coaching to strap up, buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Because one day, the ride will be over.
Starting my 30’s, I’m reaching a point in my life where death seems to be a regular occurrence. From grandparents and great aunts/uncles, I don’t think a year has gone by over the last five years where someone very close to me has not passed on. It’s an unfortunate part of life, but a part of life nonetheless. But what makes it even harder is when those we deeply care for finish their ride sooner than we hoped.
During this past fall, I attended the funeral for the father of one of my assistants. He was a young, passionate and influential man who lost his battle against cancer way too early. As we got together to show our support and head to the funeral home, it become very apparent that this was not going to be your typical “last call” remembrance. The parking lots were stacked, the lines out the door and we were barely able to find a seat before the room began to overflow with friends, family and people that were touched by this man’s life.
It was during this man’s eulogy that things really began to take hold of me. As the rabbi went through the history of this man’s life, he was careful to explain the impact that each life experience brought into the world. His words echoed throughout the room as he painted a beautiful picture of selflessness, commitment and service to the world and those he cared most about. From volunteer coaching to skyscraper building, this amazing man made the most out of his life and his legacy would never be forgotten.
As the rabbi began to finish up, I heard something I will never forget. He explained that there are people who have passed that were good people, lived a good life and left behind a beautiful family to prosper on in this world.
And then there are people who made the most of their life, who didn’t settle for the status quo. They didn’t just work a 9-5 or pay their taxes and carry on. They didn’t sit in discomfort and allow things to “be what they’ve always been.” Rather, they spoke up and went against the grain; ensuring people remembered whom they were.
See when our time comes, we’re all going to have a eulogy. A brave family member or friend will gather old photos, string together a couple “remember when’s” and put our life in a few pages of Times New Roman, double spaced, size 12.
If we choose to be buried, there will be a headstone that lists our name, the years of our life and maybe a small epitaph summarizing our life.
But between birth and death, there’s the dash.
Inside the dash is our life. It’s the culmination of our successes and failures. It’s the story of not only the life and experiences we lived but also what we leave behind.
So from one coach to another, how are you filling your dash?
Are you simply passing the day, waiting for the season to be over so you can move on to the next, best job? (Hint: there isn’t one.)
Maybe you’re comfortable with being a “yes man” and just happy to be a part of the ride.
Or perhaps you’re just looking to do what needs to be done rather than what CAN be done?
Those right there…are mistakes.
Life is too short not to be remembered, too messy to keep clean and too valuable to leave locked up behind closed doors.
But, it’s certainly long enough to make a difference.
So, if you’re like me and have a million things you GET to do, embrace them. Be thankful for them. And make the most out of ALL of them.
Acknowledge that you have the opportunity to create meaningful, lasting and unforgettable change, now and for many years to come.
Because one day, you will have four digits etched after that dash.
And the fullness of that dash will be reflected by how you chose to live your life.
So whether it’s yes, no, or maybe so…remember you have a life to lead, serve and give before it’s time to go.
FILL THE DASH!
(In honor of the Hitman family)
In the fall of 2009, I had a feeling. It wasn’t one of those “feel good” feelings you get after a first kiss or when your toddler begins to walk; it was the complete opposite. Despite the hardest and most thorough coaching our athletic development staff was providing at University of Louisville, I just had this feeling…we weren’t going to win this year and were probably going to get fired.
Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast. We can write the best programs, have the best relationships with the players and even get them to “last fast & play stronger longer”. But if the team doesn’t meet the expectations of the athletic department and everyone around them, then it’s time to pack the bags and move on.
So I began to prepare for the next step. As a second assistant strength and conditioning coach, the next logical progression would be a first assistant. But, I knew I could do more. I knew I WANTED to do more. I knew with the people I learned under and trained next to on a day to day basis for two years, I was ready. I began to start putting together my portfolio; my what’s, how’s and most importantly, why’s. It was time to put everything that I had learned during my years as an intern, graduate assistant and full-time coach and assimilate it all into one holistic, comprehensive point of view.
It was during this time where I spent a lot of time reading. Books written by scientists, therapists, counselors, coaches and even economists. That’s when I found Malcolm Gladwell and read two of the most innovative and inspiring books of my coaching career; The Tipping Point and Blink. These two books would bridge the gap for my development as an assistant to head coach and shape the path with how I would manage a staff, run a department and network throughout the field as I continued on the path towards greatness. And it was two key points in these books that I always circle back to anytime new interns come in, a new season starts, or more fittingly, when I return home from a national convention like I am at this very moment. (A big thank you to the NSCA for another outstanding conference)
In The Tipping Point, Gladwell explores what has been called the “Broken Window Theory”, a criminological theory of essentially cause and effect. Popularized by Wilson and Kelling in the early 1980’s, I feel the theory can be summed up into this paragraph:
“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.”
In Blink, Gladwell hones in on the concept of first impressions and what’s called thin-slicing; ourability to “think without thinking” and snap judgments of people, scenarios and situations, all instantaneously or within the matter of two seconds or less. More often for worse than the better, it’s this skill of judging before judgement, answering before asked and correcting before mistaken that calls do not get returned back, jobs go to someone else and people are written off.
So, does Gladwell even realize the power that these two books can have on the field of strength and conditioning?
I would hope so. But I doubt it.
Let’s take the Broken Window Theory into account. Imagine you’re a head coach and you walk into your weight room before the 6am group and notice the following:
- A loaded bar on one of the far racks, probably left over from a sport coach that somehow managed to still get a key to your weight room.
You’d probably not freak out, remind yourself on Evernote that you need to speak with your AD to get the locks changed. Or tell your interns to make sure the weight room is clean before leaving. All in all, no big deal.
But let’s say you walk in again in a few days and you see:
- A loaded bar on one of the far racks
- A used towel thrown into the corner
- A half drunk Muscle Milk RTD left on a platform
Now you’re thinking “What the hell is going on here?” Enough is enough.
But was it the bar? The used towel? Or maybe the RTD?
Where do coincidence and intention intersect? When does a little fatigue turn into overtraining?
At your tipping point…
I’ll never forget the short year when I was a head coach at Eastern Michigan University. My fiancé was six hours away and I just took over the 2nd worst football program in the nation. I had nothing else to do besides stay late and work on our vision for the program.
Then, all of a sudden the locked door opened and the shut off lights turned on. I see my head football coach with one of the biggest boosters the university presently had the support of. He was giving him a private tour of the advancements we made in such a small period of time and was probably hoping for another donation. After a few minutes, I walked out and introduced myself and before I could finish he said:
“Young man. I have never seen such attention to detail in my life. Your floors are spotless, your weights are turned upside up and every little piece is put where it looks like it should be. I can tell you run a very tight ship and expect a lot of these young men”.
I replied, with a slight grin on my face:
“Thank you sir. What I expect from them is no different than what I expect from myself and my staff. And thank you for noticing.”
Have you ever been in a similar situation? Where maybe those around you don’t understand the importance of the little things? Or perhaps believing that one little mistake here wouldn’t be a big deal?
But what happens? It escalates. It transforms. A piece of trash becomes a landfill. A cheat meal becomes an all night binge. A locker room becomes the next episode of Hoarders. Whether it’s putting things back where they belong or simply showing the slightest attention to detail, a simple broken window can transform your environment and your team for the worse.
That is, unless of course, you care about first impressions.
Call it thin-slicing, call it pre-judging, call it thinking without thinking. Whatever it is, it happens and it affects every thought and action soon after it’s impact.
If you walked into an unkept weight room, you would assume there is no accountability and attention to detail. People would come and go as they pleased and do what they want.
There goes that budget increase…
If you consistently show up late to staff meetings or workouts, you would believe your time is clearly more important than those around you.
There goes that promotion…
And if you misspell the direct contact or send your cover letter addressed to the wrong school, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll say you really didn’t want this job in the first place.
It happens more than you think…
If we have less than two second to formulate an opinion of something or someone, why not do everything in our power to make the very best one?
At work, why don’t we show up early and not wait until last minute to finish that project? (I love getting intern assignments 5 minutes before they are due…)
During a job interview, why not take the extra time to iron that shirt a little better, floss those teeth and dig up a few details about the committee to show that you actually care?
And if you’re at a conference, around some of the most influential coaches, researchers and scientists in the country, why don’t you stop:
- Disrespecting speakers by working out during their talks or walking in late/leaving early?
- Drinking until you reach the ABYSS, wearing your university’s or company’s logo as the night gets darker and more destructive?
- Ignoring, passing over and flat out BIG TIMING younger and aspiring coaches?
So, if you still don’t think the little things matter, take a slice of humble pie and remind yourself:
- When you lost that game by one point
- When you missed that train or plane by one minute
- When you didn’t get that dream job because of that one “other guy”
Because in the end, a broken window is more than a first impression.
It’s the catalyst for anything to mean everything, in sport and life.
As our high school athletes grind through the last days of their high school career, they begin to start the mental and physical preparation for their continued athletic endeavors. After finals, commencement ceremonies and the infamous “graduation party”, most will turn the page, close the book, and move onwards towards bigger and better things. Some will start early to get a head of the game. Others will take that one last vacation with their high school BAE’s and BFF’s. And yet some will still try and hold on to their high school sweetheart until they move into the co-ed dorm (save yourself the heartache and just move on now…)
But most of them will train. With a purpose. To be ready for YOU.
I’m writing this post as a CALL TO ACTION to all of you in college athletics. Anyone in charge of developing the young minds and bodies for the rigors of a faster, more reactive, dangerous level of sport that our high school kids have not participated in yet. Sure, they’ve done the high level invitationals, the camps, the classics. But, are they REALLY ready for not only the speed of your game, but also the rigorous time commitment and style of training?
More importantly, are YOU doing everything YOU can to prepare them for their arrival?
This isn’t a post to ridicule, accuse or expose you and your training programs. I was a college strength and conditioning coach for five years before moving onto the professional and now private sector level. I remember why we programmed the way we did:
- “They’re not going to do it anyways…”
- “Why spend time teaching them now? Just going to have to teach them all over again when they get here.”
- “I just need them to do SOMETHING.”
- “Summer packet? Just be in shape for Christ’s sake!”
This post is for awareness. It’s to remind you that as you write your summer programs, there WILL be kids out there that take your exact words as the ONLY words they need to live by for the next 8-12 weeks. And despite some of my very best athletes still committed to training with our staff at RYPT in preparation for their arrival to fall camp, they are still sending you scores, times and results so you don’t punish them with breakfast clubs and burpees.
Wait, I thought those workouts were technically voluntary?
So, do I want you to stop writing summer programs? No. But from our vantage point, we’d love to see less of the following so they can maximize their development and come ready to compete, not just come.
Sin #1: Writing the Program As If They Were Already With You
Awesome. You have 16,000 square feet of performance space. Over 20 racks, bumper plates, inlaid platforms, Keiser spin bikes and more chains than Mr. T.
But why are you writing that into your program?
Did you forget that most high school athletes only have access to a commercial gym like a Workout World or Planet Fitness? In a fitness universe full of lunk alarms, tanning beds and “Body Attack” classes, can they execute your program to your fullest standards? As much as we want to think these types of facilities will have Prowlers, board presses and more than one free standing squat rack, many of them won’t even come close. I’m sorry, but simply telling an athlete to find a way to get it done or join a new gym is not feasible for most athletes (or their parents for that matter).
In my opinion, great programs are designed by movement categories, not which pieces of equipment they HAVE to use. Don’t have a bench press? How else can they get a horizontal push? No battle ropes? How else can they do a non-impact conditioning day to keep their shins from cracking on the asphalt track?
Giving them options not only gives them some variety, but it improves athlete buy in and compliance. Don’t you want that?
Sin #2: Just Sending Over Your Football Program
All I can say is WOW. This happens way more than I thought. As a former football only strength coach for four years, I can attest that football players ARE different than everyone else. Their coaches’ expectations are often whacked out and unreasonable, causing your programming to be off the wall and quite frankly, different.
But does that mean your incoming freshmen female midfielder needs to “RUN THE RACK” on DB curls and shrugs? (Seriously, I just read it in a program).
I understand everyone needs to be strong and explosive. Everyone needs mobility, stability and proper activation sequencing. Most of our training at our level is similar. But each sport does have their unique threads of athletic development. Extra shoulder mobility. Prioritized ACL injury prevention. Maybe head/neck strength or specific fitness adaptations.
Point of the matter is this: If you’re in charge of multiple sports competing on opposite sides of the collision/speed/strength/style of play continuum, are you introducing specific methods and means to your incoming athletes. Or are you just having max out on squat, bench and deadlift and calling it a day?
Sin #3: Poor Formatting & Presentation
Your summer program is usually one of the first opportunities to “present yourself” to your incoming class, especially if you’re coaching a lower tiered level where official visits, junior days and recruiting visits don’t really happen.
It’s also where you lay the groundwork for the intangibles of success, something that we all pride ourselves on within our own department.
Accountability. Attention to Detail. Self-Discipline. Sense of Urgency.
So before you send out your summer packet, make sure your PDF doesn’t print in 93 pages. Or your margins are cut off, font sizes too big cutting into other column’s text or you’re using pictograms from the 1980’s.
You’ve only got one chance to make a first impression. What do you want yours to be?
Sin #4: Not Accommodating Their Summer Demands
Do you forget they are still kids? That they’re probably playing in a gazillion summer leagues or working a full-time job to help pay for college?
And don’t give them that crap about “You have your priorities mixed up”. Some kids flat out can’t train 5-7 times per week. I personally had to work 3rd shift at Home Depot to pay my bills, as well as take summer classes and babysit my two younger sisters during my summers. We tend to forget that just because school is out, they still have lives to live or pre-existing commitments to keep them alive and on path.
Everything is flexible. Meeting times, deadlines and even dieting. I’d love to see more programs focus on the QUALITY of their summer training, rather than just giving them busy work so they don’t go the beach or sit around all day. There’s nothing wrong with structure, but remembering what it was like for you during those years could help your incoming testing results and preseason injury rates.
Sin #5: Lack of Proper Exercise Descriptions or Tutorials
So you want them to do YOUR program, but you’re not willing to properly teach them?
People have a wide variety of learning styles. Most people simply can’t read an exercise description and leave feeling “I got this!” Videos, pictures and even some “common mistakes” can properly prepare the athlete to avoid injury and get them on the right path, towards the right place.
If you’re not willing to shoot an entire exercise video library, no worries. Find someone who already has and who teaches it similarly to you. No sense finding some random Youtube video and telling them to do it “kind of like this”. Note: Don’t ever send an exercise description video through this guy’s collection.
Sin #6: Maxing Out, On Anything and Everything
Whether or not you actually taught them how to perform your exercises to your standards, do you really want to max them out? Often and without proper supervision?
I often tell the parents of our athletes that training with us should be two fold a) a slow-cook process and b) a long term deal. We should be mastering the basics before moving onto the bodacious. And we should look a little further down the developmental process and ask ourselves “How can I keep this athlete functional for sport and resilient for the long run”. More importantly, what is the point of maximum testing during pre-season camp when most sport action does not even come close to the force/velocity curve you’re asking them to test at? Unless time is not an issue (which it hardly isn’t), true testing should come down to one thing: athletic performance on the field. Which brings me to my final point….
Sin #7: Faulty Fitness Test Programming
As my role has shifted from football sports performance to primarily female olympic sport athletes, I have taken a new appreciation for fitness test programming. However, what I absolutely hate is the following:
- Expecting them to run a high level conditioning test, for a high level conditioning team
- Not taking into consideration proper goal times for the level of athlete you have
- Throwing together random energy system work, in no logical sequence and saying it will help them pass
If most of your team fails their returning fitness test, whether it be shuttles, repeat 110yd variations or “timed runs”, shouldn’t you evaluate your programming and preparation? The easiest way to pass the test is to prepare for the test. Breaking it up into different blocks of emphasis via intensity and effort is a no-nonsense approach that keeps them not only accountable, but safe and productive.
If they keep failing at a certain point during the test (e.g. beep test), then help them break through that threshold. Time up the duration of that specific shuttle and be relentless with your assistance. If there’s one thing we know about sport coaches, it’s that they want them FIT. Whether they care about the weight room or not, our athletes move FIRST and lift SECOND.
In closing, if we want people to respect us for what we are and what we’ve done to do what we do (sports performance specialists, master’s degrees, national certifications and continuing education), we can’t make ourselves look like typical meatheads or gym rats. Across the board, we have to take a better approach to personal accountability and understand that what we really say or do, matters.
So before you check in on your athletes or prepare for their arrival back onto campus, just remember that somewhere, someone, is taking your words for exactly how you wrote them, word by word, instruction by instruction.
And when they do arrive back on campus, will they be ready for you?
Or the trainer?
Last week, I discovered an article on the forum of my PN Level 2 certification discussion board. I shared it online and was amazed to see how many likes, favorites and retweets I did NOT get. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not expecting record breaking organic reach, but with who I’m “friends with”, I was almost convinced more coaches would relate to the article as I felt it really hit home for many of us coaches.
If you missed it, please give it a quick read here.
I was so compelled by this piece that I felt I needed to address this head on with today’s generation of coaches. Essentialism versus traditionalism, expected versus challenged, healthy versus sick. I think it’s time to confront this once and for all.
Are you a member of OVERKILL?
Admit it. At some point or another, you’ve taken pride in being the first one in the office. You’ve set your alarm to unthinkable times just to get an advantage over the others. You took pride in working more than everyone else. You hustled for any type of slight edge, over your competitors and sharp enough for your superiors to notice.
Or maybe you were the one in charge? Expecting your staff to be there before you and leave after you? Making them suffer and “pay their dues”.
Low man on the totem pole. Work the most, get paid the least. Ahhh, the American strength coach dream.
So, you sit back and play another game of Solitaire, read another news story on ESPN.com, or get back to that stupid Crossfit fail video your buddy sent you last Monday.
Away from your spouse. Away from your kids. Away from your health.
I admit I too was a member of the “overkill cult”. Proving to my superiors that I had what it took to work 14-16 hour days, five-seven days per week, months at a time. I’d volunteer for jobs, activities, and extra hours just to keep busy. Or I’d sit in a concrete cubicle in the bottom of the athletic center just because I felt I had to “be there”.
I felt it was disrespectful if I didn’t. As if I didn’t earn the right to sleep in, or grab lunch with a friend. Hell, maybe stay up past 8pm once in awhile and catch a TV show with my fiance.
I was wrong. So wrong…
But there’s no such thing as work-life balance.
I continually strive to find some sort of “balance” between work and life. While I know there isn’t an actual formula or block schedule of success, it’s always interesting to see how much I can get done, with less and less time as the years go by. Responsibilities add up, priorities get shifted and when it’s all said and done, we do more because people expect more.
Shouldn’t we expect more of ourselves?
First marriage. Then a kid. Then another. Pretty soon, my family and I will be auditioning for a physical challenge on the Return of Double Dare. Life is happening and I need to make sure I’m not only there for it, but I’ll CONTINUE to be there for it.
A great friend and colleague of mine, Coach Brett Bartholomew of Team EXOS said the following:
Could the truth be anymore clearer?
What’s wrong with answering emails on a tablet while your infant daughter sleeps next to you on the couch?
Or work on that summer program at the local cafe where the wifi is free and refills are only 59 cents.
Or most importantly, what’s wrong with doing a GREAT job, elsewhere, at another time, with someone else around?
As I’ve shifted from the university/organization setting into the business world, I’ve dramatically altered my time management for not only myself, but for our staff as well.
- Do you have a project due? Good. Get it done. I don’t care when or where.
- Nice day out? Great. Go spend it with someone you care about and be back before the next group.
- Family in town? Awesome. Why don’t you leave or come in a little early so you can spend some real time with them so they don’t have to sit in your apartment waiting for you to come home.
Have you ever counted out how many people truly retire from the field of strength and conditioning?
I’m not talking “former coach turned equipment salesman or consultant.” I’m talking 100%, 6am whistle blowing, multiple session grinding, strength coaching until the golden age of retirement.
I have. It’s not many…at all.
So you want to do this for the rest of your life?
Here’s some advice…
Learn when to speed up, slow down and simply STOP. It’s about changing gears, when you need to, as often as you need to.
And it’s about doing your job to the best of your ability with the time you have.
Not from the time you have to steal from those around you.
Dear Distracted Dad,
Yeah, you! That’s right you! Is that Facebook newsfeed update so important that you can’t put it down for the next 30 minutes and spend some time with your son?
Or what about you? Yeah, the one with the kid jumping all over that couch without any regard for other people’s things at this birthday party. That “tweet” or quick check on Instagram needs to be done right now?
Seriously man, where are you priorities? These are called “moments” for a reason. They happen briefly, occasionally from time to time and will be gone before you know it. Then, one day, you’ll wake up, in a ditch, down by the river and you’ll be begging your kids to spend time with you, that is of course, when THEY have time.
So, put your phone down. Shut it off. Airplane mode, I don’t care.
Just be here…now…without any distractions…please. Those emails, texts and social media mayhem can wait…’til later.
A Devoted Dad
I’ve been meaning to write this for a few months now. After an awesome Easter weekend back home in Massachusetts with family and friends, I was determined to finish my thoughts on my keyboard after constant reminders on the freeways throughout our journey.
Ever notice the signs these days in big, bright letters listing reminders like “distracted driving kills” or “you text, you pay”? As a frequent visitor back home to New England, I feel like I’ve seen them all. They used to talk about drinking and driving or stopping for a rest, but now I feel it’s everything related to avoiding distractions, or else.
Have we become so focused on everything else, we forget about what’s going on now?
Call it multi-tasking. Doing too many things at once. Not paying attention. Day dreaming, whatever. All I’ve noticed is that when we allow ourselves to try and take care of so many things at once, nothing awesome comes out of it. The old adage that a “jack of all trades can be the master of none” holds true, especially when it comes to family.
Hi. My name is Adam and I’m a distracted dad.
I don’t mean to be. It’s never my goal to answer emails, start a project, work on the website, design a program, check business operations, write down an idea (or six) while playing basketball with my toddler son or giving a bottle to my newborn. I’m not looking for an excuse to get out of playing monster trucks or memory, it just happens. I get sucked in to the notifications and vibrations from my iPhone and run to it, as if it were a damsel in distress in the highest part of the castle amongst a fire breathing dragon…
“It needs me!” I tell myself. “If I don’t take care of it now, it’ll just haunt me the rest of the day.”
But, that’s not really true. I shouldn’t allow that email, text or small to do item affect my special time. Something so simple can wait…can’t it?
If I CHOOSE so, yes.
So why admit to this fault? Maybe it’s a call to action for all of us termed “fitness professionals”. Business owners, strength coaches, personal trainers, physical therapists, all of you. We never leave work at work because guess what? Our work is our life. We love it! It’s what we do that defines most of us. For us, it’s more than lower body-fats, higher predicted maxes and optimal training loads. It’s about impact. About making a difference in someone else’s life through (insert fitness/training/working out label here).
But at what cost? And to whom does it affect most?
There were two instances that really inspired me to write this post. One was during a “parent and me” soccer class that my son Cody and I were participating in this past winter. During these types of classes, I shut my phone off, put it in the car and give my son my full, undivided attention. It’s me, him and the challenge of learning how to dribble, trap and score, all at the experienced age of two.
Another dad, well he didn’t do what I did. He talked on his phone the whole time, not listening to the instructor or helping his son learn the fundamentals. He then got mad at him for not paying attention and acting up and pretty much embarrassed him and his family while we all watched and waited for our turn.
Are you serious?
Or there’s the time where I go to “Messy School” every Tuesday and bring my kids to the town recreation center where they can crawl/run around and play with everything imaginable. Play doh, magna tiles, race cars, blocks, anything you can think of.
Some parents, well, they’re “there”. But usually in a corner, on their iPhone or huddled together with their friends, gossiping about the latest news or Pinterest post. And some parents are right in the thick of it, fully mindful of their experience.
I again, put my phone in the car and spend quality time with them distracted only by avoiding collisions between grocery cart races and playing catch. Because I know how crazy life is and for that special time, it’s just us and nothing else.
I understand. I get it. When you stay at home with your kids for part of the day like me (5am-10am) or most of the day like my wife (10am-8pm), you need a break. You need to talk to adults. You need to have an intellectual conversation about something other than goldfish snacks and potty time.
But, are we matching up our behaviors with our priorities?
I know I’ve struggled with quality time during what we call “normal business hours”. I think many of us young parents do. Our routines get out of whack, adjustments need to be made and there still lies a feeling of accomplishment when we get something done amidst the chaos of a frantic family. And sometimes, we just need a break. But, most of the time, we need to do better.
Imagine how much better we’d feel if we really took the time to enjoy what was going on around us?
- Like when your son goes on his first Easter egg hunt or plays in his first whiffle ball game…
- Maybe when your daughter crawls for the first time…
- Or simply, when after a long day of writing, texting, emailing, coaching, training and cleaning, your soul mate lies exhausted on the recliner waiting for you to get home just so you can “talk”.
So, if you’re like me and doing a million things at once, maybe it’s finally time we just slow down a bit.
Prioritize when things need to get done. Remember when work is work and play is play. Set time away specifically for family, faith and friends and not let anything come between it.
And focus on one thing at a time and marvel at its beauty and awesomeness.
Because one day, we won’t be coaching or working out. We’ll be sitting there…thinking and reflecting about everything over the years.
And when that time comes, I want to be reassured I’ve got a lot of memories to relive and rejoice about.
I hope you will too.
A “Determined” Fully Devoted Dad