When naming skills a successful individual should possess, communication should be at the top of the list. It seems like a no brainer but it seems to be a hard attribute to find in coaches or weightlifting these days. Without communication, from both sides, a coach/athlete relationship will be doomed to fail.
Expectations Of A Coach
As a coach, it is your job to effectively communicate to your athlete what you expect from them: what behaviors you will not tolerate, what excuses you will not hear, what time you expect them to show up at the gym. More than that you must be able to understand your athlete’s personality. One size does not fit all in weightlifting. The carrot and the stick works well for some but not all. If someone is an introvert and doesn’t respond well to loud public criticism, maybe don’t berate them for a missed lift in a crowded gym. Instead pull them aside and address the issues in the lift. Anything else and you may run the risk of alienating a good lifter. On the flip side make sure you praise the extrovert in that crowded gym if he did something well.
A coach should be accessible to his athletes. Does this mean 24/7 access? To some athletes it does but it’s up to you to set your boundaries. If you have a Crisis Cathy or an Apocalypse Andy who blows up your phone every 30 seconds, discuss boundaries with them if you need them. I use my “Do Not Disturb” switch on my phone for Cathy and Andy that way I can check their messages once I have the time (or the patience). Even then I try not to let too much time pass between their messages if it’s a true blue crisis or apocalypse.
Make it clear from the start what type of relationship you want to establish. Much like the parent/child relationship, you can’t be your athlete’s best friend all the time. You can be friends with them, and you should want to be to establish a level of trust with them, but there comes a time when you have to be hard or demanding. Once again this depends on you and your athlete’s personalities. If you are comfortable being a friend, mentor, therapist, and/or hand-holder, then by all means go for it. Just remember to take time for yourself and to not let your athletes utter drain you emotionally.
Stick to your word. If you won’t have their program ready for Monday at 7:00 AM be honest about that. Don’t make it a habit to be habitually late in getting information to them. They rely on you. If there’s a snag in the plan, or you’re stuck in an airport with no wi-fi or whatever the case may be, alert them early and shoot a text with at least the first day of workouts. Life happens and they should understand that so long as you are not always 17 days late with information.
Stay true to who you are but be adaptable to the athlete and the circumstances.
Expectations Of A Lifter
As an athlete, it’s important to remember you are not the end all, be all of your coach’s world. He has a team full of Special Snowflakes, a job, and maybe even a family. That being said you deserve a coach who makes time for you, but you have to make time for them and their training.
Keep track of your workouts. Reps, sets, fatigue, failure, sleep patterns. Each detail is crucial to your success in this sport. Your coach absolutely needs that data in order to effectively program for you and your goals. If you don’t send him your information, or if he has to hound you for it, don’t blame someone else if the wheels fall off of your lifting train.
Come to the gym ready to work. Time is precious and if you waste your coach’s time, you may not be on the team much longer. It’s cliche but there are plenty of other people who would love to take your spot. He spent time planning your session so show up raring to go.
Listen to your coach’s advice. If you are paying him, you should trust his opinion. If you’re not paying him, that’s awesome for you but you should value his opinion even more (kidding). In all seriousness, you are there to get better so listen to what he says. If you don’t believe what he says then you should find another coach. Your coach isn’t infallible by any means but if you’re searching for the Holy Grail of Lifting Advice from everyone except him then you shouldn’t be where you are at.
Above all else, respect your coach’s time. If he is worth any amount of salt, he has spent a lot of time and energy on you.
What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate
At the end of the day some personalities just don’t mesh well together no matter how hard you try. If that’s the case move on as amicably and professionally as possible. It’s not a smear campaign just because something went wrong with the current relationship. Try not to go on social media and wax poetic about how your old coach was awful. Spoiler alert: everyone knows who you are talking about even if you don’t name names. Use the departure as a learning experience and continue to lift heavy weights or develop your athletes.