We have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach athletes of all ages and skill level from the youngest of Cal Strength soldiers to the elite and experienced National contenders; every partnership forges a unique set of rewards and challenges. While the strength programming continues to evolve with every generation of athletes, the coaching style surprisingly has stayed relatively constant. Although coaching mentality and approach is never as linear as we would like to admit, this partnership often starts off the same as the instructor and the instructed turning into a carefully negotiated collaboration overtime. Here is a reflection of what has worked and what continues to provide a challenge.
When the athlete is young in both age and skill, the responsibility of consistency falls onto the individual athlete and the responsibility for performance falls with heavier weight onto the shoulders of the coach. For the athlete, consistency in showing up and committing to workouts on a regular basis has been an early indicator of future success with almost all of our most successful athletes. As a coach, there is a great effort in keeping these young and dedicated athletes on somewhat of a tight leash at first. This is especially important as new skill accumulation and technique are in the most critical stage early on in an athletes career.
There will come a time when the athlete believes that they have gained enough knowledge and skill in their sport to demand a more involved role across most facets of their training. As a coach, this can be a troubling discovery especially if you cannot set your ego aside. It is important to realize that once an athlete believes that they should have more input in their training, it is very difficult to continue the path of instructor and instructed. Maintaining your carefully built trust through this transition can be a fragile bridge to cross depending on the current state of success of the athlete. When things are going according to plan, PR's are being hit and meets won, it is easier for the athlete to honor this trust. As the athlete advances in age and PR's become scarce due to advanced training age, this trust is often challenged and might require the coach to allow the athlete to be more involved in their training decisions. The partnership should shift towards that of a collaborative role between athlete and coach at this junction and may give a positive and welcomed sense of control back to the athlete.
Like any relationship, there are moments of give and take but ultimately it is the movement towards a common goal that will remain a unifying factor over time. While we try to account for individual temperaments the guidelines for a successful long-term coaching are not set in stone. To have an athlete in-trust you as their coach is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world and if carefully managed, that trust can lay a foundation for accomplishing great feats for years to come.