The required skills
A great weightlifting coach is like a great scientist in his approach. Indeed, a great weightlifting coach has to possess the ability to observe rigorously what’s happening in front of his eyes. Given the nature of this sport and how fast the movements are, his ability to observe technical flaws will need to be higher than average. Now being observant is as important as being able to interpret the data. In other words, the coach has to be able to observe and find the flaws in the movement only to pin point the cause. Not identifying the right cause will cause a programming fiasco that will result in wasted time.
Moreover, a great weightlifting coach has to have great social skills. Famous Basketball coach John Wooden once said ”A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment”. The task of weightlifting is redundant, meaning we do the same thing over and over again to refine technique. An athlete will get corrected over and over, and the approach to correction has to be done in a way that makes the athlete hunger to correct his flaws, rather than discouraged. Moreover, success can never happen if you don’t have a great relationship with your coach. You both have to get along fine, respect each other, and you both have to care about what you are doing and your goal. This is more important than anything else.
A great coach knows how to be clear in his feedback and how to use the best analogy to get the point across. Athletes need to understand what they did wrong, but they don’t need the whole biomechanical explanation of it. There is nothing worse than a confused athlete when it comes to performance. I have found that, in my experience, the best way to get a point across is to use an analogy that really describe what you mean. Sometimes these analogy makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but if the athlete relate to it and react positively to this cue, your job is well done.
A great coach has a great amount of knowledge and knows how to put it into practice. This knowledge is either derived from experience or from evidence based learning. Putting it into practice is greatly important, but it has to be done in a smart way. A coach that program a Klokov complex because it looks good and because it ”may” be good is missing the point of what a coach is. Also, it does not matter if you won a national title as an athlete, if you are not able to communicate effectively any knowledge you have to your trainee. In fact, it does not even matter if the coach was not a great athlete to begin with. Many of the best coaches in all sports were very average athletes themselves. Your job is to coach efficiently, not to win titles.
A great coach is not afraid to make mistakes and is willing to learn from them. Many coaches say they have the solutions to everything, but only the greatest coaches will admit the limit of their knowledge. I found that great coaches will live and die by what Socrates’ famous sentence : ”I know that I know nothing”. You may need to work on your squats, and you may both decide to do a squat program. Here is the truth : we don’t know how your body will react to increased loading and frequency (since we are not the one training, and many factors can influence how you will react to different programs). Only the bad coach will not reconsider his approach when things don’t work (e.g knee pain from the squats). A great coach will learn from the experience, change things around, even if it means going out of his zone of comfort.
A great coach is open minded. A coach that refuses to have other coaches take a look at his athlete may be good, but he/her is definitely insecure. Most athletes will admire a coach that actually ask the opinions of other knowledgeable coaches. It is seen as a sign that the coach cares about his athletes and is willing to gather as much information and opinions so that he can consider more than meet the eyes in his approach to problem solving. Consider the fact that doctors have round tables to discuss cases. They will talk about Patient X’s disease and how to cure it. A doctor that refuses to do that would commit career suicide, so why would it be different in weightlifting coaching?
To me, a great coach is also modest. His/her job is to coach you, not to use your success as a way to brag. The role of the coach is to make you learn and motivate you so that you can achieve your goals. He should be able to recognize your good work.
Picking the right coach for you
I believe that weightlifting will keep growing and new coaches will step in. These coaches should be welcomed because they are going to bring new athletes to competitions and help grow weightlifting locally. They may not produce Olympians right off the bat (or ever), but their action will have promotional effect at the very least. In 20 years, the best coaches will be those who will have learned from their mistakes. Hopefully, more women coaches will step in as well.
Experience, knowledge and ability define a great coach. Coaches come with different amount of expertise in each of these category, and that’s fine. You have to pick somebody whose experience, knowledge and ability, you value. Some coaches have less national/international experience, but they make up for it in knowledge and ability. Other coaches have little scientific knowledge, but they have so much experience to make up for it. Some coaches have a lot of media exposure since they understand web marketing and others don’t have any exposure at all. Both could be good.
In all fairness, I think that you should pick somebody that you get along with (good relationship potential) and then look at what he does. Are his/her athletes lifting well? Are they all healthy or injured? What do his/her athletes say of him? Do you like the training atmosphere? From there, just try and enjoy your road to success.
I used pictures of Wonderlifter. Here is Wonderlifter’s facebook.