All coaches do is guesswork, really. We know nothing.
We guess by the fact that we can know what a programme is meant to do but really, we’re dealing with very complex systems in humans here.
For a start, if we create any programme for our class or group, we run into a problem. The problem is that the programme is not unique to the individual, and mightn’t 100% hit on their level of development. Are they raw beginner, kinda beginner, beginner, intermediate beginner, intermediate intermediate, etc. etc.? (Did you like the gradient scale I just made up?)
Secondly, we don’t know nor can we control the variables outside of the 3-5 hours they spend in our care. We can’t control for the fact they’ve lost sleep because of the new baby, are stressed because of their job, are distracted because of the new love interest, or are riddled with full blown AIDS.
Now I’ll maintain that we have to, as coaches and programmers, ignore all of this. I don’t subscribe fully to the “just get them to exercise” mantra.
Yes, if you’re training 3x/week and not addressing your diet, mobility, stress, sleep, and mental health, there’s probably a lot you need to work on before deciding which iteration of 5-3-1 best suits you, or whether you need to focus on triple extension or catapult.
BUT, if we discount or ignore everything else, and I think we should, you should be on a programme that not only alleviates stress and gives you lovely post workout endorphins, but makes you better as you go on as well. 80% committed 100% of the time and other such motivation phrases can apply here.
My reasoning behind this is that you deserve a coach that at least tries to improve you, and not hopes that by turning up you get better. Whether that attempt falls short of the mark is different from the ‘just make sure they have a good time’.
Now, since I’ve started typing we’ve strayed very far from the mark about why I believe coaches are just guessing. The balance point between intrinsically enjoyable and productive is the fine art (and hey, guesswork!) of what we’re doing in our profession.
We also guess quite a bit about technique, and movement selection. Sure, they’re back may be weak off the floor, but is it because of neuromuscular control or do they need something more specific? Will good mornings or paused cleans improve this better. Do they need single leg hamstring work? Is the weakness coming from the upper back? Is there a hip issue?
Alas we need to do this through trial and error. That’s guesswork. And the guesswork is down to a sample of 1 that keeps changing the variables. We’ve added in extra work and subtracted more as well to fix other issues, which are having a knock on effect.
I’m not saying guessing is bad. It’s the best we’ve got. But I think we’re deluding ourselves if we say we know anything for certain.
Now, here’s the funny thing. We have to, absolutely have to, deliver all of this with the utmost of confidence. Our clients demand and expect it. Would you feel very comfortable if your doctor or solicitor delivered their advice without confidence?
This all inevitably leads to coaching and other professions walking an extremely fine line between arrogance and humility. Too much either way and you’re going to get burnt.
Let’s be perfectly, absolutely clear that because we really all do know so little that this isn’t licence to just throw shit together, or make things up and claim them as truth as much as everything else. What I’m trying to say is that we can’t lose sight of the fact that we are in a constant, never ending trial-and-error experiment in everything we do, with variables changing all the time.
Heck, even the game is changing all the time.
As an aside, and I’m just writing now, is that one has to continuously improve not only to rise up a level, but just to stay at their level. We know this. What got you to the Games in 2007 was signing up, now that only gets you to The Open. What got you into the Open in 2011 was an ability to do double unders and power snatches. Back then, getting your first DU was a big thing for most of the community. Fast forward to 2015 and getting your first Muscle Up or HSPU is what we expect. The level rises all the time. The arms race is ongoing.
So, if all we can do is our best guess, what can a coach do?
Well, we can care. That’s really it. We can care as much as we can.
We don’t want to just pay lip service to this, we need to demonstrate that caring. Knowing the person’s name is a good start, then remembering their numbers, movement issues, favourite workouts, all contribute to it. Then asking about their life.
Caring then extends out to all the little touches that add up (no, not that kind of touching, that’s wrong!)
Constantly improving your service is one way of caring. Doesn’t have to be by much, but a softer toilet roll is nice, a slightly cleaner and more organised gym. More praise on IG to your members, opening up a gym Spotify playlist or Total Request Thursdays – you can totally steal that.
In fact, one of the best things we ever did, in terms of positivity and client feedback, was go down to Penneys and buy a few euro worth of hair bobbins and hair clips for the ladies when they forget them. It was our most popular post to that date, and still talked about weeks later.
Caring can also come in the form of realising that you’re speaking to a person. They’ve got their own shit going on, and the longer I walk this road the more I realise just how much everyone is carrying.
Then you’ve got to separate what’s important, and what’s an excuse. This is a fine fucking art. Do you allow them leeway because their dog just died, or help them get through it by forcing them to work the same as if it was a normal Tuesday? Tough one to call.
Secondly, we also have to forget that they are people at times. When judging movement, all they are is a series of joints and angles. Fix that. In competition, they’re so hyped up they need you to be the calm, reasonable centre of the universe.
But yeah, caring is all you can really do, I guess 😛