One thing I enjoy being as a strength coach is being able to train young athletes. Over the past 5 ½ years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to train many young athletes at all levels. What I have come to realize, is there is a lot more that goes into training young athletes than just getting them bigger, faster, and stronger. In examining my current and past young athletes, four things have made me successful in training this demographic. I consider these points to be the foundation of my training philosophy and have named them the “4 C’s of Coaching”:
When I list creativity, I don’t mean thinking of the craziest exercises you can come up with for your athletes. Remember, your number one priority is to address the wants and needs of the athlete, not demonstrate how many exercises you can do with a BOSU ball or how you have the ability to make them puke. Apply your coaching knowledge and develop a program that is effective and efficient. Furthermore, find ways to keep the interest of your athlete and break up the monotony that can occur by shaking things up on an occasion. For example, you might want to deviate from your standard warm-up and engage in some type of game instead (i.e. the Rebounder game or football). Executing this small change in your workout keeps the athlete, as well yourself, engaged in the session and the task/goal at hand.
All the athletes I have had success with, no matter what level they were at, started with the athlete believing and having trust in me. An athlete wants to know they are in good hands. Once you have earned an athlete’s trust, it will allow him or her to be open and honest about their goals and how they are handling your expectations. This all starts with commitment. Whether you are training an athlete for a few months or a few weeks, the commitment needs to be the same. Each session you need to show your athlete how committed you are in getting them better. When an athlete sees you are committed to them and their goals, they will be more inclined to be committed to you and themselves.
Communication is third on my list but perhaps should be number one because of its importance, especially if you are dealing with kids and their parents. There is a reason God gave us two ears compared to one mouth. From my own experience, I often caught myself doing too much talking and explaining rather than listening to the athlete, especially during the initial encounter/meeting. Many times if you take the time to listen to your clients, they will tell all you need to know about them. Early in my professional career I would try to “wow” the parents by demonstrating how much knowledge I had to offer. What I completely neglected was how I could best meet the wants and needs of the athlete and parent. I realized they are the ones investing their money as well as time so not listening to them closely displayed very poor coaching and customer service. Listening demonstrates you genuinely care for them and what they want from their training sessions.
Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence is not an act, but a habit.” This is a great quote I live by and convey this to my clientele. I constantly challenge my young athletes to a have a focus and consistency with all that they do both on and off the field. Humans are creatures of habits, so it’s important young athletes develop good ones to maximize their abilities. Along with getting my athletes to be consistent, I strive to be the same in all aspects of training from the energy I bring to each session, to the follow-up emails I send to parents of young athletes. I have the same expectations for my athletes, their parents, as I do for myself. Therefore, it’s imperative for me from the initial meeting with parent and child to be consistent with all that I do.
Although I discussed the “4 C’s of Coaching” on how to train young athletes, I apply these points to all my clientele. I truly feel if you focus on these aspects of training, you will improve your relationships with your clients, which ultimately will lead to you becoming a better trainer.
Jeff King has a master’s degree in kinesiology and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist at Fitness Quest 10 located in San Diego, California. He has worked with hundreds of high school athletes from various sports over the past three years and is very passionate about youth development. Jeff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.