3 min read
May 11, 2022
Coaching - the good, the bad and the uninformed - Our take on the coaching scene right now.
CrossFit has brought a huge volume of talent onto the Weightlifting scene. The resultant prestige of national championships is going from strength to strength and the quality of lifting across each category is improving yearly. A beautiful sight for anyone who’s been around the sport for any length of time. Its also refreshing to see some established ol' timers getting a run for their money by some junior in metcons.
The increased popularity is subsequently making the sport more accessible, with increased numbers of athletes, coaches and training facilities. Most Globo-gyms have a Weightlifting platform nowadays, and you’re never far from a Weightlifting class at a CrossFit box. Sounds incredible right? Because it is. But, there’s always a catch, and in this case, it’s the ‘dilution of coaching’.
A good weightlifter will make weightlifting look effortless. The bar will lift itself whilst they manoeuvre their body around it. An awesome spectacle to watch - but it also opens up the door for anyone with a CrossFit Lv1 and a following to mansplain (what's the WL equivalent?) to everyone how they did it.
Centres of good quality coaching are being lost in the noise of every Tom, Dick and Harry with an Instagram account acting like they’re the authority on Weightlifting. Good quality advice is being watered down between one post to another, plagiarised by the next coach trying to build a following.
Knowing where to get reliable information from, as a new coach or athlete, is difficult. And official NGB routes are somewhat limited and often come with a hefty price tag. Being a ‘bad’ athlete, so to speak, is ok (we hope), but being a coach is different. You’re taking on responsibility for others and their weightlifting aspirations - and that comes with a duty of care not to be a bellend, spread misinformation or get people injured!
It’s relatively ‘easy’ to become a semi-decent Weightlifter by going to the gym 5 days a week, becoming a decent coach is different. Good athletes rarely make the best coaches. And becoming a good coach, takes time.
No, having completed your first 12-week training program doesn’t qualify you to coach anyone else… just yet.
(Effective) programming is a skill, and one which has to be learnt, but it’s also only one part of the weightlifting puzzle. ‘Intuitive’ coaching (i.e. experience) only comes with years in the sport, and it isn’t something you can readily pass down in a PDF format. Although we do our best.
Without knowing enough, it’s difficult to acknowledge how much more there is to learn, and it’s easy to get locked into cycles of under-learning and over-confidence. New athletes coming into the sport often also begin coaching, usually far too early and without the support they need to do so effectively.
Don’t get us wrong, there are benefits to this. With the overall increase in numbers, there may be fewer ‘good’ coaches (relatively speaking), but the overall number of ‘average’ coaches will increase, and that means more exposure for the sport, more opportunity and (hopefully), the long-term development of these coaches into a handful of greats.
So what can we do to make things better.
Develop the Sport
The grassroots supporters of this sport have – and always will – be the lifeblood of the community, and they will continue going out of their way to help. But it’s a large burden falling on a smaller and smaller group of people, who give a lot to the sport, to get very little in return. The best in our sport are often employed elsewhere, dealing with their own burdens, and definitely not getting the recognition they deserve.
So, as a new athlete, beginning to coach, keep an open mind. You’re likely not qualified to disagree with someone who’s coached for 10+years, and there’s a possibility you may be wrong. Consume all the freely available materials you can and speak to and work with more established coaches in your area. Most will chew your ear off about programming and technique for hours on end, so make the most of it! Just don’t be a knob and take peoples good-will for a ride. If you’re looking for a quick buck, look elsewhere.
If you are one of the more established coaches, put your time to educating the less-experienced (coaches and athletes alike) and remember they’re like children to the sport. They say a lot of dumb stuff, and are often annoying, but they’re just trying to learn. And the sport depends on them. Don’t shun them too early for ‘stealing your clients’. Not everyone cares for or even needs the ‘best’ coach with the highest credentials – especially in recreational lifting. So focus on developing the sport instead. There's only so many people you can coach - increase the overall number of Weightlifters and there'll be plenty of demand for both of you.
We'll rant about this demand another time.