The process of training humans has to be based on some kind of facts and beliefs, individualized and very well calculated. That is, every trainee is different biological wise, personality wise and background wise. The fact that the human body is not a machine complicate the job of a coach. For instance, there is probably nothing harder than coaching somebody that is, at least on paper, ready for big lifts but won’t believe he/she can. Variation across trainees is not all bad though. As a coach, you need to work with different athletes in the gym to stay sharp and discover new things. That will allow you to really test your method. Anyhow, in my experience, there are three types of athletes that will walk in your gym and all of the them
Experience in coaching athletes translate in better identification of the needs of the trainees and the type of athlete you are dealing with. Projections of what can be done – or cannot be done- with said athlete. As a coach, you learn how to adapt your approach so that it fits the needs of every trainees – all in the hopes of getting the best of everyone. In my experience, I have noticed three types of athletes and used three different approaches.
Type of athlete 1 : Untalented, unskilled and has no potential whatsoever of doing anything big as a competitor in this sport
At first glance, this may seem rude but the reality of life and biology is that some people are good at something and some people are good at other things. More often than not, these athletes would have been pretty good in other sports – as in they have the make up to be great in other sports. That being said, this athlete is still encouraged to train in weightlifting. Weightlifting is not an elitist club, it is a huge family bound by the love for the iron work. That person can still reap the benefits of lifting weights which include an increase in muscle mass, increased bone density, increased mobility, increased strength and better coordination.
However, as a coach, you have to acknowledge and accept the fact that this trainee will most likely never accomplish anything big in this sport (by national/international standards). If you do acknowledge this, then your competitive approach has to be adapted so that this athlete can enjoy weightlifting and make some progress. An approach that is very positive and supportive should be used. It is recommended to include other movements in your training to physically develop this athlete. Snatch and Clean and jerk only training is probably not suited for this type of athlete. You have to take your time to develop proper mobility and work capacity. These athletes tend to tire quickly, so this has to be considered when you plan the number of sets, reps, exercises and training length/frequency. Since they are not natural to this sport, they can be prone to injuries due to lack of coordination or mobility. Special consideration of the weights used is a must.
Type of athlete 2 : Talented but not gifted, skilled and has the potential of accomplishing something big in this sport granted they work VERY hard.
Most somewhat serious athletes fit in this category. These athletes understand the movements and whats required to complete the task, but it takes some time and work to get them to do it the way they understand it (mind-body connection). They have a few technical errors that needs to be fixed and most of their training career will be spent working on these. Whenever they lift, it looks pretty good (but not optimal). Learning the positions is not that hard : they have the mobility to do so. However, they are ultimately limited by some individual biological reasons (be it recovery, biomechanics, etc.). That is, while they understand what’s required of them and what to do, they have to really work hard on getting better and fixing technical flaws. Theses athletes often have a progression curve that looks like a stair (PR, plateau, PR, Plateau, etc.) whereas Type 3 athlete has a rather linear progression curve.
In my experience, this type of athlete has a great hunger to become better which translate in great work ethics and sometimes into a very competitive spirit. That’s good because, if you want to win, it is required to have such a mindset. They have the potential to accomplish big things in this sport but they will have to make training a priority and make a lot of sacrifices to reach the top. Whereas other countries filter out weak minded or non competitive lifters, in North America we have a different situation. This situation requires us to get the best out of Type 2 athletes and that will often translate in psychology work and finding some kind of support for them to train seriously. Part time school has to be considered in some cases as well.
That being said, if they are willing to make the sacrifices, as a coach, you will have to make sure the training is serious and nothing disrupt them. Focus is very important for this type of athlete. They will naturally be behind type 3 athletes, so everything has to be well calculated so that progress is still being made and so they can beat T3 athletes in the near future. It won’t be easy, but it is doable. Workloads have to be selected carefully so that these athletes don’t burn out.
Type of athlete 3 : Complete natural, extremely talented, will accomplish big things in little time if he stays in the sport
This athlete is extremely natural. Whenever he/she starts in this sport, he/she will already be lifting more and much better than his/her peers. They gain strength quick, they have good mobility and they can handle bigger work loads right off the bat. In some cases, they don’t have to be in the best shape of their life to win big championships. It was certainly the case of Naim Suleymanoglu who won titles after retiring. Legend has it that his first CJ was a double body weight clean and jerk.
Now, not many kids with Suleymanoglu’s potential will walk in your gym (or walk on this planet at all)… But once in a while you will be seeing a kid that can do big things. He will be much different than other kids in the way he moves and lifts. In the US, for instance, they have CJ Cummings who does 118kg – 145kg at a bodyweight of 62kg and at 13 years old. That being said, since these athletes are natural and are at the top rather easily (defined as they react very well to training), many get bored since they don’t feel challenged. As a coach, your approach has to be goal oriented. Numbers and rewards have to be traded so that the athlete is always looking forward to competing and beating his/her own records.