The sins of the parents do not have to be the sins of the child. As adults, how many times have you heard, or even said yourself for that matter, “Man, I wish I was introduced to strength training at a younger age. It could’ve changed everything!” You have the power to provide your children with the opportunity that might not have been provided to you.
If you have kids at the middle school or high school age that are starting to show a passion and love for sports, you have a responsibility as a parent to provide your children with the best opportunities to succeed. With regards to sports, a big part of this is making sure you find the right coach, not just any coach, for your kids.
Two foundational pillars of Power Athlete are education and empowerment. Many of you follow our programs, train in your garage with your kids watching in amazement, and even some of you that have gone through the Methodology Course to better educate yourselves to battle the bullshit.
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of bullshit and uneducated coaches out there, and finding the right coach for your child can make all the difference in the world when it comes to their personal development, both physically and mentally.
With that in mind, this article is geared towards educating and empowering parents to help navigate finding the right coach to maximize your child's true athletic potential! Below, I’ve outlined some important things to consider and questions to ask in order to empower your decision making process when searching for the right coach.
The Numbers Game: Iceberg Fallacy
It’s easy to get attracted to big lights, glitz and glam; in the training world, this translates to big weights being thrown around by high level athletes. It’s a simple and effective marketing tool:peak your interest and get you in by showing you “the biggest and the best.” I’m not saying that coaches and/or gyms that do this are trying to fool you - hell, I show and promote the accomplishments of my top athletes. What I am saying is that this is simply the tip of the iceberg, and you have to be armed with the tools to be able to look beyond just what you see on the surface.
What you, the parent, should be looking for is a coach that is focused on the development of the athlete, not just the numbers or top players. But what does that mean? And more importantly, what does that look like?
Simply, it means that the coach takes a long term approach towards the athlete. There is an unspoken expectation that the athlete will be training with the coach through their entire high school careers, not just for the year. There is a premium placed on quality of movement, not just moving weight. The coach has a systematic and principle based approach to teaching and progressing the athlete throughout their development, not just having them do what he or she did back in the day.
With that in mind, here are some questions you can ask to help you sift through some potential BS.
What do you look for in your athletes? A coach focused on development will speak more to the mentality they are looking for, not the talent or experience of the athlete.
Why do the majority of athletes come to train with you? A coach focused on development will speak to the fact that his athletes come because they want to get better, as opposed to “because we’re the best.”
What’s developmental process with your athletes? If the coach is focused on development, they will provide a similar response to what I outlined earlier, as opposed to saying blanket statements like “we’re going to make your kid stronger and faster!” They will spend more time explaining the “how” and not just the “what”.
Seems like you have some studs that train with you. How long have they been with you and where were they on day 1? If the “studs” have been there for some time (i.e. year/s), it provides insight that they have been developed into what they are. If the “studs” have been there just a short time, it provides some insight into the fact that genetics, not necessarily development, might have played a bigger role.
Transformational vs. Transactional Coach
This is a critical time in the development of your child's life, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Many of us can look back to our middle school and/or high school days and remember a coach or teacher that made a huge positive impact in our lives. A performance coach can be that person for your child, which makes the importance of finding the right one that much more important.
Power Athlete is adamant about promoting transformational, vice transactional, coaching through its Methodology Course and with all of the Power Athlete Block One Coaches. But what does this mean? It goes beyond the X’s and O’s. It’s about forging lasting relationships. It’s about making an impact in potentially how your child looks at and approaches life. It’s about getting your child to do things that he or she never thought was physically or mentally possible.
On the flip side, being transactional is looking at coaching your child solely in terms of an exchange of services. You pay me money, and I will get your kid strong and fast - nothing beyond that. For lack of a better way to explain it, you’re dealing with a clock puncher. They clock in, clock out, and really that’s it.
So here are some questions you can ask to help determine whether you’re dealing with a transactional or transformational coach:
What do you do to build relationships with your athletes? A transformational coach will provide a detailed thoughtful answer and may include things they do outside of the just training times.
What are your values? The value system of a coach is very important. Their values will spill over into how they coach and develop the mentality of the athlete. If the coach’s values align with yours and hopefully your kids, the chances of that coach being transformational are higher.
What do you want your athletes to take away from their training with you? Is it just about performance? Is is just about getting stronger and faster? Or is there more that the coach wants the kids to get out of it. The transformational coach will speak to more than just the training. They will speak to the byproducts that come out of training, like valuing the process, having a sense of accomplishment from the work you put in, learning that the body is capable of doing more than what the mind thinks. If they only thing they can talk about are their weight room numbers... walk out the door.
Looks Can be Deceiving
Just because the coach can lift a lot of weight, does not mean he or she is a good coach. On the other hand, if the coach doesn’t look physically “impressive,” it doesn’t mean he or she is NOT a good coach.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very important for coaches to involve themselves in some level of training. Why? Because it provides leadership from the front. Especially if the coach trains youth athletes, it can help build buy-in if the kids know that he or she trains hard, regardless of the numbers. If coach is training hard, then I need to train hard! Additionally, it builds some buy-in with you, the parents. As a parent, you may be wondering: “How can I expect you to take care of my kids, if you’re having trouble taking care of yourself?” It’s a fair question.
With that being said, all things being equal, the physical prowess of the coach is not what matters most overall. What matters most is that you judge the coach not necessarily on what they are doing in the gym, but rather, what they are able to get their athletes to do in the gym.
While many of the questions outlined in the above section will provide insight into what the coach might be able to get his or her athlete’s to do, below are a couple of questions that can provide insight into what the coach does in their own training or with their athletic background to better their own athletes.
What do you do to maintain your fitness and strength? Simply, this will tell you what the coach does to take care of themselves. As I mentioned above, this shouldn’t be an end all be all, but it provides insight into their potential leadership abilities. A quick follow up to this is: “why do you continue to train?” If they speak to leadership and further growth not only for themselves but for their athletes, this should be a check in the “good” column.
How does your current training and your prior athletic background help in coaching your athletes today? To me, this is the question I really want to ask. This will add to whether or not the coach is transformational or transactional. Do they use their experiences old and new, good or bad, to shape the way they teach, coach, and develop youth athletes? It will show if the coach is reflective and analytical in their experiences, and it speaks to their ability and willingness to adapt, make adjustments, and evolve as a coach.
Create the Opportunity
To wrap things up, it’s not your responsibility to coach and make your kids better athletes, but it is your responsibility to create the best opportunity for them to succeed. You, the parent, need to do your due diligence and view this process of finding the right coach as an interview process.
A transformational coach that is focused on development can be a life changing experience for your child. It will be something they will forever be grateful to you for.
If you’re a parent and are looking for more education on what a principle based methodology looks like for athletic development, sign up for the next semester of the Power Athlete Methodology Level One Course now!
EDUCATION: Power Athlete Methodology- Level One
BLOG: Empowering the Next Generation by Carl Case
BLOG: The Mental Energy Systems of a Coach by Don 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. The Power Athlete Methodology has been a crucial component in developing better overall athleticism with 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. He resides in Charlottesville, VA with his wife and 3 young kids.
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