Just three months into 2020, the whole world had gone through a lot. As a nation, we were nearly on the verge of war with Iran, rumors of another recession were rising quickly, the coronavirus had spread like wildfire, Kobe Bryant passed away in a tragic helicopter crash, and, as icing on the cake, we were entering an election year. It wasn’t a great start to the year, and the year hasn’t gotten much better since.
During times of hardship, society has always been brought together by sports, and now it seems like even that has been jeopardized, with high school sports being cancelled, the Olympics being postponed, and many professional sports having very different seasonal schedules, if occurring at all.
As coaches, we have all been affected as well, from our programming and personal schedules to the facilities we can use and more. As the unexpected comes and goes in my life, with the resulting personal and professional issues that arise, I wanted to write this article to help strength and conditioning coaches in their efforts to deal with the unforeseeable future.
Did the New Orleans Saints crumble after Hurricane Katrina affected the entire city? No, they kept fighting and realized that they had more impact than people originally gave them credit for. Did Michael Jordan quit in the famous “flu game”? Did Kobe Bryant not attempt his free throws after his Achilles tear versus Golden State? No, they adapted and persevered through this hard time.Issues arise every day for strength and conditioning coaches, and we must adapt, says @KTelegadas. Click To Tweet
Issues arise every day for strength and conditioning coaches, and we must adapt. As this article goes on, I will present examples of my own changes I have made over the past five years of my career. I will detail circumstances where I found solutions to these problematic situations, using creativity, logic, emotion, thinking outside the box, networking, and reading.
In my current role, something we do right now is make videos for our clients. We use online resources within our company to deliver the programs. Some of these include online databases, social media, and email blasts.
We highlight members’ workouts, include members of the week, and send out daily motivation video/emails to encourage our clients to keep the right mindset. Remember, as coaches, what we do goes beyond the weight room. Take time to text/check in with your clients and athletes. Now is a great opportunity to show that you care, not only as a coach, but as a person.
Perform bodyweight workouts, band workouts, and other exercises to utilize everyday equipment at home. Here are some examples:
- Circuit 1 – 4-5x through
- Circuit 2 – 4-5x through
- Push-ups x 20
- Eccentric pull-ups on a tree branch x 10
- Wheelbarrow farmer’s carries x 50 yards
- Conditioning – x5 rounds for time
- Glute bridges x 25
- Bent-over T’s x 25
- One lap around the apartment or house
Using logic is a phenomenal way to solve issues. In coaching, logic can save you a ton of time. I encourage coaches to get away from hand-writing programs or using Excel. These take up so much time and may not be the easiest to adjust. I recommend moving over to apps such as TeamBuildr, Train Heroic, Bridge Athletics, etc. to logistically cut down on time spent programming.
With these, you can easily administer programs via athletes’ phones, emails, etc. They also come with video examples and cues to assist you, since you may not be in the athletes’ vicinity physically amid coronavirus restrictions. I would like to note that I am not a fan of remote or online coaching, but, as a coach, there is always a way to get it done. In tough times we must use logic to assist us in cultivating, educating, and inspiring our athletes to move forward so our progress is not lost during the off-season.In tough times we must use logic to assist us in cultivating, educating, and inspiring our athletes to move forward so our progress is not lost during the off-season, says @KTelegadas. Click To Tweet
Other logical ways to give feedback include videoconferencing via FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, or Zoom. Examine, breakdown, and correct form. Now is a great time with bodyweight exercises to go back and work on technique for the future. Add in tempos to restore motor control and stability. Utilize this time to increase and restore mobility as well, especially if people are coming off of combat or contact sports.
Emotion is like a double-edged sword. It matters how you wield it. Dan Yeong writes about a Cherokee Indian tribe parable detailing how each man has two wolves inside battling for dominance over the man every single day. It goes like this:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I show this story to all athletes I work with now. We must remind ourselves, our athletes, and our industry as a whole that this battle between both wolves can be used to help us…or hurt us. Stay strong as a rock for your clients and athletes. Show them you’ve survived worse.
As a graduate assistant in Miami, I did not get paid for my work. I had to rely on income from odd jobs around town, my parents, and working all night while others slept peacefully. Share stories of rough times with your athletes and detail out what you learned from them. You’d be surprised how many people have had it easy up until now. Part of our job as coaches is to create better people, not just better athletes.Part of our job as coaches is to create better people, not just better athletes. Send motivational videos, tips, and tricks to them…and educate through social media, says @KTelegadas. Click To Tweet
Send motivational videos, tips, and tricks to them. One trick I use is to educate through social media, send videos to clients/former athletes, and lead by example (every exercise I have given athletes is one that I can perform well). Use these methods to cultivate your audience and establish your brand as a coach.
If you don’t know and/or don’t have experience…reach out.
Coming up, I had the ability to work with tactical and other athletic populations that I had no experience with. Having never played these respected sports or been on the tactical side of the field, the first thing I did was email, call, and text coaches who I knew had that experience.
Make sure to be prepared for what you want to chat about. Some considerations that I take into account before the calls or meetings are:
- Know specifically what you want to get out of the conversation. This could come in the way of questions, programming considerations, population considerations, etc.
- Bring examples of what you have planned already and be ready to put your ego down for the sake of bettering your clients and athletes. Remember, you are reaching out to learn, and some aspects of the conversation may challenge your current beliefs as a strength and conditioning coach.
- Know your source. I know there are a lot of great coaches out there, but there are also some not-so-great ones. Ask around about them or do some online research before you network:
- Where did they work?
- Who did they work with?
- What was the injury rate of the teams during their stay at said institution?
- How do they form relationships with their athletes?
- What do their co-workers say about them?
- Should I take what they say with a grain of salt?
- Are they constantly bringing out the best in people?
- Are they open to sharing ideas?
5. Think Outside the Box
As coaches, some of us have become very spoiled with big, fancy weight rooms, Tendo units, PLAE flooring, and Sorinex racks, to the point where I see coaches lose creativity and the ability to think outside the box. Sometimes all you need are the basics to maintain general physical preparation. I encourage coaches to use this time to get away from the barbell and see what you can develop.Sometimes all you need are the basics to maintain general physical preparation. I encourage coaches to use this time to get away from the barbell and see what you can develop, says @KTelegadas. Click To Tweet
Here are some examples of exercises I have come up with:
- Push a loaded car.
- The car could be loaded with people, furniture, etc. Put it in neutral and push away.
- Pick a wheelbarrow full of stones, bricks, etc.
- If you ever did yard work for your family or on a farm as a kid, you will understand this one. Grip strength has always been a great predictor of max strength. Work on keeping the core erect and gripping tight for yardage.
- Utilities, all forms of carries
- Kettlebells, suitcases, sandbags, etc.
- Build your own equipment
- YouTube and other sites have huge numbers of tutorials for making your own equipment. I recommend watching videos, taking notes, and rewatching them as you proceed. Home Depot might become your best friend.
- Bands, chains, medicine balls, and tempo
- Band exercises
- Good mornings
- Band pull-apart
- Paloff presses
- Banded overhead presses
- Chains exercises
- Chain-resisted push-ups
- Chain curls (1 chain in each hand)
- Chain 3-way shoulders (anterior, lateral, and posterior)
- Chain-loaded lunges (Zercher or back loading patterns)
- Bodyweight plyometrics
- Puddle jumpers
- Log Zercher squats
- Overhead presses
- Overhead carries
- Partner work
- Partner wheelbarrow carries (hold legs of your partner)
- Partner carries
- Partner-assisted pull-ups
- Use your kids to load your squats and push-ups
- Partner Nordic curls
- Tricep extensions with a partner under tempo
- Rusty old plates/DB
- DB snatches
- DB cleans
- DB, plate power jerks/split jerks
- Plate curl to press
- Plate loaded push-ups (plate placed on upper back)
6. Read, Read, Read
Take this one with a grain of salt. The human brain can only digest so much information and truly learn it. I see a ton of coaches read but never implement what they read. Figure out what you want to learn and apply more of, then find a book on that subject matter and read it.I see coaches who read but never implement what they read. Figure out what you want to learn and apply more of, then find a book on that subject matter and read it, says @KTelegadas. Click To Tweet
Now that you’ve read it, what the heck are you going to do with that information? Are you going to use it in coaching? What about programming? What about data collection to drive your programming in the way you want it to go? These are questions you need to ask yourself as a coach.
At one of my sites, we used Tendo units a lot to assess bar speed relative to the stimuli that we, as a staff, were trying to invoke as a phase progressed in season. We used this to help with autoregulation of the programming. If our position players came in and had to squat, they might be exhausted, or they might be fully recovered. We would add two extra sets in the warm-up and have them use those sets as “feeler sets.”
If the weight felt good, they would hit the speed-strength work for the day at their assigned weight. If the speed in m/s was more than what we needed, then we let them go up in weight. However, if the speed dropped, then we made the athletes drop the weight. As a staff, we used this time and the reading we did to not only achieve better results, but also educate the athletes and monitor progress week to week in season.
Change Is an Opportunity to Grow
The one thing you can count on is that things will always change—for better or for worse. I hope you have found this article helpful and can use any of the expertise/experiences I have had in my career to better your own. As coaches we can prepare for a lot, but sometimes we must adapt to the unexpected. Embrace the change, learn from it, grow from it, and pay it forward to young interns, graduate assistants, and coaches alike.
Who knows? These younger coaches might give you a job one day. Treat them with respect and learn from each other along the way. I have learned so much from people who have been above me and below me. Never think you “know it all” in this field. Everything is subject to change.
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