Reflections on 2014

The turn of the year is a natural reflection point, a time to look back at the accomplishments of the past twelve months and plan your attack for the next dozen to come. So, in no particular order, here are a few of my coaching reflections on the year just gone.

Don’t forget the small picture

I’d class the majority of my athletes as development athletes; athletes who will eventually leave me as they go on to achieve bigger and better things within their sport. My philosophy when working with these athletes has always been to make them self-sufficient with their S&C training. I want to give them the broadest, most transferrable movement vocabulary possible and experience of as many different types and modalities of training as I can. I want to put them in the best possible position for that time when they ‘level up’. However, at times, I wonder if I’ve focussed a little too much on the big picture and not enough on the here and now. Most athletes, regardless of where they are in their career, need to get stronger and they need to get stronger now. I need to make sure my programme is balancing what the athlete needs now with what they’ll need to develop in readiness for their future exploits.

I thought more about my style of delivery

In October I was privileged to attend the EIS Skills 4 Performance workshop. During the week a substantial amount of time was dedicated to developing our soft skills and learning about how to maximise personal interactions. Like many coaches, I think I’ve always taken my ability to adapt my coaching style as a given; I’ve relied on my intuition and experience to guide my coaching in any situation. The more I’ve thought about this process though, particularly given the fantastic insights from Skills 4 Performance, the more I realise coaching and interaction is a science. The biggest change I’ve made this year is that I’m now planning not only the content of each S&C session, but also how I intend to deliver it.

Variety is the spice of life, but it can be too pungent

Typically, my programmes would stick with a core exercise for two mesocycles before changing it and an assistance exercise for one. Now these variations would normally be very subtle – i.e. back squats for front squats or chin ups for pull ups – but over the last few months I’ve been making an effort to stick with specific exercises for longer. My current outlook is now more along the lines of squeezing all I can from an exercise, keeping the stimulus consistent until a sustained plateau is seen. After all, as Dan John says, mastery is falling in love with the plateau.

You don’t need to squat

Looking back over the last year, I’ve noticed that the squat is playing much less of a role in the programmes I’m writing. And, do you know what? I think they’re better off for it too. Whilst this might appear to be blasphemous in S&C circles, the squat is just an exercise – there’s nothing magic about it. If athletes feel safer and happier with other exercises, and I feel that I can push them more within those exercises, then I’d be foolish to crowbar the squat into just because it’s the done thing to do. Likewise, if athletes have pronounced strength, postural or even anthropometric imbalances between limbs, why would I think that the squat is the best way to develop strength with them? Yet I know that I’ve definitely been guilty of both in my time. Maybe subconsciously I’ve thought that the squat is some sort of pillar within strength training or have some ridiculous idea that an athlete’s ability to squat is reflective of their coach. Either way, no exercise should be placed on a pedestal.

I need to be the bad guy more

The tagline probably doesn’t reflect what I mean with this. My point is that I’ve really seen the benefit of being more direct and authoritarian when required. Previously I’ve always tried to guide the athlete towards the answer, be this a coaching cue, behaviour change or whatever else. Whilst I still think that this approach works best on the whole, there are times when it’s quicker and more effective to drive straight through the house than to navigate around it. For example, do I need to convince somebody to stop doing something with a gentle explanation of why it may not be the best idea, or do I just need to take charge and tell them to stop? This approach isn’t the most natural for me so it’s taken time to develop.

What are your main reflections looking back on 2014? How will you be building for 2015? Taking the time to think about all aspects of your life is certainly a wise investment. The sooner you pay in, the sooner you can start earning interest. So, what are you waiting for?

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