Failure is a facilitator of growth. I full-heartedly believe that we learn so much more from our mistakes than from our successes. There is something about failure that stimulates our minds and makes us find a better way to accomplish the task at which we were unsuccessful.
Indeed, we have likely all made mistakes in our careers that we are extremely grateful for, as our failures typically helped shape us into the coaches we are today.We have likely all made mistakes in our careers that we are extremely grateful for, as our failures typically helped shape us into the coaches we are today, says @bigk28. Click To Tweet
However, although failure may be an integral part of everyone’s career, I have come across a few simple mistakes in my own career that I want to save you the burden of going through personally. In this article, I share five mistakes to avoid in order to help solidify your position as a sports performance coach and a necessity in your athletic department.
1. Giving in to the Athlete(s)
I see this way too often: coaches judging the effectiveness of their program based on the athletes liking/disliking what they are doing. At the end of the day, you are the professional, and you know what is best for the team and the individual players. If you go by what the athletes enjoy, you will spend the entire weight room session doing bench presses, tricep pushdowns, barbell curls, static stretches, and core work. Breed a culture where players value performance and want to do well with the workout you prescribe. Create value for your workouts by linking them to tests that challenge similar characteristics to the ones needed by athletes in the sport they play.Create value for your workouts by linking them to tests that challenge similar characteristics to the ones needed by athletes in the sport they play, says @bigk28. Click To Tweet
These are some of the tests that I connect to our activities in the weight room:
Speed —> Timed 10/20/40s, flying 10s
Jumping —> SRJT, max vert
Lift —> Barbell power output
We perform these tests weekly and rank each player so they can see where they stand amongst the team. It breeds competitiveness, and you won’t have players asking to do alternatives that aren’t effective in improving performance. Don’t get me wrong, it is vital that athletes respect the workout and its benefits. Sometimes the simple act of explaining the workout and how it carries over to their sport goes a long way in having athletes put 100% of their effort into the workout, instead of them complaining that there is other stuff they should be doing. If your program does the job of improving sports performance, athletes will buy in.
2. Giving in to the Sports Coach(es)
I say this with a caveat, because I know at some levels, sports performance coaches are linked to their sport coach, and that relationship is the most important part of them retaining their job. However, if you do have the flexibility to be autonomous, you should not follow the demands of the sport coach on what exactly you should do for speed, power, and strength development.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that players need quicker feet and to do more ladder drills (cue the eye roll). I say “exactly” because you can’t be a dictator blocking out any input the coaches share with you. The sport coach’s input is a valuable piece of developing a sports performance plan. And, at the end of the day, it is their butts on the line if they don’t have success. There are things we may not notice that are very clear to them the more time they spend with the players.
However, sport coaches are experts in one thing—the sport they coach. Just as you are the professional for developing sports performance, they are responsible for developing the tactics and skills of the players during their time in the program. Still, it is important to have a great relationship with your sports coach, as you are both on the same team when it comes to maximizing a player’s potential.
Most of the time when I ask coaches what they need the players to work on, it boils down to a few things—to be: 1) faster; 2) more explosive; 3) stronger; and 4) in better “shape.” This is where you need to do a good job educating the coaches and remove the phrase “sports specificity” from their vocabulary. The most sport-specific activity any athlete will participate in is the sport itself!I don’t think the sport coach should dictate the sports performance plan, but it’s important to get their feedback on what their “coaching eye” tells them throughout the course of a practice/game. Click To Tweet
Now, I particularly believe that conditioning should occur by building up max velocity, thereby improving their speed reserve, or built up through high-intensity practice. But I all too often hear coaches telling their athletes to go on long runs or do treadmill sprints to get in better “shape.” This is not ideal, and the sport coach should speak to the sports performance coach before making any type of suggestion. (NCAA catastrophic guidelines are a big step forward for athletes, as the sports performance coach should be the one making the prescription in the first place).
Although I don’t think the sport coach should dictate the sports performance plan, I think it is important to get their feedback on what their “coaching eye” tells them throughout the course of a practice or game. Use what the coach sees in games/practice as an additional piece to the puzzle in designing your sports performance plan. My program is structured on developing speed, power, strength, etc. I often ask a coach, “What sport is specific to the qualities of being fast, powerful, and strong and having the ability to repeat that over and over again?” The answer is all of them.
3. Devalue the Position
There is nothing I hate more than hearing coaches openly devalue themselves in their role and how much (or little) they contribute to the success of the team. When coaches do this, they not only diminish their value in their own athletic department, but when they do it often enough, administrators and coaches will start to agree. Then we as a profession will struggle to improve our compensation.
Do I think that sports performance plays a huge role in the success of the team? Yes! Do I think it is the most important thing? No. The most important factor in the success of any team at any level is the ability to recruit talented players who play the sport at a high level. That is the bottom line. However, if you are at a school where you can’t get top-level athletes, the sports performance coach’s role becomes even more critical in the development of the athlete.We sport performance coaches need to stop humbly devaluing our role and our contribution to the success of the team, says @bigk28. Click To Tweet
Guess what the next most important part of the equation is? Keeping those players on the court/field/ice, etc. This is where the sports performance coach has huge value for protecting the players so that they are able to compete at a high level all year long. I think that good sports performance coaches will continue to improve (or at least maintain) their athlete’s athletic qualities all year long, while also keeping them healthy enough to compete at that high level. We are not injury preventers and should never make the claim. But we do play a huge role in reducing the risk of injury and helping players compete throughout the entire year.
If you are at a school where you are the only person on your sports medicine staff, your value becomes even greater. Some would say that at the high school level, ATCs are a necessity, but sometimes, unfortunately, there isn’t enough money in the budget to hire both positions (at least from what I’ve seen locally). There is no need to worry here; as long as you have your CPR/AED certification, you can provide frontline standard care in the case of an emergency until EMS arrives on the scene. A well-structured sports performance plan acts as an ATC in itself, reducing the incidence of injury and keeping your athletes competing at a high level.
I love the quote “the best ability is availability,” and we as sports performance coaches play a huge role in that. I love when I read articles where the head coach openly praises their sports performance coach and say how they are the most important coach on their staff. We need to live up to the expectations and make our coaches feel that way instead of humbly devaluing our position.
4. Not Using Technology as a Resource
I write about this with a grin because I have made this mistake my entire career. If you want to be able to run an effective sports performance program and save yourself the man hours of inputting and evaluating, find a technology you can trust. Luckily, there are so many good systems out there nowadays, you can have your choice of the system that fits in with exactly what you are looking for.
I personally do a ton of testing with regard to speed, power, and strength and need a system that saves me the hassle of sitting at a computer and manually inputting numbers into Excel. For example, with regard to speed, we time some type of sprint 2-3 times a week with each of my 21 teams. With roughly 400 athletes, that comes out to 800-1200 sprint times a week.Do yourself a favor—get yourself a tracking system, as it will act as another assistant coach on your staff, says @bigk28. Click To Tweet
Even if I did have the time and energy to input all those test scores, I would definitely not be able to take the time to go through each individual athlete and notice any trends. If I can’t effectively judge whether or not my program is working, what is the sense in getting all these testing measures? Having a system where all of the technology is linked and recorded for me is a huge timesaver and one all coaches must explore. I personally would go with CoachMePlus, as it pairs with a plethora of technology already on the market. Do yourself a favor—get yourself a tracking system, as it will act as another assistant coach on your staff.
5. Saying “It Isn’t About the Money.”
I am lucky to be part of a profession with the most committed and dedicated professionals I have ever come across in any field. If you are in the sports performance field for a prolonged period of time, it is safe to say that you absolutely love what you do, otherwise you would never last. I am 10 years in the profession, and I am always giddy when I get to train my athletes and see progression and growth throughout their careers.
However, I don’t know if there a profession more guilty of saying the phrase “it isn’t about the money” than the sports performance one. I get it—we are so in love with what we do as a career that we almost make it seem that we would do it for any salary they offer us. And therein lies the problem. When we say things that show that we don’t care about monetary compensation, we lower our value as professionals. If you do a job that isn’t about the money, why shouldn’t your bosses pay you the least amount they can? I mean, do you ever hear doctors use this phrase?
Maybe in a humanitarian vision we all work for free, but in the real world that is not sustainable if you wish to support yourself and your family. We should advocate for everyone in the profession to be paid more because of the value we bring and stop acting like what we do is a charity. It is okay to push for higher pay and higher compensation; as a profession we deserve it.When we say things that show that we don’t care about monetary compensation, we lower our value as professionals, says @bigk28. Click To Tweet
As we grow older in life and have to take care of families and mortgages, saying our job isn’t about the money will put us in very difficult situations. That phrase also gives schools the freedom to make starting salaries extremely low and attract someone who is just dying to get in the field and willing to accept any dollar amount to do it. That is unacceptable, and we need to eliminate this language from our vernacular. We are high-functioning professionals who bring a ton of value and deserve to be compensated as such.
Avoid the Easy Mistakes
Mistakes are a part of the sports performance profession, but there are some easy mistakes we can avoid. We are leaders in our departments and one of the biggest assets for our teams, and we need to act as such. Communication with players and coaches is so vital for the buy-in to your program and for facilitating a program that is best-suited for each one of your teams. Without communication you will never be able to build trust and develop your athletes the way you want to.
All of the assessments, from both the sport coach and the performance coach, are all pieces of the bigger puzzle and must be taken into consideration when designing a sports performance plan. As you look to expand and grow your department, rely on technology as another “assistant” and help with everyday tasks that would be tedious for you otherwise. Remember, we are high-level professionals and deserve to be compensated as such. Don’t sell the profession short—we are one of the most passionate professional groups out there.
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