Is your coach a good coach, or are they just a motivator with a bag full of peanuts and a whip? Contrary to popular opinion, the role of a coach is not to recognise and reward aptitude; any amateur can hand out “peanuts” for proper execution. A good coach is there to help uncover the skills that you are lacking, to find your weaknesses and guide you on the path to improve them.
“Reward and punishment are the lowest forms of education” Chuang Tzu (Chinese philosopher from the 4th century BC)
A good coach is there to inspire and motivate, but their first duty is a somewhat unpleasant one: “Here is the flaw in your performance. Let’s work on it.” A mediocre coach will often only help you strengthen your strengths. A good coach will help you identify your weaknesses and work to eliminate them. An excellent student would be wise to listen to a good coach.
In this sense, the English teacher, the strength and conditioning coach and the martial arts sensei all do essentially the same thing.
“Your language, your movement, your mindset, lack this particular quality. Here is an exercise to increase that quality that you are lacking.”
The teacher is sometimes held as a friend, but this is not necessarily the best coaching practice. In fact, the coach is best thought of as a kind-hearted enemy. “You are weak here, here and here” the coach should be able to criticise and point out the weakest links in your armour. “You are slow in this movement, your mobility is limited, your strength is insufficient, and you can’t do a pull-up to save your life.” It’s a harsh reality, but the truth is the truth and tiptoeing around the fact is not a positive approach.
The problem with this “work your weakness” philosophy is that it’s both a physically and psychologically demanding task. Having fun and doing what we are good at is one thing, learning to be proficiency, build new skills, and establish mastery is a whole new level of reward. If we’re good at doing power cleans, we take pleasure in that process. It’s meditation, our outlet, and our fascination. The hollow body holds, on the other hand, can feel like a chore to those who don’t like to be still, and this can have a different emotional impact on the student. If we are good at something, we’ll take our pleasure there, if not we can easily slip into an unhappy mood and throw our toys out of the pram.
So therein lies the problem of being a good coach. If you want your students to improve, you’ve got to work on their weaknesses. It’s essential! But if you are too zealous, you’ll take away the one thing that sustains the process of making training a happy place. Coaches and students must find common ground to see the flaws in individual skill sets and flog them good while maintaining certain training pleasures. It’s a delicate balancing act that can only work with everything in right proportions.
No matter our strengths and weaknesses we all need to work towards improving our capabilities. Everyone should find the coach that stands you up in front of your weaknesses and forces you to work on them. Listen to this coach and cherish their advice if your goals are to improve.
Don’t let ego get in the way of learning something new, finding a weakness, implementing growth and improving the quality of your life.