I have been writing articles since the early 2000s, not because I necessarily enjoy writing, but because I see it as a way to communicate an alternative perspective in sports performance. My first writing was humble: a 500-word article on why I didn’t use Olympic lifts with everyone I worked with. I quickly learned that sharing an opinion or experience brought about a lot of positive change. After a few years, I was blogging for Elite Track, and started my own personal blog, Regeneration Lab.
My goal in writing is to share good information, so that others can learn without having to visit a coach in another country or research a topic on their own. My high school and college writing classes weren’t easy, simply because I don’t enjoy writing or public speaking. However, if you’re passionate about sharing knowledge, you will immerse yourself in that endeavor and get better at it, no matter how much talent or skill you have. Writing is not my strongest asset, but I find that anyone can get better through practice, just like sports. In this article, I share how a coach, therapist, or other sports practitioner can contribute a blog piece to SimpliFaster or another publication.
If You Can Talk to an Athlete, You Can Write an Article
All you really need to get started with writing is to imagine yourself speaking. The most successful way to write better is to speak to your reader in a way that they’ll understand. I highly recommend Dragon Dictation, as it can help speed up the process and make it easier. You may say that you’re not a good writer or presenter, but practice helps a lot, and writing and speaking are both skills that can be learned.
Famous writers have focused on the discipline of becoming a better writer by just writing more often. While that works, writing with accountability by rewriting when necessary also helps. Reading your writing out loud is a great way to find awkward sentences or long-winded passages. I still struggle with very long sentences that need to be broken into shorter segments, but I’m getting better at noticing and changing them. Over time, you learn how to keep your own voice or style in the text while improving the readability of the passages.Successful writers speak to their readers in a way that they’ll understand. Click To Tweet
Good writing can come from anywhere, and reading any topic that is written well will only help your own writing. While plagiarism is obviously wrong, the key to really good writing is to adopt great habits from other writers, such as brevity and flow. However, it’s easy to pick up other people’s styles, so be careful not to mimic other coaches or experts. I have been a fan of specific coaches whose terminology and thought processes were so impactful that I sometimes became a disciple instead of an independent thinker. Even today, I am slowly peeling back areas in my thinking and coaching that have been seeded by others. After all, it’s very human to subconsciously copy or mimic information we see.
Most of my reading consists of research or articles on research, so my writing is starting to change into something too formal. The average reader will be a little bored by summary-type articles, but you can fix this by adding energy to the piece. Look for text that can be cut out because it’s not adding any value to the piece—it’s just making it longer.
If writing a large article of 2,500 words or more is a bit of a struggle, a list-style article is a good compromise. Sometimes you can write a detailed piece on something very narrow in focus, but cohesive collections of small, 300-500 word sections of wisdom also make excellent articles. I have written a bunch of list-style articles because they are great for coaches looking for a compilation of information, and they are very easy to read.
How to Get Inspired and Find a Purpose
Instead of writing about just any topic or idea, write about something sports-related that bothers or excites you. I am constantly inspired to write something because I am passionate about a lot of fields and subjects, but nothing fires me up more than overhyped concepts proliferating on the internet. I tend to tackle topics that are more specific and advanced than current fitness myths or exercise trends.
Good and bad articles both inspire me to write a response or alternative viewpoint. Topics sent to me via email or other method aren’t always thorough or even well-thought-out. When you write simply to be heard, chances are good that the message won’t be a strong one. Most of the time, I don’t have a real preference or emotional connection to anything. As a generalist, I don’t have to defend a method or approach to anything, because I change what I do every year. The research and experience make what I do an evolutionary journey, not a fixed rule.
Reading books, visiting coaches, and even doing the day-to-day grind all inspire me to write. Usually, I have 40 topics on a list and write something once a week, but lately I have been working on many articles at the same time because they interconnect. I don’t recommend doing this at the beginning, but as you write more you will see parallels between articles and subjects that will help readers connect concepts more easily.
If you are not inspired to write about something or hop on the phone to talk about it, it could be a sign that training is stagnating or you are burned out. I see writing as a sign of healthy coaching—when my coaching stinks, I don’t have much to say or argue about. Don’t write because you feel you should; write because you would feel guilty NOT telling people about something you discovered. For more reasons to write, read Craig Pickering’s “Why Every Coach (Yes You!) Should Write.”
A Good Outline Will Make Your Article Cohesive
My average article word count is 3,200 words, and the reason I hit this number is because content research shows that people read longer articles today. My intentions are not to get more reads or social media shares from writing a popular article, but to construct something that is useful to others. Details and full explanations are more valuable than quick rants or short bits that are vague and don’t go anywhere. The read time for my articles is usually under 20 minutes, which is perfect for coaches taking a look during a lunch break or similar.
I understand that it may feel daunting to write 3,200 words; my own first articles were awkward 1,000-word blemishes on the internet. I don’t cringe when I see something from my early years, but I do recognize that my early stuff was not my true self, just someone who didn’t have experience or practice writing. If you want to write something in the 2,000-4,000 word range, an outline is key to getting your points across quickly and easily. I have a simple outline that is very familiar: opening paragraph, closing remarks, and about five or six subtitles or key points between. Each primary point has smaller supporting points, usually with three to five remarks.
How do I create a 3,200-word count easily? Michael Jordan. In one of his books, he outlined how he averaged over 30 points a game by scoring eight points a quarter. I took that same concept and realized I am not trying to write long, I am trying to make specific points and do so with a structure. I treat my articles like a debate and, as a former competitive athlete, I want to win from the beginning to the end with enough points to make sure my argument is solid.
Upgrade Your Writing With an Editor
For about a year now, I’ve relied on someone to professionally edit every article I write. An editor enhances what I am trying to say without removing my voice—the thing that makes my articles, “me.” I have received a lot of praise on my articles because the editor does a great job of making my thoughts clearer and easier to digest. Editing is so important, not just to remove any spelling and grammatical errors, but also to ensure that the pacing and meaning of the article are on point. To make a sports-related analogy, in this relationship the writer is the athlete and the editor is the coach.
Everyone has their own writing style, but the key is knowing the difference between a voice with substance and one that brings baggage and bad habits. I have spent years working on removing the passive voice from my writing and, in doing so, content has become easier for me to create and easier for readers to consume. Editors make an article easier to read and its content more penetrating and meaningful. In time, with effort and practice, common writing faults get cleaned up and you learn to be a better wordsmith and convey thoughts more directly.
Charts, Photos, Videos, and Infographics
Communication doesn’t have to be just writing; sometimes a good chart or short clip can do the trick. Taking photos and creating infographics can take just as long as writing, so I try to make sure what I add is vital, not just gloss because the writing is weak. Photos from stock image houses or websites sometimes backfire because they’re used all the time and they may lead the reader to view the entire article as inauthentic. I have used stock photos for years, though, because when you find a good one it draws the eye of the reader.
I also use photos and videos that I’ve taken myself, though this can be more difficult. Sometimes the video has music or foul language in the background, so that’s a problem. Sometimes a random person walks by in the video and is distracting, or the technique has a few errant motions that are not perfect. Videos of exercises do well on the internet, but most of the time everyone is familiar with the technique and they want deeper insight. Also remember that athletes modeling the exercises sometimes want to be paid or have restrictions on being photographed or recorded.
People like to see information organized at a glance. Some of my most popular articles are enjoyed not because I wrote something witty or especially insightful, but because I took the time to group and synthesize a lot of available information into charts and graphs. While these figures take a lot of time to create, a screenshot of a piece of equipment or an exercise is very fast and easy to do. Infographics can be a pain, but they are loved on social media and are better than memes.A picture is worth a thousand words, but a good chart is worth a thousand thoughts. Click To Tweet
Typically, every SimpliFaster blog article has a header image, followed by a few images and charts. I often take a photo of the equipment I am using or a screenshot of the data that made me think about the purpose or goal of the article. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a good chart is worth a thousand thoughts. Make sure you add at least three images and include captions. Captions are more in-depth points about the image, not simply summarizing what the person can see with their own eyes. Always explain how the image or video connects with the article in two or three sentences.
Publishing and Social Media
It doesn’t help anyone to post an article that doesn’t get read. Don’t try to be popular or award-winning—try to solve problems. It’s OK to discuss controversial topics that are polarizing, but only if your intentions are to share a perspective that is honest and valuable. I usually don’t have any agenda but to defend a logical point or share an experience highlighting absolutes as a bad idea. At times, especially if an idea is popular but based on bad science, writing about a fad or trendy topic can make you a villain. So, if you don’t like heat, stay out of a kitchen.
Readership comes from talking about the good points or hard work of what you do as a coach or therapist. If you are struggling to solve a problem and do so, share it as an article. People will thank you for tackling something they are likely dealing with as well.
Publishing a blog on a website isn’t just clicking a button anymore. Times have changed: If an article isn’t seen on Facebook or Twitter these days, it probably won’t be read. People are not visiting websites; they are just consuming content from feeds or apps that consolidate what people have time for. Don’t worry about the publication and promotion aspects of a blog if you are writing for a website. However, when you write something, share it on social media.If you are struggling to solve a problem and do so, share it as an article. People will thank you. Click To Tweet
My audience is narrow: coaches in performance who care about taking the next steps, not just doing a good-enough job. If I wrote about hypertrophy or getting ripped, I would increase my audience twentyfold. If I talked about health and wellness, my audience would grow even more. But I don’t care about getting more readers. It’s more important to keep the ones I have, especially since there is so much information on the internet to distract them.
To ensure that a good article attracts eyeballs, it must have a compelling title and header image. Some writers spend too much of their time playing around with a title and finding the perfect image to get engagement, but what keeps it viral is good content. I can’t repeat it enough: Content is king, and clickbaiting will not work over and over again if you don’t deliver the goods. Working with an editor and a good publisher will make sure good content gets read.
Help the Community by Writing Something
Some authors claim they are writing for themselves when they write publicly, but if that was the case they could keep a journal. If you are writing for others to read, help them by sharing your experiences or even struggles. Many coaches make mistakes, and they share them so the next person doesn’t have to make them too. Athletes only have one body, and usually just one shot, so an article that reduces avoidable problems is needed.
Information dies on the vine unless it’s shared, and many great coaches don’t share anything because they like coaching and not writing. I still don’t enjoy writing, but do it anyway so I can share what I learn from generous professionals and athletes. I recommend spending an early weekend morning putting down a few words, and then helping the community by sharing what you think is useful. It makes a difference and others will be grateful.
Since you’re here…
…we have a small favor to ask. More people are reading SimpliFaster than ever, and each week we bring you compelling content from coaches, sport scientists, and physiotherapists who are devoted to building better athletes. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — SF