SUCCESS OF A COACH
I was recently asked by someone what my views are on coaches, especially strength and conditioning coaches success. Below are my views on this topic.
So, what defines a coach’s success?
A coach is successful only if his athletes experience
1. A decreased rate of injury
2. An increased level of performance.
The above factors are also a measure of a coach’s success and should be treated as goals by any coach.
How can a coach achieve these goals?
1. Increasing knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics.
2. Possessing the ability to increase his knowledge from previous experiences.
3. Applying the gained knowledge on athletes.
Biomechanics can be defined as the mechanical analysis of human movement. Improving the movement and making it effective involves anatomical factors, neuromuscular skills, physiological capacities and psychological/cognitive abilities. Biomechanics essentially deals with improving the movement technique the knowledge of which can be useful for a coach while training the athletes. By reading books, articles and being updated on the recent findings in the field of biomechanics, coaches can increase their knowledge. Also, it is easy to forget the anatomical terms and structures and their functioning if not used and applied at regular intervals. Thus, coaches must constantly revise and integrate anatomy with biomechanics to further their knowledge.
Coaches get to train with all kinds of athletes. Athletes many times suffer from performance decrements while training for competition. The coach should determine the weak link in the chain, develop strategies to improve the weakness and perfect it so that if in future the coach gets to train an athlete with the same weakness, he is in a position to draw the past methods that he used on his previous athletes to help them improve, thereby help the new athlete get better.
A coach should also integrate his knowledge and past experiences to help the athlete achieve desired goals. For example, consider a coach working with a powerlifter having issues with starting the sumo-deadlift movement correctly. After careful observation and from past experiences, the coach comes to a conclusion that the athlete’s tibia (shin bone) is not perpendicular and rather angled forward and upward (creating a dorsiflexion at the ankle) which might put knees in a risky position. Though the athlete has the physiological capacity to perform the skill, however, the coaches knowledge of biomechanics tells him that with that starting position, the athlete might not be able to accelerate the bar with sufficient velocity required to complete the movement. Moreover, his knowledge of anatomy tells him that executing the deadlift with that starting position might put the athlete in a vulnerable position of having an injured knee due to high dislocating forces being developed at the joint. In this way, the coach can use his knowledge of biomechanics and anatomy, and his past experience to qualitatively assess the situation and make the athlete work and perfect starting position of the deadlift.
I often see coaches having no clue why their athlete’s performance is going down. They can’t seem to figure out what factors are responsible for decreased performance and a fall in athletic success. Is it overtraining, undertraining, lack of flexibility, lack of special physical preparedness or general physical preparedness, dysfunctional joint, or others? There can be many individual factors or a combination of them which is responsible for a downfall in performance.
Sometimes athletes perform movements only in a trained range of motion. This type of training can be detrimental if on someday the movement occurs outside of this range, which in professional sports happens quite often, resulting in injury. Of course, injuries are a part and parcel of any sport and they are bound to happen, however, it is the coaches responsibility to minimize the rate of injury by making the athletes train in all the planes of motion.
Moreover, a coach should be able to assess an athlete’s joint for any dysfunction that might lead future injuries. For this, the coach needs to understand the normal joint function and observe and assess the athlete’s joint against this normal model to identify any dysfunction. Also important is the coach’s ability to interpret these observations through documentation, ability to communicate the findings with a practicing clinician and send the athlete to the clinician for restoring the joint’s mobility and stability. All these should be performed before putting the athlete through a training regime, during the off-season training period when signs and symptoms of decreased performance show up as well as during the on-season training period in order to prevent any injury and help the athlete perform at the peak levels.