Thoughts for Young Coaches

Young coach

This past weekend at the Cosgrove Businses Seminar, I got a chance to meet some great young coaches.

Monday evening, I spent some time with a guy who has been around and has coached for years in Chip Morton.

Between the two, it’s gotten me thinking about the progression that every coach must go through if they want to be great.  Here are some of the basic steps you should work on early in your career if you want to improve your craft.

1 – Use your eyes, shut your mouth

One of the biggest issues I have with new coaches is their tendency to talk too much.

Do we need to build rapport with our clients/athletes?  Absolutely.

However, this doesn’t mean talking incessantly throughout the course of the workout.

Instead, shut your mouth and watch what they’re doing.  I’ve discussed this before, but you have to stop and be present if you want to get a firm gauge on how they’re moving and what needs to be addressed.

Improving your eyes is the first step.  After that, you need to….

2 – Trust your instincts

A few nights ago I was working with our intern Ellen.  We were coaching a young gal who has some issues through her low back, hips and core.  I got her fixed up on the first set, and the second set I let Ellen do the coaching.

She set her up perfectly, but as the set went on (and fatigue set in), she started to lose her positioning.  I could tell she wanted to fix her, but was leery.  She didn’t want to make a mistake.

Here’s the thing, though – her instincts were right! She was out of position, and she wanted to fix her, but she didn’t.  This will improve with time as she learns to trust her instincts and her eyes more.

Unfortunately, this is only something that will come with time and reps.  This is what separates coaches from guys who talk about training on the Innerwebz.

The final step for young coaches then becomes…

3 – Strike the balance

Once you trust your instincts and your eyes improve, there’s a clear understanding of how poorly many people move.

The problem, herein, is that you want to correct everything.  You want every rep of every set to be technically flawless.

This becomes a conundrum, and can become quite irritating to a low-level client.  They may be doing their best, but physically unable to perform an exercise perfectly at that point in time.

This is where the balance comes into play – the balance between too little and too much coaching.  Everyone has their interpretation of where this is, but you have to find that balance for yourself.

Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to accept good enough.  If they have 10 things they do poorly, work to address the 1-2 major limitations in a session.  Get those cleaned up, and then move on to two more the next time they come in.

So these are just a few thoughts for beginning coaches out there.  What do you guys think?

What would you add to the list?

All the best



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  1. Mike,
    Do you feel that number 2 becomes crucial when a coach is trying to craft his own programming philosophy and start moving away from simply copying a well-respected coaches recipe/template?
    I find that a lot of up and coming coaches have a great knowledge base and have even acquired a fair bit of practical experience and yet many seem hesitant to "leave the nest" and start putting their own unique stamp on programming, prefering to play it safe with a time-tested recipe.

  2. Coach Mike, this a good blog man. Its such valuable information that us young bucks need.
    In addition to these things i would add something i learned under Coach Boyle during my internship with him. Our coaching goes over better with the clients/athletes if we take time to build a personal relationship with them first or during the coaching process. Coach Boyle had me write up my thoughts on the subject for his blog and i hope you dont mind me posting it here only because i think its a valuable experiance that my fellow young coaches can also benifit from:
    "Building Relationship"
    "More on Building Relationships"

  3. I think one big thing is not being afraid to get hands on with a client and show them a movement by pulling them into it if need be; like pulling their shoulder back in a row for example. Also, trying to learn as much as possible from many different sources, taking what is useful for yourself from each and adding it to your toolbox.

  4. When working with very deconditioned clients, I'm hesitant to constantly correct every flaw in their form. While i know they will get better results with better form, I think its discouraging for them to feel like they can't do anything right so I settle for good enough for now. I'm glad to see your comment that good enough can be good enough for now. Thank for the info, and encouragement

  5. This is really cool as I was just thinking about this , as currently I'm researching strength and conditioning courses, you wouldn't have any advice on which qualifications would be best and which courses provide the best
    Thanks Ciaran

  6. This is exactly what you and zach are teaching me now, and what I would say has been my biggest takeaway in the first week and a half being at IFAST.

    I know this is an old article, but it’s very well said and in terms of young coaches learning, it seems to be the critical initial steps to helping clients improve.

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