Someone once asked me : ”Does your age play against you in recruiting athletes?”
People assume age is related to knowledge and that it dictates your ability as a coach. Experience is a double edged sword. Your experience as an athlete is not necessarily positively linked to your ability as a coach. For example and for discussion sake, if your knowledge comes from your own experience and that your experience is not top level (say your coach just randomized training sessions) and you have not learned anything new since then, chances are that you are perpetuating a tradition of misinformation and one should reflect on his failures to improve. I know of coaches with 20-30 years of experience that have yet to produce a national medalist. Is it because they got unlucky in the talent pool they drew from or is it because they haven’t put forward winning conditions for the athletes they trained?
All coaches fail at one point or another, but only the best learn from that and improve. I think it is fair to say that I never had problems recruiting athletes as I am a dynamic and passionate coach. I am especially good with recruiting kids and teens, most likely because I come from a family of 6. I love what I do and it shows – People tend to like that in a coach. Remember your cool science teacher in high school? He was so passionate about teaching every new little things – students even stayed at the end of class to discuss more and more. These teachers were our mentors and role models.
On the other hand, we all had a boring french/English/Math teacher that had the super power of putting everybody to sleep in 10 minutes. It is not that french, English or math are boring classes – but the teaching methodology is not attractive hence people tend to not feel like giving it a try or their best. In North America, more often than not, we do what we prefer or what is the most fun. See what I’m hinting at? Passion attracts people. Passion makes everybody want to try and give 110% to the cause. Now, if you present your passion in a confident way, chances are people will be interested in what you have to say. However, if you try recruiting athletes in a very monotone and non dynamic way, your club will always stay empty.
Confidence also allows you to admit your strength and weaknesses as a coach, which allows you to grow some more. I am confident that my strength is in teaching good technique. I know how to teach good technique, I have a great coaching eye, and people improve really fast their technique when they work with me. The articles I have published on technique have been shared by top level coaches (some of which have produced Olympians), weightlifting federations, and elite athletes. This is not me bragging, this is me being confident in my ability to teach the right way.
On the other hand, I know my weakness as a coach is time management. I have ties to about 30 athletes, including about 10 kids, a few crossfiters and many provincial/national level lifters (including junior and senior lifters). I individualize everything – so that means I write a lot of training programs and I make a lot of changes as we go along. It takes a while to write every program and if I could standardize my process, I would most likely save a lot of time. Improving this area will make me a better coach as I will spend less time running around and more time around the bar (no pun intended).
Moreover, as I said before, it is the coach responsibility to ensure trainees are training in the right conditions to make progress. You could be the best coach to ever walk this planet, you would not be able to get someone good if they don’t feel like the training atmosphere and general support are good. If they trust the process and trust you, the results are going to be bigger.Trainees won’t trust someone that is not confident in what he teaches.
Also, trainees need to start trusting themselves as they go along. You need to be confident as a coach to be able to let them free once in a while – to let them make their own choices and stay silent when you would die to say something about their technique. For instance, a girl I recently started coaching sometimes ask to use heavier weights on the last set of snatches or clean and jerks. My rule is that I am OK with it if she is willing to owe me a coffee if she misses the weight. What this teaches is to be confident in your ability as an athlete and to make intelligent choices in the weightlifting room. Can you really use more weight or are you just being greedy? It also teaches to train for success rather than failure.