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Influence of a Strength Coach

By: Ryan Troge, NASM-PESSports Performance Specialist
Spectrum Sports Performance

People look to strength and conditioning coaches for different goals and reasons; from muscle development, to weight loss, to improving athleticism, and the list goes on. Many coaches have great academic backgrounds with various certifications and accreditations to supply them with the know-how to help each athlete achieve their goals. More than just the know how is important to attain that success. There are many ways to accomplish these goals, not only through the types of training you implement, but also how you motivate, inspire, and essentially influence the person you are coaching. It is the strength coach’s influence that I feel is paramount to being successful in this field.

The words and actions of a strength coach resonate much further than an immediate training session. Words can have a ripple effect that could potentially make or break a athlete. What makes many strength coaches effective is the fact that they have been there before as successful, driven athletes and know what it takes to achieve their goals. Many of those successful people had coaches who helped them learn what it takes, and while most athletes don’t yet know the demands that are required, they want to and are willing to do what it takes. They are willing to pay for it with blood, sweat, and tears. Can you teach that kind of attitude and confidence? Sometimes you are born with it and other times it’s created and molded. As a strength coach working with an athlete, we educate, train and have the opportunity to implant that unconditional drive to make the athlete reach his or her goal. We might not be able to control everything, but it is our job to empower in any way possible. The words we speak can build or cut, empower or debilitate, teach or impair.

There should be tact to everything you say to someone, beginning with the act of listening. Too often I hear a coach impatiently tear someone down without instruction. Many times we see an unsatisfactory action or “I can’t” speak in an athlete, followed by a harsh phrase of disapproval from a coach with no time or patience to encourage. There is a time for negative reinforcement but this tactic should be used with good purpose and reason. A renowned author and teacher in leadership strategies by the name of David Benzel said in his book Growing Champions for Life, “A child is more likely to remember their coach as the most influential role model growing up even more than their parents.” What do you communicate as a mentor? People want to know what you know. If all they hear is dissatisfaction and negative reinforcement, what do they learn?

Everyone I asked had someone in high school they looked up to and wanted to be like. I had two role models growing up, until one ignored me and stopped encouraging me. He is a constant reminder of negative feelings of not being good enough. The other remains engrained in my memory as an influential catalyst to my growth as a successful person and athlete. The point is I remember both. How do you want to be remembered?

There is a reason athletes come to you. We as coaches can have a “right-now” impact or a life-long impact. If we expect from our athletes, dedication, time, sweat, blood, positive thoughts and a can do attitude, why would we not mirror that in our words and actions? Listen and think before you speak and you will be remembered for more than just someone who gives the workout. Too many times a coach’s ego gets in the way of being human and exhibiting selfless service. If a coach can better understand the tact of communication and its dynamic role in the development of an athlete we would leave an imprint on someone that lasts a lifetime.

Edited by Courtney VandeStreek

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