I was talking with a coach tonight. I do talk with other coaches and anyone that knows me know that I love to talk about training so I can sucked in to helping out a lot of people and I get sucked in happily. I think I could actually say that I have never not helped anyone that asked for help with their training ever. Tonight though I was basically getting my help thrown back in my face…that I can deal with as well…I always say to my athletes and I’ve said it to coaches as well…’If someone can’t explain and tell you why you are doing something training wise. If they can’t do it convincingly and in words that anyone could understand…then they’re full of shit.’ …and that’s a direct quote from me because I say it all the time and I say it just like that…it is one of my stock phrases…not as popular as ‘If you’re not assessing you’re guessing.’…which I say at least twice a day…to the extent that many people who work with me take the piss out of me constantly about it. The thing is…the reason that I say both these phrases all the time over and over again is because it’s true.
Now let me tell you the ‘gist’ of this coaches argument and I’ll give you a little background first…and I’ll do it briefly even though I want to ramble on about it endlessly. Now all the things I am going to mention…like my trusty phrase collection…people have heard before…but like my phrase collection…I think that these things are relevant because in my opinion they are generally true. I think I’m going to bullet point this…I’ll pretend I’m Dr House for a minute and we’ll see if we can find a solution to the illness this coach is suffering:
- Most coaches work alone. They have to coach both the technical and physiological elements of their athletes and teams.
- Most coaches suffer from proximity bias. They are comfortable in their surroundings. They do what they’ve always done. They coach how they were always coached.
- Most coaches aren’t comfortable with new ideas or ways of doing things. Even though to a man and woman…they always say they are. It isn’t true…when a coach says that to you…trust me…they are lying to you and lying to themselves.
As an aside…athletes are like this as well…and so are you…whoever you are reading this. People in general are just full of shit and never more so in my experience than when it comes to training. People say that they want to try something new…what they really mean is that they want to try something that is like what they’ve been doing but differnet enough that it feels like it is something new. If you want to see this in action go to ANY training forum ANYWHERE…it doesn’t matter where it is…go and read ANY post started by ANYONE who is asking for training advice and you will see exactly the same thing…they ask for advice about a program they are going to do…the program will be idiotic…they’ll be told as much…they’ll argue about it for a couple of days with everyone and then just go and do what they were going to do anyway…people don’t want advice…they don’t want help…they don’t want information [about what to do], they want affirmation [that what they’ve already decided to do is ok]. They want to be told that they are correct or brilliant or cutting edge or whatever. This happens everywhere…the only advice and help they will accept is advice and help that is just a ‘tweaking’ or ‘modification’ of what they’ve expressed.
I’ve had 18 and 20 year old players tell me how they should train. I’ve had them tell me the best way to train. It is bad enough older more experienced players doing it and making themselves look like idiots…but 20 year olds…give me a break. I’m sorry if you guys and gals are reading this but you’re morons. I’ve had players come to me for help…waste my time talking to me and waste my time getting me to write them programs…when I say waste my time maybe I’m being a little harsh…1. Because I get paid for it and 2. Because I do still enjoy it. They do the programs get results and within a 2 or 3 months are back doing the same stupid crap training wise they were doing before hand. It happens constantly
This is what coaches do as well…they lose championships every year. So they ask for help. They want to do something new. So you give them something new you give them something different. I’ve had coaches do what I’ve suggested…do something new…something different…they’ve done it for a month or two…they’ve seen that performances have improved…that their athletes are getting better and they still ditch the program. They still say thanks but no thanks and the reason that they do so is because when they said they wanted something different…they lied…they wanted something just a little different but something they could recognise as being just like what they’ve always done. But anyway…where was I…oh that’s right…
- Most coaches that have a bad season come back the next year and do exactly the same thing they did the year before…but they think this time it’ll work…as long as they put a little more effort into it…or just try a little harder.
Like I said…I could go on and on about this.
This particular coach has done all the courses and got all the coaching accreditation’s for the sport they are involved in…they played at pretty much the highest level in their sport. The problem is…I just paused then…after I wrote…The problem is…because there are heaps of problems but I can only make one blog post at a time…so let me rephrase that…one of the problems is that all these course and all the certifications are rubbish…I’ll short hand this again even though I would and will ramble on about it…but essentially all these training course and certifications training modules are built on a template built for athletics and athletics involves peaking for competitions on defined annual cycles. The strength training information is built on data gathered in endless ‘one off’ semester long studies of untrained college males. Now field sports in general couldn’t be more different to athletics if it tried…and doing strength training with athletes that have been weight training for up to 8-10 years for an entire season couldn’t possibly be much more different than to training untrained college males for 8-10 weeks. So right from the get go this coach who’s confidence is boosted by the feeling that he has all the information he needs tucked away is not on the solid ground that he thinks.
So anyway to our little discussion this evening…a month or so ago he asked for advice…I gave him more than that…I gave him a training outline…essentially the what I am going to put up on the blog over the coming weeks…based on what I think are the ‘actual’ training needs of the athletes involved in the sport. I spoke to him tonight and basically he told me that he had decided to go with something else…he was doing distance running at the moment and intended to go from high volume and low intensity to low volume high intensity work closer to championship. I was almost shaking with anger (I have anger management issues…as many people know…so it doesn’t take much) then he mentioned Selye’s ‘general adaptation syndrome’ and I could barely contain myself…I did though because I wanted to hear all the gory details…I wanted to know everything so I just shut my mouth and listened as he broke down all the training phases…his aerobic base phase and blah blah blah…any of you that work in the area or who read in the area know the rest…he basically outline a model of traditional linear periodisation…now I won’t go into too much more detail and I’ll get to my point.
He was telling me how great todays session was…how he had them running doing laps in a pretty famous nature area here in Dublin…it is a good area for training…some hills and flat sections…he had them run about 20km…he was proud of the fact that some of them spewed…that they were exhausted…that some of them couldn’t make it and collapsed…he thought this was a brilliant training session and that the ‘aerobic base’ they were developing would really make all the difference…this coach is an idiot…and I know he’s going to be reading this so just to make things clear YOU ARE AN IDIOT just like I told you on the phone.
This coach is making what is one of the most common mistakes in coaching for field sports. I’m talking about Gaelic football, rugby, basketball, football whatever I know it happens in most sports..including MMA…and that is the focus that is put on endurance training. I can’t understand how people can have so little understanding of the physical requirements of the sports in which they are involved. The object of training is not to make people vomit, it is not to make people exhausted. The object and measure of a good session is not how tired you can make someone…that is easy…any idiot can do that…as this coach clearly demonstrated. These players who did this session have training tomorrow night…more of the same I am told. Then weights on Tuesday and Thursday and more running on Wednesday and Friday and are then doing the same run on Sunday again. This coach has assured me that no team is going to train harder than them this season…which is true I’m sure. The problem is 1. He is barely going to have a team let alone a squad by the time the championship comes around because he won’t have any athletes left…the ones he does have left I’m sure will make fantastic cross country runners but they sure as hell won’t be any good at the sport they were supposedly training for. As I’ve said over and over again here the best way to prepare for your sport is to compete and the best way to ensure that you are available to compete is to not be injured. What this coach is going to do is to maximise injuries in the best way possible and I mean getting injured not preventing them. If you want to ensure that you get injured do some repetitively and make sure you do it when you are physically not prepared for it…that’s what these athletes are doing. 2. Getting any improvement in performance as a result of training is directly related to an athletes ability to recover from that training. I should really put this in bold…if the training is too hard or too much the athlete will actually get slower, weaker and their overall performance will decline.
What I had outlined to him was an extension of the points I made in the Conditioning Work post that a couple of the lads here were commenting on which essentially boils down to doing work at the highest intensity possible for as long as you can possibly maintain it then rest as long as you need to so that you can do it again…over time you’ll be able to do what you need to be able to do harder and for longer and be able to do it again with less rest…that sounds like exactly what you’d want to be able to do ‘fitness wise’ in just about every field sport I’ve ever been involved with…but what would I know?