Today was squat rebuild. New Coach wants me to stay between 120# and 125#. I am actually brilliant with numbers but somehow when it comes to my own program, I too often do the math wrong. 3 sets in I realized I was doing 135#. They didn’t feel bad so I just continued at 135#. Since tomorrow is deadlift day, I am not doing extra leg work. I need New Coach to get my deads back on track and that means an hour plus of deadlifting, I cannot risk my hip today.
Below is my latest blog post on my work site.
I have been involved in some kind of sport since the fourth grade which means I have had many coaches in my life. Some that taught me how to work hard for my spot, some that played politics, some that taught fun, and some that taught winning was the only thing. On extreme ends, I have had the coach that let me believe I was the greatest thing to happen to my sport and another that let me believe I was the greatest disappointment. Most of my coaches I respect greatly, including those extreme coaches. Those two are the ones that made me the athlete I am: one taught me to believe in myself and the other taught me to always work harder.
I don’t know that all coaches recognize the effect they have on their individual athletes, for good and for bad. Recently, when someone said to me “Thanks Coach”, it was the best compliment I ever received mixed with a little fright. It made me think of my favorite and most influential coach and I realized that this little part I play in my athletes lives carries a great deal of responsibility: he permanently changed the person I am. For the rest of the day I thought about what kind of coach I want to be, what legacy I want to leave with my athletes. I never want my young athletes to leave thinking they are so good that they under-prepare for the big-market athletes. But I never, ever want one of my kids to leave a training feeling like my greatest disappointment.
Like all sports, powerlifting is full of constant critique. I am pretty good but over the years I doubt one session has passed without me hearing “drive harder” or “tighten it up” or “too slow” or “pull it back”. I have had four lifting coaches and all have said the same things, every session. No matter how far I have come, I will always need to be harder, tighter, and faster. It is amazing to me how four different coaches said the same things to me and I would leave my sessions feeling four different ways: 1) I made progress 2) I’m the bomb 3) I suck and 4) I love my sport and I can’t wait to learn more.
Having been in the coach’s shoes with various young athletes, I also realize I can say the same critiques to each of them and each athlete will leave me feeling differently. It is the best challenge I have ever faced. I love my job, I wouldn’t do anything else, and these young athletes bring more to my life than I could ever give back to them. But first and foremost, I am their coach. It is my job to tell them what they don’t want to hear, show them what they don’t want to see so they can become who they know they can be. It is a concept that can be hard for adults to grasp, imagine being a teenager?!
Last year I took one of my high school athletes on my annual trek to CrossFit Regionals. It was at the 2014 competition where I discovered what kind of athlete I want to be. It is also where I really began to discover what kind of coach I am and what kind of athletes I want to develop. We watched an athlete do rope climb after rope climb and the judge repeatedly no-repped her. Clearly, to those in attendance, the early reps were good but the more this athlete argued with the judge, the more frustrated she became, and her performance began to tank. I looked at my athlete and said between gritted teeth “I don’t care how right you are, you never argue with the judge. You shut your mouth, find out what they are looking for and execute it. I will fight the battle, that’s why I am the coach but if you do my job instead of doing yours, I will not back you up”. It is the harshest thing I have ever said to an athlete. It was said without thought…but had I thought about it I would have said it anyway. I would not have gritted my teeth. What she must have thought, my strong-willed, always-ready-to fight athlete? With such a spirit, how could I tell her not to argue? She looked at me wide-eyed and said “Oh, I know coach”. Recounting this story today, I never said anything like this to her before. I wonder what, during the course of training her, made her realize this was one of my rules?
Every client, regardless of age, athletic status, or goal, requires a different connection with me, just as I needed a different connection with each of my coaches. There are, however, certain things about me that are just part of my coaching (example: never argue with a judge/ref/umpire no matter how right you are; show up to give 100% today but realize 100% today doesn’t always equal 100% of yesterday; I can help you re-focus, motivate, inspire, but I cannot, nor would I, do the work for you).
I love my job more than anything. “Coach” is the title I am most proud of and is one I take as seriously as “athlete” (and if you know anything about me, “athlete” is a revered term to me). I tell my athletes things they don’t want to hear because that is how they develop their potential. I show them things the don’t want to see because that is how they accomplish things they never thought they could do. But coaching is an art.
Most of my coaches over the course of my life have enriched me and made me love and appreciate sport more than I already did. But there are two that I can think of that made me hate the sports I loved most. I never want one of my athletes to lose the love of their sport. I define myself by my sport, as many athletes do, and I could never forgive myself if I made an athlete lose that identity. This is why coaching is an art: we pick our athletes apart so they can reach their potential but we must do it without causing resentment. And every athlete has a different capacity to handle critiques.
I am a “coach in progress” and I hope to always be progressing. What kind of coach do I hope to become? The kind of coach that I would want for myself. One that shows the weaknesses, says what needs improvement, and does so in a way that cultivates respect and appreciation. One that that helps their athletes become everything (and more) they knew they could be.