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A Coach Learning from Coaches

“Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.”

Sun Tzu, Art of War

Almost two years ago, I took a blind leap of faith and dove into the inaugural Power Athlete Methodology. To be fair, it wasn’t completely blind, as I had been following Power Athlete for a while and had attended their weekend seminar. But, nonetheless, there was no proof-of-concept for this Methodology course, nor the subsequent “Block One Coaches Test” that was alluded to in the initial email. After finishing The Methodology, which remains one of the most comprehensive strength and conditioning courses I have taken (and one that I have now pulled from in the formation of the courses I teach at a university level), I found myself signing up for the inaugural Block One Coaches Test and heading down to Power Athlete HQ during the heat of a Texas September.

Building on the level of excellence found in the Methodology course, this was the most in-depth and rigorous test of coaching ability that I had experienced, which was equally stressful and refreshing. I came away from there knowing that I had been put through a gauntlet of tests that exposed every weakness in my coaching ability, and met the unrealistically high standard set by John, Luke, and Tex.

Unfortunately, after leaving the most empowering weekend I had experienced as a coach, I was dropped back into a world of weekend warrior trainers and Instagram influencers. Much like the above quote implies, my blade was rusting. I was “coaching down”, unable to “use” the skills I had picked up from this process to the fullest. It was like bringing a samurai sword to the dinner table; it can get the job done, but it is definitely overbuilt for the necessary task. As the smartest coach in the area (except for the other two Block One Coaches in my hometown), I needed to find ways to keep my blade sharp. This may sound like I am full of myself, but that’s not it at all. This is me recognizing that, despite the skill set I had refined in Texas, I was still failing to coach to my potential. It was about this time that I was asked to come down to observe an upcoming Block One Test.

My other day job, as I alluded to, is teaching at the university level. Typically, those courses follow a predictable pattern; in a class of twenty or so students, there are a handful that are highly involved, a majority who are just trying to get the grade, and a few at the bottom who just don’t meet the standard. I went into this test assuming something similar. And, I could not have been more wrong. I found myself back in the forge with twenty highly motivated and hungry coaches, looking to earn the same accolade I was nervously pursuing months before. But, with the stress of the test lifted off my shoulders, I found myself taking on a different role than what had been pitched to me. While I was helping with the administration of the exam, I was concurrently learning from the experiences of twenty high-level coaches, seeing them interact in various roles of coach and athlete, and listening to their conversations about their experiences applying the principles of the Power Athlete Methodology.

Fast forward to last month, and I’ve now been able to help administer six of these exam weekends. Each weekend I come away more empowered than the last, because I am exposed to more and more great minds. I am forced to critically think about my own coaching as I hear about the experiences of others. And each weekend I am left remembering the true value from my test.

As a Block One Candidate, you’re easily consumed with saying the right thing and moving the right way. It’s a product of being in a field that is constantly chasing the alphabet soup to put after your name on a business card. But the real benefit of the weekend is not the 3/16” cold rolled steel block welded by John Welbourn. It’s the opportunity to be immersed in a secluded environment with 19 other coaches who are seeking the same excellence you are. It’s the conversations before and after the burn-down sessions, the sharing of stories over fine Texas bar-b-q, and the unique saga that you will share with those in attendance that cannot be recreated. After each weekend, I am reminded that it’s not the knowledge or the practice that keeps my blade sharp, it’s leaning on those who have walked this same path and learning from them. In my own coaching I see a handful of athletes a week. But, as a Block One Coach, I have access to the experiences of interacting with thousands of athletes daily, from 10 year old kids to World level athletes. From coaches who train in one-on-one settings, to coaches who handle multiple teams at once. Because we share both the same lens and same set of principles guiding how we impart training upon athletes, I am able to grow my bandwidth exponentially faster than I ever could.

While the knowledge gained in the Power Athlete Methodology is some of the best in the business, the education is only part of the picture. The real benefit, how you truly grow your coaching ability, is by joining The Army of Block Ones. It’s by making the commitment to get to PAHQ and put your blade into the fire. You’ll be immediately exposed to your small cohort and, if you’ve done your work, will make it through and have direct access to combined centuries of experience from your fellow Block One Coaches. The standard is high and nothing is given, but it will change the trajectory of your life like it has with nearly 100 other coaches before you.

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Ben Skutnik, PhD(c), CSCS, PN1

Ben Skutnik, PhD(c), CSCS, PN1

Block One Coach and Nutrition Coach at Power Athlete HQ
Ben grew up a football player who found his way into a swimming pool. Swimming for four years, culminating in All-American status, at a Division III level, Ben grew to appreciate the effects that various training styles had on performance and decided to pursue the field of Exercise Physiology. After receiving his M.S. from Kansas State University in 2013, Ben moved on to Indiana University - Bloomington to pursue a PhD in Human Performance. While in Bloomington, he spent some time on deck coaching swimming at the club level, successfully coaching several swimmers to the National and Olympic Trials meets. He also served as the primary strength and condition coach for some of the post-graduate Olympians that swam at Indiana University.

Currently, Ben is finishing his PhD while serving a clinical faculty member at the University of Louisville, molding the minds that will be the future of strength and conditioning coaches. He also helps support the Olympic Sports side of the Strength and Conditioning Department there as a sports scientist.
Ben Skutnik, PhD(c), CSCS, PN1

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Posted in Blog, Featured | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

2 Responses to A Coach Learning from Coaches

  1. David Mck

    Great write up Ben

  2. Ingo B

    I observed the same Block One Test, viewing through the lens of the Handbook editor/field sport athlete/coffee-fetcher-for-Luke. Even though I have no coaching experience, no aspirations to be a coach, nor any followers, I took in a metric ton of information directly applicable to my narrow lens. I can only imagine how much more someone with a career trajectory in S&C can glean from the weekend.

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