Ahh December; a month filed with mountains of beer, floods of food and the odd reflection over what has become yet another year for the history books. And man has 2016 left me with a lot of ‘flectin to do.
The biggest change for me this year was starting a brand new job, in a brand new industry, at the elite performance centre that is The Athlete Factory. The factory, a S+C facility striving to bring elite performance and coaching to athletes of every background, is a place like no other and one that will forever be dear to my heart – but more on that in a moment. To tell this story well, you kinda need to know where my mind was before working there, so lets get into that first.
For the last umpteen years, ever since I started losing all that weight, my passions for strength and conditioning have done nothing but skyrocket; I always wanted to understand why certain things were done the way they were and really get to the low level details on why some things were better then others when it came to performance.
I always invested quite a lot of thought into the area too, helped even more by conversations with anyone who showed any signs of interest. And although I did feel like I had quite a good grasp on the basic fundamentals of strength training as a whole, I was always aware that I was very much amateur when it came to talking to actual professionals in the area.
This lead to some great conversations with coaches, physios and trainers where I understood enough to know what questions to ask, but not stupid enough to disregard it outright if their opinions didn’t agree with the knowledge that I had picked up along the way.
Going into the factory interview process, I would have sold my main strength as being a good base level of knowledge of S+C and programming with an ok eye for movement. Pair this with not being stupid enough to think I had it all 100% right, I felt like I was off to a good start.
Little did I know that it was this very thought that, upon reflection, was my biggest downfall, and one which nearly caused me to not even get the job at all.
The Athlete Factory, from both an athlete and coach development point of view, is a place like no other. If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be undoubtedly ‘precision’. I always took form and technique as being king in the weight room, but man I wasn’t even 50% of the way there. Not only that, but the factory brings sequencing, coordination, programming, session structure and coaching queues into the precision realm. Everything from how coaches and athletes interact with one another to the way the weights are put back on the rack is about precision and exactness.
Every single thing about the factory is done for a very specific reason and every single decision made in there is given hours and hours of thought and contemplation. All of this is done with one aim in mind: Maximising an athletes performance.
It’s so different from anything I had ever experienced before, but now that I have, my engineering brain absolutely loves it. Any program, coaching queue or drill will get an athlete a result, and having a neatly stacked weight rack isn’t imperative to performance, but that’s not the point. The point is getting the most out of an athletes performance abilities as quickly as possible, and if you don’t draw the line somewhere, how do you know what you can let slide and what you cant.
So now, almost a whole year into my time within the factory, and after being subjected to over 100 years worth of coaching expertise as my mentorship, the effect it’s all had on my S+C outlook has been incredible.
So much so that I have absolutely zero doubt that I can now get more of a result from anyone I work with in a single set then I could have over 10 sessions with them before. And that makes me appreciate the factory more then any words could ever describe.
With that said, despite knowing that I am a much better coach then I ever thought possible, one thing has gotten worse after my time in the factory – and that is my confidence in my decisions; and I’m totally ecstatic about that.
Before, I was happy thinking that “good enough” was, well, enough. I was blinded by the small, incremental, short term progress that I was making, and it was leading me to believe that my first choices were above par. It lead me to think that I was better at this stuff then I actually was and man am I glad that’s not the case any more.
Now, this “lack of confidence” (if you’d call it that) has me questioning every single aspect of what I do. Questioning weather this new program is the best it could be, if that coaching session was everything I was capable off, and if I supported my athletes to the best of my abilities. It has me reflecting on every single tiny aspect of what it is that I do, striving to improve even more then I already have.
And this, in a nutshell, is why I now hate the health and fitness industry as a whole; how many “experts” out there are really putting that much thought into every aspect of what they do? How many coaches out there really give a shit as to weather they are wasting an athlete or clients time? From what I can see, not too many, and that is nothing short of a sin.
Now sure, many will rightfully say that some coaches out there could get a genuinely better result with someone without doing any of this then I could giving it everything I could, and I’d totally agree. I am very much at the bottom of the proverbial coaching ladder and I have a long way to go to get to world class, but that’s not the point. The point is that we, us coaches, are impacting peoples lives, and doing anything short of everything we can should be punishable by death.
And unfortunately enough I see too many “coaches” out there worrying more about their image, following and egos then the impact they are having on their clients lives. And that just drives me insane.
One of my new mentors, someone who will forever be an inspiration to me, summed it up quite well a few months ago. He said:
“Coaching is all about manipulation, but not just of the physical. Sure we are manipulating their movement patterns and power levels, but the most important part is the mental manipulation. And as soon as you stop doing that in as positive of a way as possible, well, you’re not just a bad coach, you’re a horrible person”.