The 5 Most Common Mistakes Young Strength and Conditioning Coaches Make
Written on June 5, 2015 at 6:59 am, by Eric Cressey
Today's guest post comes from Mike Robertson, creator of the great new DVD set, Physical Preparation 101, which is on sale for $100 off through the end of the day Saturday.
Three times per year, we start a new intern class at our facility, Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training (IFAST). So, 19 times now, I’ve taught a group of interns the basics of program design, coaching, and anatomy and physiology.
And, even after all of these years, I consistently see some of the same mistakes being made by our interns.
I almost hate calling them mistakes, though. These are mistakes they often have to make to get to the next level of coaching.
Here are five of the most common mistakes young coaches make, as well as how to nip some of these problems in the bud.
#1 - Coach the Right Exercise
Coming up as a powerlifter, I thought the squat, bench and deadlift did everything besides cure cancer or promote world peace. Okay, maybe I didn’t think they were that awesome - but it was pretty darn close!
What you find over the years is that some exercises are flat-out easier to coach than others. A barbell back squat is an awesome exercise, but it may not be the best way to learn how to squat.
Think of it like this: even if you’re a good coach, how much sweaty equity does it take to coach someone on the back squat?
It takes a while, right? And, even with great coaching, it may take them quite some time to dial in the movement.
Now consider an alternative like a plate or goblet squat. You can take that same client and literally have them squatting with perfect form in a matter of minutes!
Make things easy on yourself. Rather than taking a month to teach someone a more complex exercise, give them a simpler exercise early-on and allow them to have success. Not only will you be less frustrated, but they’ll enjoy training a lot more, too.
#2 - Be Active!
When I’m taking new interns through our coaching program at IFAST, one of the first things I teach them is the sequence of positions I want them to review the clients’ movement.
In other words, they start with the sagittal plane first, or a 90-degree view. If things aren’t right in the sagittal plane (i.e. too much flexion, extension, etc.), then you know things will be off elsewhere.
However, it’s not uncommon to see young coaches post-up in this position. Even if things look great in the sagittal plane, they’ll still hang out there for the rest of the set!
Instead, I always tell my coaches I want them to be active. Clean things up in the sagittal plane, and then move around to the front and back as well.
Chances are once things look great in one plane, there will still be things in the frontal or transverse plane (a knee caving in, the pelvis rotating to the right or left, etc.) that warrant your attention.
However, just because you’re active and seeing more doesn’t mean you want or need to fix everything all at once!
#3 - Don’t Over Cue!
I see it time and again: A young coach really starts to open their eyes and they see all the movement issues with which our clients and athletes struggle. This is all fine and dandy, until you see them throwing 1,000 cues at their client on every set!
I would liken coaching to doing triage in an emergency room. Are you worried about the kids that come in with little scrapes and bruises, or are you worried about the one who might lose a limb? Which one do you treat first?
Think of coaching in that same vein; everything isn't equally important.
What you’ll inevitably find with more time and repetitions is that one or two little cues or tips will fix 80-90% of the issues with which a client is struggling.
#4 - Level Them Off
One of my jobs as a coach is to help my clients and athletes train at an optimal level on each and every session they’re in the gym.
If you look at arousal when training, it’s a bell curve. If your energy and motivation is too low, you’re probably not going to have a great session.
On the other hand, if you just crushed five energy drinks, blasted Pantera the entire way to the gym, and just snorted an ammonia cap, chances are you’re a little bit too aroused to put in a solid effort as well.
As a coach, I need to help get an athlete where they need to be.
Energy is too low? Maybe they need a bit more encouragement, or their favorite music station cranked up a bit.
Arousal too high? Maybe we need to get them to bang out some good breaths, or find a few relaxation strategies to bring them down a notch or two.
As a coach, make it your job to get your clients and athletes at the appropriate level of arousal for each and every training session. They’ll be more consistently successful, and less likely to burn out as a result.
#5 - Coach in Bullet Points
When new interns start coaching exercises, their coaching may sound like this:
“Jane that looks great! Now I really need you to get your air out, tuck your pelvis underneath you, blah blah blah....”
As a client, you’ve already tuned out. You’re getting too much information, all while trying to concentrate on and execute the movement!
Instead, as a coach, make it a goal to say as little as possible while still getting the execution you're seeking.
You may have to create some context (which is best done in-between sets), but try to coach in bullet points:
* Abs tight (or even just ABS!),
The shorter and more concise you make your coaching, the more likely your client is to be able to take that information and use it effectively.
As a coach, I’ve made more mistakes than I care to remember. However, I’d also like to think those mistakes have absolutely made me a better coach.
Whether you’re a total newbie or a savvy vet, I hope these tips help you take your coaching to the next level!
If you're looking for a more extensive collection of coaching and programming tips, I'd strongly encourage you to check out Mike's new resource, Physical Preparation 101. It's on sale for $100 off through Saturday at midnight, and it has my highest endorsement. You can learn more HERE.
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