On Judging Coaches: Part One

For all seven of you reading, I’m back public blogging. For at least three posts at least.

Part One will deal with why you shouldn’t judge a coach; part two deals with how it’s incredibly difficult to judge the efficacy of a coach; and then in part three we’ll talk about why you should judge a coach. That’ll be the fun part.

Jacob Tyspkin says there are no bad CrossFit gyms. If you’re getting people training where they otherwise wouldn’t be, that’s a success. How effective your program is in strict numbers/performance, is a distant, distant, second. Overall I’d agree with this principle. If people are happy and moving, does it matter that they’re training is sub optimal?

We did our CrossFit Level One back in 2007. I've no photos of this though :(

We did our CrossFit Level One back in 2007. I’ve no photos of this though :(

For the “general population” as long as they’re sweating and working out, they’re in a good place. We really know diddly squat about what best practice is for exercise in a general health sense is. If a coach is creating an environment where people are working out when otherwise they’d be sedentary, then it’s all good.

I will point out that I think “general population” is a pretty insulting term. The term isn’t too far from the thinking that “You’re just an average gym goer, nothing special, so do a few pull ups and Burpees or squat or something and you’ll be grand.” You don’t need or deserve proper programming. But we will deal with that more in part three.

But back to why you shouldn’t judge a coach. Firstly, you can’t discount what a coach is working with. Alex Ferguson couldn’t win the Premier League with players from the Sunday league. He needed the players. Ditto with a coach. If you’ve an athlete in front of you who is only capable of squatting 40Kg tops, you can’t really judge the coach on that. But we do, it’s the internetz.

This extends out to someone who has piss poor mobility and/or coordination. If you take a video of “Linda” doing a looping snatch into a shuffled overhead squat, this could be a major achievement and could have taken months of corrective work to get her to that level of technique. That’s a huge credit to the coach’s work, it’s coaching proof that you can polish a turd (no disrespect to Linda, who I just made up.)

The argument that since Linda is so piss poorly unathletic she shouldn’t do the lift at all is just pure bullshit. If you’ve taken someone who never believed themselves to be athletic, and instilled in them a belief and helped them to accomplish something they never thought capable of, this is far, far better than making them stick to ‘simpler’ movements. Continually making something easier in the guise of being “appropriate” ultimately leads back to using machines.

However, all this is is the internet, and no one will see that. So I’d still advise against posting it. If you had to put it up, at least include a spiel about how far they’ve come.

Another reason why you shouldn’t judge a coach, in relation to their programming, is you don’t know the coach’s goals. I’m not saying there isn’t stupid, stupid workouts out there, but you can’t judge it on one workout, or week’s worth of workouts for that matter.

Nor do you know the clients goals. On the face of it, a 29 minute “Fran” is pretty dumb. But what if that client really really wanted to get it done by Christmas? So if there’s no danger to them by moving that load (slowly) and doing one pull up every sixty seconds. And it makes them so happy they stay a member, do it. Or, going back to the coach’s goals, if their shots is that if you can go Rx’d, do so, it could all be part of a larger plan.

Lastly I suppose we need to talk about the level of experience and expertise of a coach. Take a look at this video:

It’s a classic example of observation. We all miss the moonwalking bear. Except basketball players. Because they’re so used to watching basketball it takes less brain power to count the passes so they see the gorilla first time. With experienced coaches, their brains are wired differently so they can spot more flaws (either in a single athlete or a group of athletes) than a novice coach can. It would be a mistake to apply higher coaching standards to a novice/intern coach than an experienced coach.

Another example could be asking your Sunday league coach to try coach the premiership. Different standards.

Back to the original point though. If someone is working out where they otherwise weren’t, and enjoying themselves, that’s a good thing.

Next part, judging coaches for competitive athletes. And then in part three, actually judging coaches!

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