Depending where in the world you might be reading this, there is a slim to good chance you’ve heard of the university I graduated from: University of Stellenbosch.

Surrounded by vineyards, it is, ironically, a sporting Mecca.

In fact, in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics many of the British sports based themselves there.

Conversely, it probably doesn’t matter where in the world you are, there is almost no chance you would’ve heard of the university where I completed my post-grad work: the University of Zululand (aka UniZul).

Ignored by the apartheid government it was recognised as ‘previously disadvantaged’ and, admittedly, wouldn’t have been most graduate’s first choice.

However, the Biokinetics (think: Exercise Physiology or Exercise Therapy) program had some awesome aspects that I’ve yet to see in the more internationally recognised and prestigious programs.

Below are some of the valuable elements the program had that should be introduced to all places of study :

 

Journal Presenting

On Fridays, the students had to present two journal articles to the class and staff (including the Dean).

As long as the journal was related to sport, exercise, therapy or training it was acceptable.

The audience was instructed to ‘tear apart’ the studies presented.

This lead to an interesting dynamic where, as the presenter, we would make sure we’d identified every flaw and weakness in our presentation – having a staff member correct us wasn’t great, but having a fellow classmate do it was humiliating.

By the same token, the audience analyzed every detail presented in the hope of picking up an undetected shortcoming.

To this day I still read every journal article as though I was presenting to the class, scrutinizing every aspect of the study. A good habit to develop for sure.

A knock-on effect has been every presentation since then is exponentially easier to deliver as the delegates are more forgiving.

The third benefit of this practice was every student (both as the audience and the presenter) was being exposed to new research that deviated from the prescribed course.

 

Operations

UniZul had a relationship with the local hospital and on Thursdays the Biokinetic students would attend the orthopedic operations.

While this lead to arguably my most embarrassing life story, from an educational point of view it was fantastic.

Until you have watched a live ACL or total knee reconstruction, it is impossible to understand how much each operation resembles a woodwork class more than twenty first century medicine.

Watching these operations might not be classed as ‘critical’ to my development, I’d definitely put them in the ‘hugely valuable’ column.

 

Use it… Use it again…. And again.

Catching up with students who were doing their post-grad at other universities highlighted an attitudinal difference between the faculty at UniZul and the rest.

Many of the other universities exposed students to some technology (often through observation) and assumed that was enough.

UniZul was different. Isokinetic testing (remember, this was a while ago : )? VO2 Max testing? Blood testing? Physical screening? Everything we learnt we applied and tested on every classmate.

(Sure, it might have meant having to run a VO2 test many times… Or not being able to walk after eccentric KinCon hamstring tests…)

BUT when we were in front our first patient we were ready.

 

A Full Time Job

The expectation at UniZul was that, if you weren’t in class or working on your thesis, you were in the Lab (read: Clinic) seeing patients/clients to fill up (at least) a 40 hour week. In other words, UniZul recognised that Class taught the science but the Lab developed the art.

We worked with athletes, house wifes, business men, kids… It didn’t matter. The mindset was to coach and to rehab and to train anyone and everyone we could get our hands on to develop those ‘soft’ skills.

 

 ‘Volunteering’

Frequently our class was ‘volunteered’ by UniZul to provide services to the public.

For example, we massaged at local and national running events; did health screening at Expos; performed blood tests at shopping centres; worked at the local special education school; etc.

Firstly, this was great for the exposure of Biokinetics.

Secondly, again, it developed our people skills. Interacting with such a wide variety of clients, patients and athletes in all sorts of setting enormously increased our confidence and our ability to connect once we became professionals.

 

Summary

Living in Australia now, I am hugely grateful for the opportunities and development UniZul provided for me and hope that other universities and programs and learn and grow their program so that their alumni are grateful too.

1) Journal Presenting – to develop 1) critical thinking and 2) public speaking skills.

2) Operations – to gain a deeper understanding of what your patients and athletes are recovering from.

3) Use it… Again and again – building confidence through repetition.

4) Full time job – tacit knowledge is just as important as explicit knowledge.

5) Volunteering – gaining exposure to as many different environments as possible.

How to Choose a Coach for your Child?

Choosing a Coach isn’t always easy, especially when considering the variables such as qualifications, experiences, results, costs and proximity.

Below are some guidelines Parents might want to take on for choosing the next Coach for your child.

Scout for Coaches. See which Coaches are in your catchment area (depending on how far you want to travel). The closest might not be the best.

Gather (a few) opinions. Call the State or National Sporting Organisation and see whom they recommend. Have a chat with Parents & Athletes involved in the sport and find out their opinions.

            TIP: Don’t rely exclusively on any one opinion. It is quite possible that person’s experience with the Coach was an ‘outlier’. On the other hand, where there is smoke there may be fire…

 

Have a chat with the prospective Coach. Find out what their priorities are. If they only talk about the results of their Athletes, this is a red flag. You want a Coach that is focused on processes, not results.

Ask to see the Coach’s qualifications. They don’t make a Coach but it is a good start. Make sure they are relevant and up to date.

            TIP: Don’t be impressed or intimidated with jargon. The better Coaches will be able to explain their principles, concepts and philosophies in terms you can easily understand.

 

Do question the Coach. If there is something you don’t understand or agree with, follow up with a question. A good Coach will appreciate the questions and not get defensive.

Watch some sessions. Watch how the Coach interacts with their Athletes; and watch how the Athletes respond to the Coach.

Use a Coach that has structured sessions. Make sure there is a warm up, a cool down, scheduled times for drink or a snack. Even better is if the Coach has the session plan written down for the Athletes to see.

            TIP: Don’t use a Coach that slams other Coaches. Great Coaches are busy Coaches, and busy Coaches don’t have the time to bother themselves with gossip and put-downs.

 

Listen to the Quantity of feedback the Coach gives. Even at the top level, Athletes can only respond to about 3 pieces of information. If your child is young, they might be only able to take on 1 piece of information. Any more and the Coach is 1) showing off, or 2) confusing your child, or 3) both.

Listen to the Quality of feedback the Coach gives.  Is it personal or vindictive? Is it balanced, constructive or negative?

            TIP: Don’t be overly impressed if the Coach is talking the whole time. Many of the best Coaches feel the need to say very little; after all, it’s about the Athlete, not the Coach.

Ask for some ‘trial’ sessions. This is a great way to include your child in the process by ensuring they have a say on how much 1) they enjoyed it and 2) how much they learnt.

            TIP: The best Coach for your child is the one that help your child achieve their goals.

I differentiate between a Course (measured in hours to days), Work Experience (measured in days to weeks) and an Internship (measured in months to a year) in time AND in hands on experience (Course: role-play; Work Experience: mainly observing; Internship: making decisions and owning the outcomes).

Typically there are three types of Internships: Unpaid, Paid and Pay-to-Play.

Below are my thoughts on each.

Unpaid Internship

In the Strength & Conditioning world, these are possibly the most common type of Internship. And there’s a reason for this: you probably don’t have many skills that are of much value.

Sure, you might know some theory but your ability to put it altogether isn’t great, hence the Internship.

What to expect: In the beginning you’ll probably just be observing but as soon as possible you should be given tasks (collecting information, loading barbells, filling water bottles, etc.).

As you build trust with your Preceptor and you understand their systems, you should be loaded with more responsibility.

After a few (two to six) weeks you should be given the chance to practice making decisions and giving feedback to the Athletes.

Most of the time the Preceptor should be close enough to observe you and give feedback after sessions.

What to give: Get in early. Be the last to leave. Don’t be a wall-flower. Offer, offer and offer again. Offer to do extra. Offer to help the Athletes. Offer to take on more responsibility.

Pros: You’ll probably be exposed to plenty of practical experiences.

Cons: Between studies, working to make money and your Internship, you probably won’t have much free time.

Interesting: Since you’ll often be in your Preceptor’s vision you have a great chance to impress them.

Paid Internship

This is where the Intern receives financial renumeration that is either inline with market value or is at least a ‘liveable wage’.

An important point to note is for this to occur the Intern must be able to justify their position and earn the Preceptor some income. In other words, there needs to be some value provided by the Intern.

In most internship cases there is an inverse sliding scale between ‘What you Learn’ and ‘What you Earn’: the greater the former, the less the latter. And vice versa.

What to expect: Since your market value is rather low and the Preceptor needs to justify you as an expense, you can expect to do lots of (unsupervised), repetitive work with very low levels of decision making required.

For example, you might perform generic health and wellness assessments in the corporate setting.

What to give: You should be in this to help others so give your all.

Also, this might not be the most stimulating type of introduction into the profession so make sure you’re seeking other opportunities in the field. Example, offer to do the rehabilitation for a sports club.

Pros: It’s probably better than doing the graveyard shift at McDonalds and, while not the most exciting, you’re still getting paid experience in the field.

Cons: It’s highly unlikely you chose this profession to do the type of work usually associated with paid Internships.

Interesting: In my experience, most of those who took the ‘cash option’ have left the health/performance field.

 

Pay-for-Play Internship

This is an interesting paradigm: the Intern pays the Preceptor.

I understand* it but I am not sure I agree with it: most people offering these seemed to have learned from others at no cost.

*The Preceptor has knowledge and experience that they and the Intern value and a financial transaction takes place.

What most don’t seem to grasp is this turns the tables as the Preceptor is now working for the Intern.

What to expect: If you’re paying for this it’d better be:

  1. great information that can’t be found elsewhere (difficult, when you consider the amounts of information on YouTube, blogs, etc.); and
  2. so well recognised you’ll leap-frog other candidates for most entry-level positions you apply for.

Try this: Ask a few leaders how much they value your Preceptor’s influence before signing up. You might save a truckload of money.

What to give: Your money..?

Pros: The pressure is on the Preceptor to deliver to you.

Cons: There aren’t many of these Internships that are worth it. I can’t think of one.

Interesting: You’re the boss so demand the ‘product’ you’re receiving is worth it.

 

Summary

It’s a Course if:

  • it’s completed in hours/days; and
  • role-play is where most of the ‘experience’ comes in.

It’s Work Experience if:

  • the duration is days/weeks; and
  • you’re mainly observing.

It’s an Internship if:

  • it takes months to a year (anything over a year is slave labour); and
  • you’re many making decisions and facing the consequences of those decisions.

Inverse-sliding scale: There is an inverse relationship between What you Learn and What you Earn.

There is no ‘best’ scenario it all depends on what you can afford to Invest (time, money, etc.) and what you want for your Return on Investment (practical knowledge, money or the Preceptor’s time).

1) Thank your Parents

First up, without them, there is no ‘you’. So thank them.

Also, thank them for driving you to training. And to competition. And paying for both. And giving up their weekends so you can compete.

 

2) Have an Athletic Portfolio ready

If you want to compete, even at the junior level, sport has become expensive.

So it pays to have some sponsors that can help you.

An athlete should have an ‘Athlete Portfolio’ – think of it as resume for your sporting achievements– that you can hand over to any potential sponsor at any time.

 

3) Have friends that don’t compete in your sport

It’s easy to only hang around those that compete in the same sport as you but it’s better if you have friends outside of that circle that have different interests to you.

They will remind you that there is more to life than your sport.

 

4) Coach a younger athlete (Be their mentor)

Remember how awesome it was when one of the older athletes chatted with you or helped you out?

Well, it’s good idea to pass that on to an athlete that is younger than you.

Take them under your wing, ask about their training or their performance or invite them to come train with you for a while.

They’ll love it and you’ll learn from it.

 

5) Keep all your doors open

There will reach a time when it’ll be tough to participate in other sports and still improve in your main sport but keep participating in those sports as long as possible.

There will reach a time when it’ll be tough to continue with school and still improve your main sport but keep in school as long as possible.

You never know what might happen and you’ll never know when it’ll happen so keep all your doors open for as long as possible.

 

6) Clean and carry your own equipment

I have a rule for all my Athletes: carry and clean your own equipment.

This will help keep you respectful and humble.

 

7) Be so good to your sponsors they want to help you regardless of your results

When was the last time you thanked your sponsors? How did you thank them? Did you pop in and thank them in person so that their customers could what a great job they’re doing? Did you write a hand-written letter and attach a picture so that they can proudly display at their work?

However you choose to thank them, remember that if you go above and beyond, chances are they’ll go above and beyond.

 

8) Thank your Coach

Even if your Coach gets paid, it is almost guaranteed that they do more than is expected of them.

Send them a text, give them a call or write a note.

Just say thanks (and know you have made someone very happy).

 

9) Keep your room tidy

There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, a cluttered room often means a cluttered mind and great performances rely on laser sharp focus.

Secondly, your parents will really appreciate it. They want to be proud of their home and a messy (smelly?) room does the opposite.

So give it a tidy and keep it that (you know it doesn’t take that much effort!).

 

10) Give your Mom a hug

She probably does more for you than you’ll ever know. She also feels your pain when you’re injured, your despair when you don’t get the result you worked and the disappointment when you don’t get selected when you thought you would.

So, the next time you see her, go and give her a massive hug.

At the Junior Sports Science Symposium IV, internationally renowned Sports Performance Consultant Wayne Goldsmith mentioned that aspiring Elite Athletes have many small, seemingly insignificant, decisions they make every day.

In each situation you can choose to take the Hard Road or you can choose to take Easy Street.

And it is the accumulation of many, many Hard Road decisions that will take you to the place you want to be.

Below are some examples.

  • Easy Street: My parents wake me up.
  • Hard Road: I set the alarm to wake me up. 
  • Easy Street: I lay in bed till the last possible moment.
  • Hard Road: I get up straight away. 
  • Easy Street: I have a rubbish, or worse, no breakfast.
  • Hard Road: I have a well-prepared, high-protein breakfast. 
  • Easy Street: I rush my morning and barely make it out on time.
  • Hard Road: I complete my morning stretch in a good state of mind and prepare for the day.
  • Easy Street: If I am late to training I blame: mom, public transport, my mates, etc.
  • Hard Road: If I am late to training I call ahead, take ownership and commit to finding a better way. 
  • Easy Street: I catch up with my mates and wait for my Coach to signal training is starting.
  • Hard Road: I get their early, warm up by myself & am ready to train.
  • Easy Street: I do what the Coach says.
  • Hard Road: I do what the Coach says, in the manner the Coach desires. 
  • Easy Street: I am at training physically.
  • Hard Road: I am at training mentally switched on and emotionally engaged. 
  • Easy Street: When the Coach calls us in, I walk.
  • Hard Road: When the Coach calls us in, I run. 
  • Easy Street: During breaks, I grab a water bottle.
  • Hard Road: During breaks, I offer the members of the squad water bottles first. 
  • Easy Street: When the Coach says the session is over I stop.
  • Hard Road: At the end of the session I do extras. 
  • Easy Street: At the end of the session I chat with my mates and go home.
  • Hard Road: At the end of the session I ask the Coach for feedback on my progress. 
  • Easy Street: I grab some fast food on the way home.
  • Hard Road: I consume my pre-prepared post training snacks and fluids.
  • Easy Street: I jump on the couch and watch TV.
  • Hard Road: I spend 10 minutes foam rolling. 
  • Easy Street: Dinner is anything pre-packaged and/or microwaved.
  • Hard Road: Dinner is fresh veggies, lots of colour, and good quality protein. 
  • Easy Street: I waste time on Facebook.
  • Hard Road: I turn off the TV, iPad, laptop, phone, etc. 30 minutes before bedtime & read a book. 
  • Easy Street: I waste time on Facebook.
  • Hard Road: I prepare and pack for tomorrow. 
  • Easy Street: My room is a mess, light and all sorts of electrical gadgets are on or charging.
  • Hard Road: My room is tidy and perfect for sleeping. 

Athletes, every day you have choices. And each choice might seem insignificant in isolation, but over the course of your career they add up to become very significant.

So, what’s it going to be?

Please only continue reading if:

  1. you have a sound understanding of the following terms: fragile, robust, anti-fragile;
  2. you are involved in development, coaching, training or performance;
  3. interested in providing feedback regarding these thoughts.

In the world of Athlete Development there tends to be a side-effect of creating highly fragile bodies, minds and spirits.

Sometimes this is par for the course – highly specialised organisms are more likely to be fragile to volatility.

However, at the Developmental Level (as opposed to the Elite Level) our goals should be to create athletes who are as close to anti-fragile as possible: independent, adaptable to a range of environments and have an ability to grow from stress and the inevitable set backs.

The Table in the attachment below is a summary of some of my thoughts with regards to the athletes (including skaters, BMX, swimming, rugby, tennis, powerlifting, etc.) I work with; the Coach Education courses and seminars I deliver and some of the goals I am trying to achieve.

In order to make this Table more anti-fragile, I’d appreciate your thoughts, comments, questions and queries.

Anti-Fragility for Sports, Coaching & Training

Dear Former Athlete,

First up, congratulations on your career. Competing at the highest-level puts you amongst a select group of individuals, an achievement most of us could only dream of accomplishing. In that regard, you have earned respect. There is no doubt that you will have lots to offer as you transition into the coaching realm.

Secondly, it is fantastic to hear that you’re interested in contributing to the sport through coaching – there is no doubt you’ll have much to give the next generation of athletes.

While wishing you the best in your transition, it would be remiss of us not to provide you with some insight we have gathered through our own collective careers. This information will hopefully help you navigate your new vocation.

It’s interesting that many people think ‘a great athlete will make a great coach’ yet there are not many who would think that ‘a great coach will make a great athlete’.

It seems that in the second paradigm we understand that the skills do not transfer well – they’re different domains; but in the first paradigm the misconception is that the skills do transfer well.

While we understand the ’10,000 Hour Rule’ is less of a rule and more of a ‘good message’ it could help you in your coaching.

Understanding that it probably took you about ten years to become an expert athlete, it’ll probably take you about ten years before you could consider yourself an expert coach. Remember this and enjoy the journey.

If you believed most coaching courses, you’d be forgiven for having the impression that coaching is mainly about addressing the Technical, Tactical, Physical & Mental aspects of the sport.

This leads to the assumption that you, the former athlete, should excel at coaching and hit the ground running. It makes sense to the uninitiated: You’ve obviously had a good appreciation of the Technical & Tactical aspects; you would’ve had some of the best physical training (though we have to ask: did you understand the principles being applied or did you just do what you were told?); as well as some exposure to Mental training too.

Unfortunately, this is quite far from the truth. Speak to any experienced coach and you’ll see that they’re more interested in learning how to build their relationship with their athletes. They understand that no rapport means no influence, which means no impact.

‘How and when to give feedback’ is another critical area for a coach to understand. Early in our careers, coaching is mainly about ‘us’ (our way, our methods, our influence, what we want to say) but, as we progress, we learn that it is actually about the athlete and giving them what they need, when they need it.

This is a skill that can be learnt, over time.

There are a range of other skills that you’ll need to learn: how to build a culture, how to motivate your charges, how to select your coaching staff, etc. Very few of the skills you had as an athlete will help you in this regard.

There will probably be other steep learning curves ahead: as an athlete your ability to believe in what you were told could have a significant effect on your performance. In fact, more belief could translate into more success: your belief in ice baths could help your recovery; your belief in altitude training could help your fitness levels; your belief in the fabric of your competition-clothing could help your confidence levels.

However, as a coach you need to have healthy doses of doubt and skepticism.You will need to question everything. And you should expect that the answers you receive are backed up with robust evidence. This change in mindset won’t be easy but it will be necessary.

Something else that was praised when you were an athlete is now going to handicap you as a coach: loyalty. Your loyalty to that one club, or your loyalty to that one coach, means that your exposure to different training methods and protocols has been inhibited. Remember, the old adage: There are many ways to skin a cat (apparently).

You’re going to have to get out and learn from other coaches, other teams, other countries and other sports. And never think ‘That could never work in my sport’ because it probably could, you’re just not experienced enough to understand how, why, when & where.

Following the same lines, please do not even think about coaching at the club you competed at, no matter how much the board plead and beg. For your own development, get out and learn. You could always return later, better prepared.

Having coached developmental athletes for over a decade, we understand how your confidence in your ability to coach, though unproven, will still be high.

We have seen your coaches build you up; we have seen the fans adore you and how the press embraces you. We have seen your managers minimise your faults and emphasise your strengths. We have seen how many people agree with you and how few correct you.

When you become a coach, you’ll need to shun most of these people and surround yourself with those that can stand up to you, disagree with you and correct you. These are the people who you can trust; the others are just going along for the ride.

Lastly, we are going to wish that you experience a fair amount of failure in your first few years of coaching. It sounds negative but it isn’t. Too many young coaches who experience early success think they know all the answers when, in fact, they haven’t been asked all the questions.

This perceived failure will be a blessing, as it will force you to extend yourself; seeking and creating learning opportunities, potentially leading to sustained, long term success.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and good luck with your coaching journey.

Regards,

Your Fellow Coaches

PS Never, ever use the phrase ‘back in my day…’

Considering the potential expenses associated with attending a Conference (travel, accommodation, food, the conference itself, etc) you’d want to ensure you maximise the event.

Below are some tips that might be able to help.

1) Dress for the Job you Want, not the Job you Have. A conference is not the time to slop around. This includes the cocktail party, dinner and, if you’re invited, the VIP event.

2) Get Out on Your Own. Too often young attendees partner up and stick with their buddy, potentially losing many opportunities to interact with other professionals.

3) Two Ears, One Mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk (especially if you’re around the top delegates).

4) Aim to meet 10 New People Every Day. Seriously, set that goal. Over 3 days that is 30 new contacts.

5) Maximise Meal Times. Not only for the protein but for the conversations that take place. Guaranteed you’ll pick up great information. Or make a new friend.

6) It’s an Endurance event, not a Sprint. Pace yourself, especially on the social side. There are a number of delegates who’ve peaked early and have nothing in the tank on the last day.

7) Spend Time with the Sponsors & Exhibitors. Firstly, if it wasn’t for them, the costs of the conference would probably sky-rocket. Secondly, don’t just think of ‘industry contacts’ as other delegates, commercial contacts are vital too.

8) Sit at the Front. Your engagement will be higher in the front row. If you don’t believe me, compare how many people check their phones, twitter, email, etc. in the front row versus those in the back row.

9) Don’t Think in Terms of ‘Right or Wrong’. If something is presented which disagrees with your paradigms, try to understand why it worked before dismissing it. Even better, think ‘Who, where and when can I use this?’ and save it for later.

10) Report on the Info. If your team, club or academy contributed to your conference attendance write a report detailing what you learnt. Circulate it amongst the performance staff and the decision makers so that it becomes valuable for the organisation, not just you.

The current trend for universities is to offer a masters degree for eager Strength & Conditioning coaches.

It’s the perfect solution to the exact problem they created: 1) accept way too many students into their under-grad programs; 2) wait for the suckers to realise there aren’t many jobs on offer; 3) offer further (online – it’s cheaper) education to the unemployed coach as a way to ‘get ahead’.

Now whether a predominately online course can adequately prepare anyone for the demands, connections, mindsets and pressures of high performance sport is for another post; today’s post is earning the right to take on further theoretical study.

As mentioned on Twitter, I believe diving into a masters in high performance for a new grad is analogous to giving depth jumps to a novice athlete. Neither are prepared enough.

One criticism I have of the universities marketing and encouraging new grads to sign up is that, for the vast, vast majority of students, they wouldn’t have applied the fairly basic concepts they learned in their degree.

So below is a check list of activities, experiences and situations that should be a minimum requirement before thinking of applying for any course-based masters.

1) Coached 2 FULL, consecutive Seasons. It doesn’t matter what level (e.g. age-group, school, club, etc.) this is at but it needs to be done and it doesn’t have to be ‘Strength & Conditioning’ coaching… Just coach!

2) Made a 16yr old boy objectively faster. It actually doesn’t really matter about the age or sex; it just matters that they improved. PS If you haven’t done this you can have no real opinion on speed.

3) Tested, analysed, programmed, implemented & re-tested, re-analysed… I recently met with a masters graduate who hadn’t run a single testing session outside of the university setting! Not one. Not even a Beep test for the local u15 football side.

4) Trialled at least 3 different training programs. Think Westside, GVT, 531, etc. It doesn’t matter which programs you put yourself through; it does matter that you know what it felt like, and that it was a minimum of 12 weeks each.

5) Spent at least 30 hours observing high performance training. This should help expose you to fresh ideas and the application of the theory you’ve been taught. The more active you are in the process (even if you’re just filling up water bottles) the better this is.

6) Trialled at least 3 different nutrition paradigms. Keto, vegan, Atkins… Who cares, just try it. Monitor how you feel? Understand any feelings of deprivation, fatigue, energy, etc.

7) Trained with & without supplements (E.g. creatine). Track the differences, both physical & psychological.

8) Trialled ice-baths, steam-baths, saunas & massage. In addition to your training and nutrition, surely you should know how you responded to these inventions before studying them further.

9) Trained so hard you vomited. Let’s be clear, any trainer can make a trainee vomit (a minute sprint on an assault bike can do the trick). Then why do it? So you can see (and understand) the games your mind will play with you at your limits.

10) Coached both an individual & a team sport. Compare and contrast the difference in constraints, cultures, attitudes and personalities.

11) Taken a Mentor out for lunch. I detest the term ‘network’ but love the idea of building and nurturing relationships. Start with someone who is at the level you’d like to be in 5 years.

It wasn’t long ago that most of our shared information was through books.

I remember when I first discovered internet groups in the 1990’s (who else was on Mel Siff’s Supertraining group? : ) where anyone could pass on information or share their experiences. While many of the group’s had moderators, the level of qualifying dropped significantly.

The uberisation of information sharing has meant that anyone (everyone?) has a voice. While there are many positives to this, there is a potentially dark side too.

Coaching Experts are offering paid internship positions, subscriptions to their private newsletters with promises of blueprints to success & exorbitantly priced workshops.

Each of these may be worthwhile, but as we know from life, one of the best ways to make money is to sell a method to make money.

I don’t worry too much if the Experienced and the Wealthy sign up, but most times it’s the Interns, the Inexperienced and Students who are targeted.

Below are 3 qualifiers you should apply to those offering advice (especially if they want to charge you!).

 

1) Minimum 10 Years FULL TIME Coaching Experience

The greatest rate of change for most Coaches is in their first 10 years.

Typically, during this time we evolve from using terms like everyone, no one, always, never, good, bad, recipe, blueprint, etc. to often answering with ‘depends’.

When we see the world in the ‘black and white’ it’s natural to have strong opinions: it’s either wrong or right.

You’ll recognise this in the blogs with titles like ‘Why everyone should weightlift’ or ‘No one should use Tabata intervals’.

However, most Coaches, as they progress start to realise that almost everything has it’s place. We think less in terms of wrong/right and more in terms of ‘For who? When? And how can we integrate this?’

In other words, we start to see and appreciate the ‘grey’.

It’s a powerful change in mindset.

If you are looking for advice and guidance you’re going to want to make sure your Advisor can see the grey.

 

2) Minimum 3 Years in at Least 2 Positions

A simple heuristic to embrace is:

Early success for an incoming Coach is due more to the change and less to the methods.

In other words, Athletes might improve their performance when a new Coach comes in because of a freshness of voice, activities or paradigms; not necessarily because the Coach is better.

Imagine the following hypothetical, over-simplified scenario:

You’re a Coach whose fitness paradigm is heavily ‘game-based’; and you take over from a Coach who had a ‘straight-line running’ mindset.

For a while the games might inject a new energy into training and there’ll be some big improvements in performance.

However, the improvement isn’t purely from the games-based approach but rather from this approach being based on a solid foundation of nowhere-to-hide, big-distances, run-till-you-vomit fitness; which, over time will dissipate.

The successful Coach will have to identify what the program is lacking and, perhaps, add some ‘straight-line running’ into their program.

Coaches who move too quickly between jobs don’t get to experience this and think their paradigm is the reason for the improvement.

They’re also not forced to reflect on plateaus in performance; nor have to adapt as the squad changes personnel or the Athletes mature; or even change their paradigms to give the Athletes what they need.

Your Advisor should go through this process at least twice to have a deeper understanding of the Coaching evolution.

 

3) Multiple (Not just 1 Athlete/Team) Successes

When we’re honest with ourselves and accept that every year one team has to win the competition (or every Olympics someone has to win the Gold), we can dig a deeper into the reasons for success of that particular team (or individual).

We can distill the ‘reasons’ for success to the essentials ingredients.

We might find that, through no merit of the Coach, their team has:

  • very few injuries
  • a perfect blend of youth and experience
  • a great tournament draw
  • a few favourable competition decisions
  • a strong, united and invisible board

This is not to disregard the success (my team’s successes in terms of premierships is just above negligible) but appreciate there are external factors to every success.

Multiple successes at different franchises, with different Athletes, over different eras and in different competitions starts to flatten out the external factors.

Find an advisor who’s had multiple success and you’ll find a Coach who has broad perspective to add to your development.

 

Conclusion

Apply these 3 qualifiers to who you seek advice from and you’ll soon see the noise levels drop and information levels rise.

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