Thursday, April 20, 2006

Does a coach have to have been a great athlete?

I was thinking about coaching yesterday, as I gave myself a dose of my own video-feedback medicine. I will never be a good weightlifter. I am fairly strong for my age and gender, but the power/speed just isn't there and the lack of ankle mobility combined with the patellar arthritic changes (12 years of volleyball) make it challenging for me to hit full squat positions. The video absolutely shouted that at me--and it was good to actually see how I moved, and see that I make many of the same mistakes I critique in my athletes and clients.

Nothing like the painfully raw truth to open your eyes.

That said, it made me think about the impact I have had on athletes, whether it has been in volleyball, basketball, cycling or weightlifting. Masters or school-agers. There are those that believe a great coach must have been a great athlete in that given sport. I disagree. There are many great coaches who have been great athletes; there are also those coaches who have not been good athletes. A great example is swim coaching legend Bill Boomer. Apparently the guy never swam a day in his life, but as coach at the University of Rochester in the 1980's he revolutionized and developed many new concepts in the sport of swimming. Google Bill Boomer and see how influential he's been.

So if you have a good eye, an understanding of human mechanics, maybe some anatomy and physiology, passion for the sport and know how to effectively communicate, you can be a successful coach! Any comments? Anyone know a great athlete who's been a complete flop at coaching? I think we can all name a few of those.

So, even though I am sometimes a bit disappointed in my struggle to succeed at various sporting endeavors, I take solace in the fact that I can have a positive impact on other athletes of all ages. It makes a person feel good to get comments like the following from two young athletes:

"Of course, I will keep you updated as to how things are going. In fact, I would love to have you involved in my lifting to whatever extent possible. You offer very good training tools, and great insight...."

or

"I have greatly enjoyed working with you these past years. Thanks for everything you have done for me. I also appreciated you working with me over the summer, on my knees and my back and getting me ready to play vs. Vianney, which we won."

Nothing like winning the big game against the biggest rival to make an athlete really appreciate a coach! :-)

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