The Craft of Coaching
Just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean you’re a carpenter. No one can just pick up a hammer and build a house. You have to watch it, be around it for an extended period of time. You have to live it. Someone has to show you how to do it right. Someone else has to show you how to do it wrong. You have to swing the hammer. You have to strike the nail. You have to break things and start over. After breaking so many things, you have to actually build something for yourself. After doing this over and over again you can begin to call yourself a carpenter.
At one time, being a craftsman meant something. They were the creators. They built, shaped, formed and fixed. They worked day in and day out to create a product that was a representation of themselves. While perfection might not be attainable it could at least be strived for on a daily basis through thorough care and attention to detail.
In our modern society the idea of the craftsman has fallen to the wayside. People want their products faster and cheaper. They don’t need to be durable, because everything has a warranty. If you don’t like it or break it, Amazon will take it back. They don’t bear a craftsman seal, just a country of origin label.
Unfortunately this mindset and methodology has bled into all forms of craft, including coaching.
As a coach, you are a craftsman. You are basically taking a raw substance, and through careful application of methods and techniques, you construct and mold something that is a better version of its previous self. That’s the idea at least.
Coaching is one of the single most gratifying professions there are. You build bodies and minds. Step by step, day by day. Because of you your athletes get stronger and faster. You provide them with the ability to simply get better. You are a craftsman of the finest materials in the world: the human body.
Unfortunately, just like the craftsman of old, coaching has become a commercialized product. It has been outsourced. Where there was once pride and accomplishment there are now weekend certifications and online degrees. Gyms pop up in every garage. Bootcamps in every park.
There is no longer a pride in the craft of coaching, because, in our current society, no one is taught how to coach. It’s not a certification or a degree that makes a coach. That’s just a pretty piece of paper hanging on a wall. Hours and hours of coaching, programming, and education make a coach. You can’t just read about others accomplishments and mistakes, you have to make them on your own. It’s not coaching 10 or even 100 athletes, but hundreds if not thousands. It’s realizing you make mistakes, your way isn’t the best way, and there are a lot of people out there that are doing it better than you. It’s the horrible realization that, the more you learn, the less you actually know.
Just like the path of a carpenter, the path of a coach is a long slow process. You have to be around it and watch it. You have to find a mentor and intern. You have to listen and see his accomplishments and mistakes, and then make your own. This process can take months or even years.
If you truly call yourself a coach, you have to think of yourself as a craftsman. The fundamental code of craftsmanship is doing something well for its own sake. The coach builds bodies the way the carpenter builds houses.
Just like a craftsman a coach has to have a plan or a program. This is the blueprint. This what builds the strength, the stamina, the capacity. As a coach the program is one of the most important things. It is a direct indication of what works and what doesn’t work. If something breaks it gives you the opportunity to fix it. Without a plan you are just haphazardly nailing sticks together. With a plan you are building a foundation, and with a strong enough foundation and a strong enough plan you can build a structure that reaches farther than the eye can see.
You Are Only As Good As Your Worst Athlete
Also like the craftsman you aren’t able to pick ideal materials and tools. You work with what you have. Athletes will always arrive with injuries and issues. You won’t always have the best equipment and facilities or the fittest athletes. Instead of becoming frustrated with such curveballs, a master coach or craftsman will adjust his plans accordingly. He is able to work around injuries and imperfections and in some cases make those flaws into a source of strength.
There is a belief that great athletes make great coaches. Just because someone is good at it, doesn’t mean they have the ego and the ability to teach others how to do it. At the end of the day a great coach will always be judged by the ability of his athletes. While even a bad coach can be blessed with a couple of great athletes, it’s when you walk into a facility and even the most uncoordinated individuals are capable of complex lifts you know their coach takes pride in what they do. When there is no watering down the program to make it easy, but instead an insistent and steady hand that encourages consistent strength and success.
Leave The Ego At The Door
While it is important to have firm ideals and as structured system in place, there is almost always a better way to do things. As a coach you have to be willing to check your ego and accept criticism and teaching. If your way was the only way, then it would just be called The Way and everyone would do it. If you want to be able provide the best product that you possibly can, then you have to continue to accept criticism and to learn from others.
Our consumer culture creates individuals with inflated egos. The fragile and self-inflated ego is usually unable to handle the harsh criticism and judgment that are simply a part of everyday life. Athletes don’t care about what you thought would work, they want to see the results for the effort that they put in. Your mistakes are what give you the ability to learn and come back better. To provide better, more consistent results. What makes coach great is the willingness to make these mistakes and come back stronger.
Trust The Gut
An experienced coach doesn’t just know his athletes he understands them. This understanding is developed through years of experience this is the ability to sense problems and provide solutions by simply looking at an athlete move. As a coach this the ability to tell if an athlete is injured by just watching him sit in a chair. Or knowing that a fatigued athlete is close to injury by his physical response. Again its something that can’t be taught. It’s a unique skill that takes time to cultivate and learn, but it gives a good coach the ability to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason.
When a coach is constantly trying to improve, they are always watching and listening. It is by becoming a student of movement, action and reaction that you start to develop this intuition and ability. While far from a science, this intuition gives the coach another tool that oftentimes prevents injuries and solves problems before they arise.
The Gym is the Work Shop
For the coach everything comes back to the gym. It is the facility where the time is spent, and the craft is cultivated. As the coach works towards mastering his craft his ability increases. The greater the skill the greater the confidence and the ability to provide for his athletes. The barbell is his tool, the athletes the material, and the gym his workshop. The coach fixes the broken pieces and makes them strong. The athletes in turn bring a sense of community, identity, and belonging.
Being a coach isn’t a short term ideal. It’s a lifelong goal that bleeds into all areas of life. If you are a coach, cultivate it as a craft. Make it and yourself better everyday.