Communication & Education

Discussing the training session with Jeshua Anderson.

At this point in my career my philosophy on strength and conditioning is rather bare. There are many components of S&C that I suspect will make their way into my philosophy but I feel that at this point I need to obtain additional practical experience in the field prior to developing a more in-depth training philosophy. Therefore, my current philosophy reflects my views on coaching in general and there are two aspects of coaching that I have known for a long time would be a big part of my philosophy — communication and education.

There are many different training programs being implemented throughout the world and much success has been achieved with vastly different programs. As stated by Zatsiorsky, “The general ideas underlying noteworthy training programs, not the entire training protocol, should be understood and creatively employed” (Science and Practice of Strength Training). Among all of these differing programs there seems to be one underlying theme — the athlete believes in the coach and what that coach is implementing. According to Henk Kraaijenhof, “Part of the training effect is due to the BELIEF of the athlete in his/her coach, making the training more meaningful.”

So how do you get your athletes to buy-in? Communication and education.

Communication may take on different meanings in different settings and may be more of a challenge in some settings over others. For example, in the collegiate team sport setting, communication pathways must be present between S&C coaches, sport coaches, athletic trainers, athletes, and administration to name a few. In a professional setting with a track & field athlete there may only need to be one communication pathway, between the coach and athlete, if no other support staff members are involved.

I believe it is also important to make clear that communication pathways must be a two-way street. By this I simply mean that not only is it necessary for the S&C coach to communicate effectively with the athlete/team and support staff but for those parties to effectively communicate with the S&C coach, and one another, as well. No matter the setting you find yourself, it will be very difficult to achieve success without constructing fluid communication pathways.

With multiple parties involved, it seems all too common to have staff members of different departments that are not on the same page. The support staff seems to exaggerate their roles and forget that they are just that, SUPPORT staff. Success will be very difficult to come by in these situations and a shift towards a fully integrated staff will be beneficial.

I spoke with an old friend who is also a Cross Country coach at a high-level Division I program recently and naturally the conversation turned to S&C. It’s no secret that distance runners are typically not very fond of the weight room and I was interested as to how that battle was working out with his team and staff. To my pleasant surprise he informed me there wasn’t much issue. He began sitting down with the S&C coach every Monday to discuss the week ahead and make sure they were on the same page. This communication has created a fluid implementation of the training program.

Slightly more specific than communication, an aspect of education must be present. This all starts with educating coaches, support staff, and athletes you work alongside on your philosophy. Again, this needs to be a two-way street in that as an S&C coach you need to learn the philosophies and beliefs of those you work with or alongside. In addition to any red-flags surfacing of a major difference in philosophies, this will help to create one synchronous unit.

From there you must continue to educate on a day-to-day basis. Make sure the athlete knows why they are doing what they are doing at all times. Sessions should be bookended with pre-briefs and de-briefs that clearly and concisely state the objectives of the day and recap the day’s occurrences. These quick 2–5 minute chats will increase the intention, attention, and mindfulness, of your athletes — three traits that go a long way in training at a high level.