The Complete Coaching Guide: How to pick a coach

The Complete Coaching Guide: How to pick a coach

By: Brittany Kohnke

Powerlifting has become one of the fastest growing sports during the last 10 years. What was once considered a dying breed has now almost quadrupled in participation across the country and world wide. This increase has kickstarted the emergence of strength and powerlifting coaches as a result. A decade ago one would be confined to coaches within their geological area, but with the explosion of social media and the Internet, numerous options around the world exist. With so much to consider, how does one decide? This article aims to lay out important aspects to consider when shopping for a coach.

Qualities of an Effective Coach

Anyone can call themselves a coach, but true coaches delineate themselves by displaying a few key qualities and characteristics. Great coaches are natural born teachers as the art of coaching is just that; to facilitate some sort of learning or skill acquisition to all those under their wing.  Because of this, great coaches are effective communicators and listeners. They have the ability to adapt training methodologies and instruction to help facilitate the learning process in their athletes through a variety of contexts. This flexibility and adaptability allows them to serve a multitude of clients/athletes and because of this, client success is typically high.  

Great coaches are not only educated, but they are life-long learners as they adopt an ever-evolving understanding of movement, training, and evidence-based principles to provide the best service their athletes.  The word “educated” can include exercise science-based degrees, certifications, but what is probably most overlooked is experience. Great coaches have been in the trenches, either themselves or with a variety of athletes (or both), and have a deep understanding of how to bridge the gap between the academia and “the real world”.

Finally, great coaches display many of admirable character traits such as compassionate, caring, assertive, motivating, trusting, respectful, positive, honorable, and authentic. Perhaps one of the most impactful characteristics is the genuine concern for their athletes on every level. Great coaches care about their athletes from a humanistic realm: they aren’t just a number or statistic but rather a complex being that requires an approach that mimics just that. Great coaches stand out in a crowd for all of these reasons and some. 

Online Vs. In-Person Coaching Methods

There are a multitude of coaching styles and an understanding of which style best suits a lifter is important. Although we can talk about these styles in-depth, a better vantage point may be to consider the elusive “online vs. in-person coaching” question. With the growth of these two options available to most lifters, it’s critical to understand the pros and cons surrounding each method as even the most well-intentioned, match-made-in-heaven relationship can be skewed when expectations and an understanding of these two modalities is overlooked. 

The traditional coaching route is often visualized as a coach working alongside a lifter as they complete the training session; however, the emergence of online training has turned this scenario on it’s head.  One can now film, send videos to a coach halfway around the world and get feedback through modern-day technology. Each modality has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, it is important to research and consider each type of coaching method carefully so that one can best determine which style BEST suits their individual needs. 

In Person Coaching

Advantages

Disadvantages

Coach can see all vantage points of lifter

Trainee can receive tactile feedback

Immediate feedback can be given

Humanistic relationship can be cultivated

Built in accountability

Dependent on schedule coordinations

Typically more costly

Logistics may be an issue (distance, etc)



Online/Remote Coaching

Advantages

Disadvantages

More cost effective generally

Flexible scheduling 

Foster autonomy 

Can create a lack of human connection

Doesn’t provide immediate/tactile feedback

Can be difficult to see the full scope of trainee


Although this list isn’t exhaustive it does bring to light some of the important considerations when determining the style in which one wishes to be coached. Although each lifter must make the decision for themselves, as an athlete and a coach I tend to sway lifters to one side based on the following justifications.

In person coaching allows the coach to give coaching cues immediately both during and after the execution of the lifts. This thus creates an environment highly conducive to skill acquisition.  Auditory cues coupled with tactile and kinesthetic awareness allows the lifter to be engulfed in the coaching of their lifts because feedback is immediate. During remote or online coaching, one may need to wait a day or more for this feedback, long after the actual lift has occurred. Because of this, the mind-body connection of said cue or technique refinement can’t really be made until the next training session and even then, it is up to the athlete to properly and effectively implement the cue. Further, sometimes this cue is best given in a way that requires tactile or visual methods so unless the coach is not only effective but concise in their writing abilities, this can sometimes be missed through online coaching. However, online coaching still provides numerous advantages with the biggest being it provides the opportunity for more people to get involved in the sport without the barrier of high costs and lack of proximity that would normally be present with in-person coaching being the only option.  Online coaching can be extremely effective from a technique point of view when the coach is well versed in video analysis and has the ability to effectively communicate (usually through written dialogue).

The question then becomes how does one know which style of coaching best suits their needs and abilities?

Selecting a Coach

Before making the decision on selecting coach one should consider the following:

What do you want out of the coaching relationship? 

Do you want to acquire the skill of the big 3 while being programmed? Or is programming really all you are after? Do you want to cultivate and foster a relationship with your coach or remain more autonomous with a little bit of assistance? All of these questions are important, especially when it comes to determining if “in person” or “online” coaching is the choice for you.

What coaching style resonates with you?

Are you an athlete who can be pushed and responds well to intense, “in your face” tactics? Perhaps you need a more compassionate, soft-spoken tone? Maybe somewhere in the middle, direct yet easy going?  These are all considerations to be made when shopping for a coach, because at the end of the day it is the style in which you are signing up for. Having an understanding of personality types that resonate (and don’t) with you can save a ton of headache down the road.

One of many or one of a few?

This is probably one of the biggest questions to consider after determining the type of coaching you want to adopt when shopping for a coach. The rise of social media has cultivated an increase in the amount of coaches available. Some coaches are affiliated with big strength programs, some are a little more “under the radar”, and some, unfortunately, are just great athletes who believe they can coach because they themselves are proficient at the sport.  Without going to in-depth, as it really could be an article on it’s own, one will want to consider this premise: as an athlete do you want to be one of many lifters on this coaches roster or do you want to be one of a very few? Insta-fame coaches have built a reputation around their name and brand and because of this athletes flock to them in droves. However, what many don’t talk about is the level of coaching that typically (not in all cases) occurs in this type of relationship. Feedback is limited and the athlete is just another number. Again, usually but not always, these coaches have the fame and also charge a fair rate, but it comes with a cost. If you’re after a true individualized approach and want to be one of a few athletes this coach can focus in on consider those coaches with limited roster spots as it will make a difference in the type (and amount) of communication and coaching you receive.  

Shopping and selecting a coach can turn into a full time job, but having an understanding of the qualities and modalities you are looking for can make the process easier and ultimately more successful. At the end of the day, the athlete-coach relationship can be one of the most profound elements in a lifter’s career as a coach will not only educate and guide the athlete along her journey, but they will influence their development and love (or hate) for the sport. Do your due diligence and choose wisely!

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