Over the course of my career, and particularly in the early stages, I have been fortunate to have some very knowledgeable and experienced mentors. All of them have gone above and beyond to help educate me in the field of human performance.

With this in mind I have always had the idea that I too should give back and have made it a priority to take on interns and young strength & conditioning coaches.

Besides the sets, reps, coaching cues, program design, exercise technique, etc. young coaches should understand:

1) You don’t have an opinion until you have 10 years (10,000 hours) experience

(And I wish someone had told me to keep my opinions to myself in my early days.)

We are all aware of Anders Ericson’s research that has been quoted in books such as Outliers, Bounce and The Talent Code. We’re also all aware of the exceptions to this rule – athletes or experts who have succeeded despite not yet reaching this target. Now, despite your opinion regarding the robustness of Ericson’s research, I like the thought process of aiming for 10 years before claiming to be an expert.

I like it for the young athletes I work with – it allows them to enjoy the journey.

I like for parents of talented children – it gives them perspective.

I like it for young S&C coaches – it keeps their minds open.

According to the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition, and I am paraphrasing here, the novice progresses from seeing the situation in either black or white, right or wrong; to the expert who sees all shades of grey, and different situations requiring different methods.

So what might seem ‘white’ and ‘wrong’ when we’re a young coach might actually be ‘grey’ and ‘correct’ as we gain experience.

The point is, the young coach should refrain from judging programs and paradigms, and focus on trying to understand the philosophies behind them.

Hence, no opinion until you have clocked up your 10 years.

Over the past few weeks I have been redesigning a facility that I’ll see all my athletes (performance) and clients (health) out of.

Interestingly, Suki Hobson was going through a similar situation, only hers was with the Milwaukee Bucks and (I am only guessing here) but I’d imagine her budget was slightly bigger.

Anyway, below are some processes I went through that might help you with your facility.

Before reading further, it is suggested you understand the Lindy Effect. Trust me, this will help you.

 

1) Know thyself, know thy athlete

Having a clear idea what your training philosophies are and who the facility is designed for is the best place to start.

Weightlifting, powerlifting, gymnastics, bodyweight circuits, bodybuilding… These are just some of the paradigms which might influence your training and dictate what equipment is “have to have” and what equipment is ‘nice to have’.

Knowing who are clientele is also imperative. Do you need the Eleiko bars and plates or are the cheaper CrossFit/Chinese brands sufficient? Is it worth having the 70kg dumbbells or will they just gather dust? Are you designing a sport-specific or a general-athlete facility?

 

2) Measure, Draw, Plan

While my skills in AutoCAD aren’t abysmal, the easiest method I have found to plan for the facility:

  1. Draw a map of the facility to scale.
  2. (Over) Estimate how much space each piece of equipment will take up (including an adequate safety zone around the equipment), draw each piece and name it (e.g. Bench Press, Platform 1, etc.)
  3. Cut out equipment and place it on the map.

Now you have a way of visualising where everything can go without having to lug it around.

 

3) Allocate Floor Space 

After your Coaches, this is your second most valuable commodity.

Treasure it.

Running, skipping, hopping, lunging, bridging, throwing, crawling… These are movements and exercises that could benefit most athletes without requiring additional equipment.

However, without sufficient space you are unlikely be able to do anything of them.

Prioritise this.

 

4) Allocate Wall Space 

Another of the under-valued commodities in a gym: wall space.

So good for med-ball (and other) throws, hooks for suspension trainers (think: TRX), chin up bars, stretching stations…

Make sure you keep some of your wall space free.

 

5) Apply the Heuristic: No Single Function equipment

If you’ve got an unlimited budget and unlimited space skip to the next section.

If you’re like the rest of us, keep reading.

Equipment takes up space whether you’re using it or not (keep reading for more gems on the physical nature of matter).

It is therefore essential that your equipment is either multifunctional or is easily stored.

For example, consider the Bench Pull.

A great exercise, no doubt, but is it worth the 4 to 6 square metres it takes up? Especially when you consider the alternatives: bent over row, fat man chin up, 1 arm row, etc. The equipment required for each of these exercises can be used for a host of alternative exercises.

Or compare that to the Torsinator, which can be used for a multitude of exercises and then can be packed away when not needed.

 

6) Plan for Storage 

Storage is often a forgotten, or at least underrated, aspect of the gym. And most people only realise it once it’s too late.

Your first type of storage is for your equipment. Think: weight-trees, toaster racks, barbell holders, etc. Not only do they take up space, they also need to be easily accessible.

You’re also going to need a place for your tool boxes, repair kits, first aid, back-up equipment and cleaning equipment.

Make sure these are in the plan and the necessary space is accounted for.

 

7) Create a Place for Everything

It is inevitable that you and your staff are going to have to return some equipment to its rightful place, but if you have a specific place for each piece of equipment it reduces the work load considerably.

Take for example dumbbells. I always ensure the racks have cradles that the DBs can be stored. It’s a simple but fairly effective way of keeping the pairs together.

It makes it easier for the equipment to be found, returned and to notice if anything is missing.

 

8) Signs Save Time

Not all of your athletes will follow them but enough will to make it worthwhile.

Consider signs for your DBs (2.5kg, 5kg, etc.); for where you want the plates to go on your weight trees, or where to store your bands, foam rollers, etc.

(Re)Designing a facility is an exciting challenge that doesn’t come around too frequently. Make sure you nail it first time.

Hopefully you can learn from some of my many mistakes and have a fantastic facility for your athletes and client to train out of.

As with everything, if you have any comments, queries or suggestions please do not hesitate to contact us.

I have previously written a tongue-in-cheek ‘article’ about muscular imbalance here and thought I’d follow with this:

It’s not uncommon for Physical Prep Coaches, Physios and Personal Trainers to assess their clients/patients and determine the posture ‘issue’ is related to a strength deficit somewhere. Usually this is in reference to an injury, but increasingly, this is provided by an expert to a school/club/academy under the guise of a ‘screening’.

The simplicity is great and makes us feel comfortable: anterior pelvic tilt? Strengthen your abs… ‘Rounded’ shoulders? Too much bench press…

While understanding the proposed mechanisms I have found it a little more difficult to find peer-reviewed evidence.

And questioning those who use these models isn’t always the friendliest conversation.

In fact, in one particular discussion about an injury to a high profile tennis player, the physiotherapist snapped “I am just doing what I was taught!’

Anyway, below are two studies which refute any strength-posture relationship.

Relationships between lumbar lordosis, pelvic tilt and abdominal muscle performance Rothstein et.al. Physical Therapy vol. 67/No. 4 1987

Relationship between performance of selected scapular muscles and scapular abduction in standing subjects  DiVeta et.al. Physical Therapy Vol. 70, no. 8/August 1990

Please post any research that confirms the strength-posture relationship below.

Having travelled for work over the past 15 years with groups, teams, individuals and by myself I have picked up some travel tips that might help you with your travel.

Pre-Travel

Attitude

There are plenty of studies and articles on how to deal with jet lag and travel fatigue, most of them have some good information, but my experience suggests that the attitude of the traveller is the key component to adjusting to the new environment, climate and time zones.

Before departure it is a good idea to prepare the group that they will be tired/ frustrated/hot/cold/etc.

Borrowing a term from the British Special Forces, introduce the term ‘Dislocated Expectations’ to the group. This is where we mentally accept that our well-planned travel will most likely be disrupted by some event and we will just adapt our plans.

Booking Flights

While it is tempting to take the cheapest airfare to save a couple of hundred bucks, it is almost guaranteed that during the extra stop over you’ll be willing to pay double the savings to get to your destination quicker.

Most booking websites have an option to sort the available flights by travel time. Use this.

Booking Seats

Two general rules:

Flight under 2 hours, window seat.

Flight over 2 hours, aisle seat (it’s extremely difficult for me to sit still for that long!).

Caveat: Early morning or late evening flights, window (it’s easier to sleep).

MORE: An Open Letter to Any Athlete that wants to be a Coach

Carry-On

For longer/overseas flights ensure you have packed the following in your carry-on.

  • 3x shirts
  • 3x underwear
  • Sandals/flip flops
  • Laptop
  • All your electrical chargers (laptop, phone, etc)
  • Hoodie
  • Hat
  • IPod (with ocean sounds)
  • Old towel*

The first two items are in case your luggage get’s lost/delayed or you want fresh clothing to change into before arriving at your destination.

I like to take my shoes off during the flight but don’t want to walk barefoot in the bathrooms, hence the flip flops.

With any delays or luggage losses you can keep working or keep in touch.

Hoodies are great for warmth and to block out light when sleeping. The hat also will block some light.

The ‘white noise’ of the ocean sounds can help block out chatter or other disturbances.

*For some airports (e.g. Dubai) there are showers available to those who fly cattle class. For any stop over that lasts at least two hours, take advantage of this. You’ll feel so much better. And just throw the towel away when you’re finished.

Tennis Specific Information (try to apply to other sports)

When travelling with a group of tennis players, get each of the players to swap a few racquets with someone in the group.

That way, if one bag goes missing that player will still have a racquet or two to practice with.

Travel

Boarding

Simple: Window seat? Get in early. Aisle seat? Take your time.

Sleep Rules

If you’re arriving in the morning in a new time zone, sleep as much as possible on the flight.

If you’re arriving in the evening, stay awake as much as possible.

Don’t Rush

Know those idiots who stand up as soon as the plane lands and try to rush out? Don’t be that person.

Even if you’re in the front row, first off the plane and sprint down the concourse you’re still going to have to wait for your luggage.

Be polite, wait your turn and help those that need it.

Food ‘n Drink

There are probably some articles you’ll read that suggest no alcohol and have an opinion on coffee.

Not this one.

Only advice is to have less than you normally do.

Despite what many ‘hydration experts’ tell you, you only need to drink water when you’re thirsty. Though drinking more might make you go to the toilet more and that means more movement – a good thing.

MORE: 10 Goals for Undergrads

Post Travel

Remember the most important point? Your attitude.

Being positive, embracing the changes and challenges will probably help you more than any ‘science’.

Get out v Get to Sleep

Arriving in a new time zone in the morning I’ve tried two strategies: getting outdoors and staying there until it’s close enough to bed time that I can collapse; and having a short doze and then getting out.

If you can trust yourself, my experience suggests the latter is probably better.

Suggested Activities

Depending on the number of time zones you’ve covered (bearing in mind I am writing this from Australia and most of my international travel has been to Europe and the US) it’s best to NOT train on that first day.

It’ll probably be a mistake-ridden, low intensity session.

Rather, schedule some outdoor activities.

I have found that an ‘Amazing Race’ has been the most beneficial and rewarding activity with very little preparation.

Buy a tourist book and list some popular local attractions.

In groups of 2-3, the athletes have to provide photographic evidence that their entire group was at that attraction.

While they can use public transport, they are not allowed to use taxis.

It’s a great activity, especially for younger athletes who need to build their independence.

First Three Nights

Generally, my stance is not to take medications unless absolutely necessary but I do take a fast-acting, fast-clearing pill.

And it’s only for the first three nights!

Put the pill along side your bed and only use it if you wake up at a terrible hour.

Returning Home

Laundry

With all the other things that need to be done when one returns home (paying bills, answering calls and texts, etc.) it’s good not to have a month of laundry to do.

Where possible, do some laundry late in your trip so that you have clean clothes.

Packing

Anything that is not clean when I am packing gets folded inside out and packed last.

The ‘inside-out’ makes it easy to determine what still needs cleaning; and packing it last means that anyone who wants to go through my bag has to first deal with the sweaty stuff.

If you have any practical tips for travelling please feel free to email them through.

As a naturally inquisitive person I try to work out why coaches and trainers give certain exercises and regimes. Often it is self-explanatory, though I still like to hear the reasons behind it, and other times it isn’t.

The times that the rationale isn’t so obvious are when the activities includes a gimmick.

When I ask, and then probe about the rationale behind the program, I am struck by how often the coach/trainer eventually says ‘It’s just a bit of variety – I don’t want them to lose motivation’, or something to that effect.

I then start to wonder how much variety I could provide without a gimmick?

Take the variety of the squat for example. Off the top of my head I can think of:

Type: Front, back, overhead, box, weightlifting-style, powerlifting-style, bodybuilding-style, sumo, sprinter, jump, thrust, pistol, etc.

Equipment: Body weight, barbell, dumbbell, safety bar, cambered bar, med ball, Smith machine, etc.

ROM: full, half, top-quarter, bottom-quarter, any other partial range, etc.

Tempo: explosive, slow, controlled, emphasise eccentric, emphasise concentric, etc

Start position: Knees extended, bottom position, etc.

Reps: low, medium, high, super-high, etc.

That’s 15,400 different types of squats! If you tried to two combinations every week you’d have to live until you were 148 years old to complete the above varieties (assuming you started at birth).

Surely that’s enough variety to not lose interest?

As for motivation? I have constantly found that improvement is one of the greatest forms of motivation! And Daniel Pink (in his New York Times Bestseller ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us‘) agrees.

He refers to ‘improvement’ as ‘mastery’ but in this case it is essentially the same thing.

If we plan and implement good programs where our athletes improve they will probably be motivated to continue training with us.

So, throw out the gimmicks, stick with some basics and design and implement good programs.

I am publishing this because it’s been in the Drafts folder for too long and I think it can help more Coaches once shared rather than publishing it because it is a polished article. 

Below are 3 curious things about rugby training and some suggestions on how to improve them.

Random, Chaotic & Intense

At a recent seminar I presented, the above three adjectives were thrown up to describe Rugby.

The question posed to the delegates was: If those are the three words you’d use to describe the sport, what words would you use to describe your practices?

What would your answer be?

Do you practice the same skill over and over until your players get it right?  In a match, how many times do they get to ‘re-do’ a skill?

How many options, stimuli, distractions and decisions are they making or receiving in your practices? Do those numbers compare to those in every second of the match?

READ MORE: Dear Former Athlete

Often, we see training that is well organised (drilled might be a better term), repetitive and fairly low on the Chaos scale – in other words training that is inadequately preparing players for the game.

As a percentage of your training, how much time is spent at ‘game pace’ and how much is ‘going-through-the-motions’ pace?

What you can do: PRICC

Make sure you’re assessing your games, challenges and activities against this acronym:

  • Pressured – think: time, opponents, space, etc.
  • Random – never the exact same skill twice in a row
  • Intense – think: Game speed
  • Competitive – is there a winner and a loser; or, is there at least a consequence to the actions?
  • Chaotic – multiple stimuli (& add in some distractions)

Allocate a 1-10 scale to each of the above; where 1 is basically the lowest level and the Rugby World Cup final.

Assign your level of rugby matches a 7.

Every training activity that is less than 7 means the actual match will feel harder. Every training activity that is above 7 means the match will feel easier.

Now ask yourself: how do I want my players to feel in a match?

Train v No One (this includes the scrum machine)

Is there another invasion sport in the world that spends a greater time practicing against no opposition than Rugby (legitimate, not rhetorical, question)?

Lineouts against no one… Starter plays against no one… Team runs against no one… And don’t forget scrumming against an oversized sled!

When questioned, the Coaches often defend the training with something along the lines of ‘we need to get our structures right first…’

Training against no one is great preparation for playing against no one.

Once Coaches understand the mantra ‘Context is King’ it becomes essential to have some form of opposition in almost everything we do.

What you can do: 3 Levels

Introduce 3 Levels of Opposition into EVERY activity:

Level 1) The Opposition (not tackle bags) are passive and fairly static. They’re there to create some context and not to disrupt the activity. E.g. The Opposition lineout can work on their triggers, reading the attacking team and perhaps even jumping for the ball, but at no stage do they try steal the ball.

Level 2) Opposition are actively competing to win the ball or take up space. They’re there to win the activity/game/challenge.

Level 3) This is where you want to get to! The aim here is to take the ‘make Kindy harder than School’ or matches feel less intense, pressured, chaotic, etc. than training.

For example, lineout jumpers are double-teamed for extra pressure or perhaps told where you’re going to throw; the defence are allowed off-sides; fewer Attackers against more Defenders… Anything that makes the match feel easier.

Kicking

It can convert pressure into points; turn a defensive position into an attacking position; cause indecision & confusion amongst the opposition; relieve territorial pressure; add two extra points to a try; change your 2D attacking options into 3D options with grubbers and chip kicks….

Yet, as a percentage, how much practice time is dedicated to improving the kicking of your players?

Across the board, there seems to be an imbalance between what good kicking (including decision making) can do for a team and the amount of time & energy expended to improve this aspect of the player’s skills.

  • Do you have a Kicking Coach? (Not just a former player who used to kick…)
  • Do you allocate time to specifically improve this aspect of your players?
  • Can your backs regularly chip/grubber & regather?
  • Do you have at least two players who can put a drop over (worth 3 points!!) from 30m out?
  • Can your players accurately place a ball that puts the opposition under immense pressure?
  • Can the majority of your backs kick with both feet?

If you’re not answering yes to most of the above questions, it’s time to change things up. Players just kicking with whoever happens to turn up early isn’t good enough.

What you can do: Dedicate Personnel & Time

First up, get a real Kicking Coach. Someone who, at the very least, is organising time with the players to improve their kicking.

Secondly, block off time during (not just before and after) training to build these skills. It can easily be incorporated into fitness games, opposed team runs and any other skill work you prescribe.

READ MORE: How’s your Coaching Congruency?

Lastly, appoint a coach to monitor & track kicking during matches so players are receiving reliable feedback on their progress. Remember, what gets measured gets done.

There! Published! 

Working with young Athletes can be an emotional rollercoaster, if you allow it to be.

They can have amazing wins and terrible losses. They can progress at a rapid rate and then apparently stall for no reason.

The key to staying stable is to take a long-term view. And one way to do this is to accept:

Junior Results Probably Don’t Matter.

If don’t believe me just look around. You’ll see former junior State, National and World Champs who never ‘made it’ in the senior ranks.

Below are some of the reasons I don’t get too excited, nor disappointed, about the results of my Junior Athletes.

After reading this, feel free to post any additional reasons (or reasons you disagree) below.

 

1) Early Exposure

In South Africa, in my particular province, we played Rugby in junior school as our main winter sport. Other provinces chose to play football (soccer).

In the first year of high school there was a fair divide between those who had a few ‘seasons’ under their belt compared to those who were totally new to the game.

In essence, the selection criteria for the u13 and u14 age-groups was more a selection of Early Exposure than it was of future success.

Of course, over time, the disparity decreases until it becomes negligible.

Whether it’s because their parent is a Coach or Official in the sport, where they’re growing up, or purely through ‘luck of the draw’, Early Exposure can have a dramatic effect on the early results of young competitors.

Great results in the early years aren’t necessarily a result of talent, commitment or training. It could just be that they got a head start.

2) Sibling Order

Our son (5) attended his first football (soccer) practice a few weeks back. He’d never really seen/experienced the sport so it took a few sessions for him to understand a few basic concepts.

Our daughter (2) has only watched her brother participate and already has a grip on what happens at practice. When she first signs up I wouldn’t be surprised if she appears more talented than some of her team mates.

This often happens with younger siblings – they learn through an almost osmotic process.

This happens in competition too.

One Junior Athlete might be the eldest of their family, struggling with all the new concepts they’re experiencing, while their opposition is the 2nd, 3rd or 4th sibling.

3) Relative Age Effect

If the cut-off for the sport’s age-groups is January 1, imagine the potential difference between someone born on January 2nd and someone born on December 31st of the same year.

While they may be in the same age-group, the reality is there could be a 12-month difference in age, maturation and practice.

This will level off in the Elite/Senior ranks but can have a big impact in junior sport.

4) Maturation Age

I’ll never forget my first lesson at high school.

The guy sitting next to me had thick, hairy legs; a 5 o’clock shadow (it was 8am) and these huge sausage-like fingers.

I hadn’t hit puberty yet and assumed he was a teacher, or in the 12th grade at least, and called him ‘Sir’ for the entire lesson.

READ MORE: What to look for in a Strength & Conditioning Coach?

Turned out he was a few weeks older than me.

Early maturers often dominate in Junior Sport. They’re bigger, faster and stronger. They have longer reaches and can produce more force.

Coaches often give them more opportunities and attention so they accelerate quicker.

But then everyone starts to catch up.

And pass them?

5) It’s a Different Sport

In tennis, up to approximately, the 12’s and maybe even the 14’s Nationals, it is possible for the eventual champion to be a terrible player BUT a great ‘moon-baller’.

This is the tactic of hitting high lobs to the opposition, which may difficult for them to return if they’re smaller/weaker.

This tactic will NOT work at the WTA/ATP level.

Similar examples can be found in other sports.

In BMX, Juniors may clock almost a minute on a track (think: aerobic energy system) compared to the Elites who might complete the same track in 30-34 seconds. The Juniors will probably peddle more, jump less and need to be more aerobically fit (relatively) than their Senior compatriots.

READ MORE: How much training should my child be doing?

In other words, Junior BMX may be measuring endurance and peddle-ability while the Elite category is characterised by explosiveness and jump-ability.

In a similar vein, the 100m race at the 5th grade level (taking approximately 20 seconds to complete) is probably a better gauge of speed-endurance than speed and explosiveness.

6) They’re Only Competing with their Peers

Junior Sport success is judged on the abilities of the Athletes to beat those in their year groups.

Once they’re in the Elite/Open category, however, they’re competing against those who may be many years older and younger than them.

Take tennis as an example.

Regardless of how talented any junior has been in over a decade (since the Australian Open, 2005) The Big Four (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic & Murray) have the dominated the major events.

They’ve won all three Olympic titles and 44 of the 49 Grand Slams.

And prior to that, in 2004-5, Federer won five of the eight Majors.

In other words, it hasn’t mattered what anyone’s junior results have been, four players have dominated male tennis.

Take Home Messages

  • Don’t stress about a junior athlete’s poor results too much.
  • Don’t celebrate a junior athlete’s success too much.
  • There are many possible reasons they could be winning or losing at any one time.
  • Each kid is on their own journey, so stop worrying how others are doing.
  • Develop a mindset of trying to improve a bit each time.
  • Let them have fun.

Let’s be clear, after you have graduated with your Sport/Exercise/Human Movement Science degree you are not very employable. In fact, it is quite likely you are less employable than most people who have their six week PT qualification.

Sure, your potential to coach elite level athletes is higher, but that’s all it is, potential. And employers want ‘actual’.

Below is a list of some things you need to do before you graduate.

 

1)   Get your ASCA Level 1

One, it shows your prospective employers that you weren’t a passive student but actively sought out additional learning.

Two, with a lot of universities focusing on the ‘health’ side of exercise this provides some evidence that you have an appreciation of the ‘sport’/’high performance’ aspects of exercise.

The third, final and no less important point is that this will probably be your first chance to build your ‘S&C network’. And we all should know how important that is.

Other certificates to consider: weightlifting, gymnastics, track & field, powerlifting, injury strapping.

 

2)   Be the ‘Head S&C’

Volunteer at a school or club.

Practice planning a session, practice having to scrap that plan and make something up on the run.

Practice making decisions.

Practice communicating with athletes and coaches and parents and administrators.

Practice writing budgets and practice getting rejected.

Practice writing programs that are not only specific to your athletes and their sport, but are specific to the equipment you have available.

Practice understanding that knowing the map doesn’t mean you know the territory.

 

3)   Do personal training

PT has three major benefits.

The first is that you get to practice building relationships with people you are training.

The second is is you’ll have to ‘switch on’, be the energiser and the motivator when you have to. Regardless how early it is or how tired you feel.

The third benefit that you can make more money per hour than you’ll be able earn as an S&C coach for the next few years.

 

4)   Add 5kg of Muscle

This is not about the 5kg, though you’ll almost certainly look more like an S&C coach, but rather about the process.

Remember, ‘muscle’.

 

5)   Lose 5kg of Fat

Just as you’re going to work with athletes that need to gain muscle, you’re going to work with athletes that are going to need to lose fat.

Understand what it’s like to measure calories or have a food diary or turn down a temptation.

 

6)   Bench & clean your body weight, 12 pull ups

Hopefully you’re already training on a regular basis so these numbers should be a cinch.

If not, start now and keep going till you hit these.

 

7)   Plan, train for and compete in an endurance event

Triathlon, duathlon, 10km… The event doesn’t matter, the process does.

Remember, it’s not only about ‘strength’.

PS If you pick up an injury, you’ve given yourself another ‘learning opportunity’.

 

8)   Compete (for as long as you can)

It doesn’t matter what the sport is, nor what level it is, as long as you train for it, get nervous at the start and there is an emotional reaction at the end.

If you want to work with athletes you need to understand what it’s like to compete.

 

9)   Touch your toes

Flexibility may be one of the least appreciated physical components.

Test yourself, set goals, train and then retest.

This will help you more than any journal or book will.

Some movements to consider: weightlifting-style squat, splits, overhead squat, cossack squat, shoulder finger-touch test, etc.

 

10) Do gym classes

Think: yoga, pilates, Bikram, spin class, it doesn’t matter. Just sign up for a few weeks.

It is important that you know what’s out there, it’s proposed benefits and it’s actual effectiveness.

Of course, you can ignore this and hope that just having a degree is sufficient.

I’ve never seen a great Coach who is rated low on Congruency.

On the flip side, it is possible to have high levels of Congruency and still not be a great Coach.

Before I expand on the definition of Congruency, below are a few examples of (superficial) Non-Congruency:

  • The overweight dietitian
  • The unfit Personal Trainer
  • The Financial Advisor who still lives in his parent’s basement
  • The Developmental Coach who is well-known for her partying habits

If, while reading the list above, you felt a disconnect between the professional and the terms describing the professional, you already have an understanding of Congruency (or, in this case, Non-Congruency).

Congruency is a term I use to assess the alignment of a Coach’s dialogue, actions and methods: are they all pointing in the same direction?

In my experience, Coaches rated highly on this scale typically have high levels of ‘buy-in’ from their Athletes, are usually well respected and their Athletes enjoy their training.

It is important to note that a high rating of Congruency doesn’t automatically guarantee Coaching success or longevity. Being able to connect with, motivate or discipline our Athletes; understanding the sport, training & preparation may all have a greater role to play.

On the other hand, Coaches who rate poorly (or are Non-Congruent) often have Athletes that are frustrated with low levels of engagement.

Sure, these Coaches might have high levels of technical, tactical or physical knowledge, but it doesn’t seem to matter too much as they often lose their Athletes fairly early on.

Below are some suggestions and tips on how to improve your Congruency.

Look the Part

While studying, one of my best mates and I worked the floor in a commercial gym.

It’d be fair to say he resembled Adonis a lot more than I did (and do). And it was noticeable how many guys would walk straight past me to ask him his advice on lifting (I got asked the ‘endurance’ questions).

This is the most superficial level of Congruency.

It’s what Boards & CEO’s fall for when they hire the Superstar former Player as a Coach. It plays a large part in ‘Broscience’ world – he’s big, so he must know what he’s talking about. It’s why these Instagram models are raking in the cash, selling shitty programs to gullible followers.

But ‘Looking the Part’ is a valuable asset, especially to young Coaches who cannot rely solely on past results or a reputation.

It gives initial buy-in to the Athletes… And that is definitely a better place to be when starting with a new team or Athlete.

Of course, as our experience grows, this aspect of Congruency becomes less important; partly because we’re older and not expected to be as fit/strong/in shape and partly because we should have sufficient results on the board that speak for themselves.

Act the Part (aka Walk the Walk)

If we’re asking our Athletes to cut back on carbs but constantly have a can of coke in our hands; or tell them to respect the officials while we perform like a pork chop on the sidelines; or expect them to be disciplined on the field but we can’t even start training on time we’re not demonstrating high levels of Congruency.

If, however, we too cut back on carbs, respect the officials or are disciplined in our approach we, firstly, give them an example to follow: This is how you do it. The subtext to our actions is ‘we’re doing it so you have no excuse’.

Secondly, we can increase our empathy. Understanding what it is like during those first few days of low-carb (mine was a full two weeks) headaches and grumpiness; understanding the restraint required to not blow up at an official or understanding what time management skills are necessary to be prepared on time allow us to help them through the journey.

In other words: Want disciplined Athletes? Demonstrate discipline! Want prepared Athletes? Demonstrate preparedness! Want…. You get the point.

Can the Coach in the video below ask his players to be disciplined on the court? (Thanks to Jorge Carvajal for posting this).

 

Do what we Say we’ll Do

Promise we’ll call them? Send them that article? Organise that sponsorship? Play them in that position?

Well, we’d better do it.

Promising and not delivering is a sure way to decrease our Congruency; as well as eroding trust between our Athletes and us.

An alternative approach to ‘do what we say we’ll do’ is to ‘Under Promise and Over Deliver’, an attitude many of the Great Coaches seem to embrace.

Finish what we Start

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t take long for our Athletes to start rolling their eyes when we introduce another ‘innovation’ – them knowing full well that after a few weeks it’ll disappear.

Whether it’s monthly leadership meetings or Athlete-driven training sessions or written report cards…

If it was important enough to include it, it should be important enough to continue it.

 

Conclusion

Congruency is the alignment of a Coach’s dialogue, actions & methods.

It doesn’t guarantee success, and isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of coaching but it is something many of my mentors and other great Coaches tend to exhibit.

To improve your levels of Congruency, think about:

  1. Looking the Part
  2. Acting the Part
  3. Doing what you say you’ll do
  4. Finishing what you start

If you have any thoughts, comments or questions please contact me here or leave a note in the section below.

While writing this article (titled Gurus v Mentors) I facetiously asked the Twitterverse this:

 

 

Below are some of the responses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to those that responded : )

PS To read the original article, click here.

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