“Science”, Certification & Other Skills

I love the NFL. Or more accurately, right up until about 23 seconds left in Sunday night’s Super Bowl I loved the NFL.

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It appeals to that part of my brain that loves stats, and wants to break down everything about sport into it’s measurable, discreet parts. Just get all the constituent parts right and boom, you’ve hacked the sport, right? That’s the trend in CF lately, to be all scientific n shit. Look, I’m the greatest fan of analysing the sport and testing what works versus what doesn’t. I just think there’s room for art and feel in the programming too.

So we’re clear, I LOVE having a ‘scientific’ reason behind your programming. I think we’re at the stage now where a coach can’t just put together a few workouts they think are cool and call it “programming”.

The obligation we have to our clients is to provide a training atmosphere that keeps them coming back and physically active. Once we’ve satisfied that, we absolutely have an obligation to provide the best programming we can with that happy place. Programming matters.

See, in science and shit, you try and control for all the variables. The problem in reality is you’ve got one fucking big assed variable – the athlete!

They’re not sleeping enough to recover, not hitting their mobility, their HRV scores have plummeted through the floor, they haven’t eaten, they’ve had a fight with their boyfriend or whatever.

Or, they’ve messed up your program. They didn’t follow your strategy.

(As much as this frustrates the absolute living crap out of me if they don’t follow the plan it’s because you as a coach failed to show them it was the best course of action for them. It’s easy to blame the athlete – heck, I’ve spent years blaming athletes – but as a coach you’ve got to take it all on the chin.)

Funny story. Seanie, about 3 weeks before European Under 23s, the competition we’d worked months and months to peak for, decided there’d be no harm in doing a 1RM deadlift! Don’t worry, this is like a week after he was scolded for doing “Linda” for a bit of craic. It’s important to hit all forms of deadlifting if you’re a weightlifter, see.

Seanie won’t mind me sharing this as long as you all follow him on Insta and like his next video on Facebook. He’s probably looking up his snapscore as well.

Having a well thought out and reasoned approach to your programming, along with technical implementation of it matters. But it’s only the start. The art comes in when you’ve got to deal with practicalities or an athlete’s life, getting them to adhere, and helping them buy into your vision. The best laid plans are going to go up in smoke and then it’s up to you as a coach to change things up. There’s huge scope for coaches to develop their impact and their business through their soft skills.

Coaches tend to be technicians, and invest countless hours reading up on snatch technique, programming, lactate thresholds, 5-3-1 cycles and all the rest. They’ll happily drop thousands per year on certifications, seminars and workshops too. All on the hard skills of their craft.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, and we should constantly be out there trying to increase our knowledge. But there’s a lot we’re leaving on the table by only pursuing the technical side. We’re like a really strong barbell athlete who won’t invest the time in his cardio. You won’t succeed in CrossFit like that. And then you’ll have to become a GRID player. *shudder*

For just 2 30 minute aerobic sessions a week, you two can stop another athlete from succumbing to GRID :)

For just 2 30 minute aerobic sessions a week, you two can stop another athlete from succumbing to GRID :)

How much of your technical knowledge do your clients need? Is another kettlebell workshop going to benefit them more than a better accountability system for their nutrition? At a guess, I’ve maybe coached over a thousand people in my time. It’s also far to say that the vast majority did not need the depth of technical knowledge I have. This isn’t meant as an insult. When we go to a doctor, we really don’t want him to have to strain to the absolute limit of his knowledge. I’m much happier when he tells me “I’ve seen this rash before, take the cream and delete her number from your phone.”

What do our clients need? They need an environment they feel safe in and enjoy visiting, they need reassurance that they’re on the right path, and they need convincing that what you’re doing is right for them.

Allow Glassman to drop some knowledge bombs on y’all.

How much better would it be for you, and your clients, if your gym ran a bit smoother and got just 1% better each and every week?

I’d recommend spending some time listening to Barbell Business. Sure, they shite on a fair amount, but there’s good stuff in there. None of it is total rocket science, but it’s very often neglected by coaches. Hell, I’d much rather watch a video on fixing the jerk than write up a standard operating procedure on equipment maintenance. All that boring, non flashy, uncelebrated work will pay off though.

Soft skills are harder to measure in their impact. When we come back from a certificate, seminar, or workshop, we can make a change to our approach that’s very easy to pinpoint. As I’ve been talking about lately, the easy things to quantify may not always have the biggest impact. Much like your athletes aren’t suddenly going to become gymnastic ninjas after a few hollow holds, your coaching/business isn’t going to turn around just because you start using people’s names more.

These soft skills take time to have an impact, but they really do have a major impact over time.

As we discussed earlier, you can only judge the efficacy of the coach and the strategy after the fact. Had that pass went to hand, we would have said the risk paid off. However, it’s the worst play call in Super Bowl history now.

We’re the same as our client who doesn’t sleep enough, or eats sub optimally, or doesn’t hit his mobility. You’re not going to notice the effect as immediately as telling them to keep their knees out on the squat does, but I’d wager the effect is greater and further reaching than any technical cue we give them.

Heck, the right technical cue delivered in the wrong tone can lose you a client. Yes, their clean may suck balls. But you can’t just go and say that to them, right?

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