| | | The Mental Energy Systems of a Coach

Author / Donald Ricci

If I were to ask all of Power Athlete nation right now to name the three physical energy systems in the body, I would bet the majority of you could rattle off the answer (phosphagen, glycolytic, and oxidative) in 5 seconds or less. As strength coaches, it’s our job to know these systems, and we strive to put our athletes in situations where we are testing and improving them, in an effort to empower their performance.

But, have you ever taken a step back to think about the need to test and improve the MENTAL energy systems that are associated with being a POWER Coach?Just as there are physical energy systems for the athlete, there also exists mental energy systems for the coach, that must be stressed to progress, if we want to take our coaching game to the next level.

For this article, I’m defining the mental energy systems we have as; 1. Analytic 2. Diagnostic 3. Systematic. Similar to the physical energy systems, these mental energy systems are associated with the intensity and duration of mental effort that is put into each system.

Analytic System

This is the anaerobic work of the Coaching Brain. The Analytic System is the most intense of the mental systems,and t requires the coach to be focused and intentful with their observations. Our mental reserves run out the quickest in this mental energy system due to the mental focus and CNS activation that’s required to dial in your “coach’s eye.” We are training and exhausting this system when we’re in the trenches COACHING our athletes. We’re looking, observing, and taking physical and mental notes. Is the athlete’s posture and position being challenged, but not changed? How is the demeanor and mood of the athlete? We are ACCUMULATING and ANALYZING information with a high intensity of focus and short duration (in the midst of training).

Systematic System

The Systematic System, just as with oxidative work, is the least intense of the mental systems – significant effort and work is put in, but it’s done consistently over a longer time period. It requires the coach to structure a long term performance plan over the span of the athlete’s career. Think of this as what we do outside of training and the gym, like programming, planning, and creating the overall vision and performance plan. We are CREATING and PLANNING the structure of training and path to performance, with a low-intensity but still-intentful focus, for the long haul (over the course of the athlete’s career).

Diagnostic System

Lastly, the Diagnostic System is a blend of the two, just as glycolytic work is a combination of phosphogen and oxidative systems. It requires the coach to take the observations and information you accumulated and analyzed from the Analytic System, and then make adjustments either in the moment during a training session, or after to the overall training plan compiled via the Systemic System. For example, if technique is changed as opposed to challenged, you must make an adjustment on the spot during training, drawing from the Analytic System. Conversely, if you know that finals week is coming up, or that your athletes are experiencing a lot of distress OUTSIDE of the gym, you may need to make a change to the training overall training week or plan, drawing from the Systematic System.

You are ADJUSTING and PROBLEM SOLVING, with a mixture of high and low intensity of focus and a combination of short and long duration, depending on the scenario and situation.

Developing the Right Mental Energy Systems

If you are coaching field sport athletes, aka Power Athletes, our primary focus is exhausting and developing the phosphogen and glycolytic systems while consistently laying a foundation of the oxidative system. As such, a Power COACH needs to put their efforts in exhausting and developing your Analytic and Diagnostic Systems, while consistently laying a foundation of the Systemic System. Development of the Systemic System is the easy part – it’s the development of the Analytic and Diagnostic Mental Systems that separates the “coaches” from the Power Coaches.

If you develop the physical energy systems of your athletes correctly, you will put them in a position to unlock their true athletic potential. Likewise, if you develop your own mental energy systems properly, you will put yourself in a position to unlock your true coaching potential and transition from transactional coach to transformational coach!


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Donald Ricci

Don was a two time National Champion and All-American water polo goalie at the University of Southern California prior to getting involved in coaching strength & conditioning and weightlifting. He is the founder and head coach of DELTA Weightlifting, a high performing USA Weightlifting Club and is a Police Officer in Central Virginia.

The Power Athlete Methodology has been a crucial component in developing better overall athleticism not only for his on the job performance in law enforcement, but also for his competitive weightlifters with international level athletes and national medalists to show for it. In addition to proudly being a Power Athlete Block One Coach, Don is also a USA Weightlifting Level 4 International Coach, a USA Weightlifting Lead Instructor USA Weightlifting Coaching Courses, and a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA). Don has coached and trained athletes from virtually every sport at levels ranging from youth beginner to National Team level.


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