The fitness industry as a whole has always gone through its shares of fads and trends. Anyone remember shake weights? In all seriousness, these trends are sometimes for the better. A lot of people thought CrossFit was going to be this fad that faded out as quickly as it came onto the scene. And yet here we are. Thriving and changing lives. So, what’s the latest trend we are seeing?
In my opinion, with the help of social media, the trend right now is to be the smartest person in the room. Or at least appear to be. Level 1? Check. Instagram account? Check. Now you’re armed to the teeth to change the world and let people know how smart you are. Honestly, I could rant about some of the accounts I’ve seen. They are laughable at the information they put out and yet, people follow them in droves. Baffling. Don’t get me wrong though. I love Instagram and I think for as many “I’m smarter than you, so here’s my butt” accounts there are, there are also a ton of coaches and athletes on Instagram who are providing some extremely insightful information.
A lot of people think that if you can spew statistics and recite protocols or regurgitate periodization methods, that you are a great coach. I believe this comes back to the age of social media where everyone could create this alternate persona and appear to be something they might not actually be. The science is always there and should be a major driving force when working with athletes, designing programs or coaching fitness classes that involve more technical movements, development of energy systems or simply getting a human to move better. But, should science be the only driving force? Is there more to it than reading a plethora of textbooks and being able to cite them on command? I think so. I hope so. The fitness industry is about working with humans and trying to make them better, healthier. The thing about humans though, is they aren’t robots. They don’t operate in this binary fashion where everything is black and white. There are unique personalities, different anatomical levers, different fears, different levels of confidence, different backgrounds, different experiences. Treating athletes (humans) as if they exist in a vacuum will only lead to you failing as a coach.
Learning how to blend the science and having an ability to understand that not everything is black and white is a major cornerstone of becoming a great coach. It has always been my belief that a great coach is not necessarily someone who has all the answers, but someone who knows enough and can get the most out of an athlete. Somewhere along the way, I think a lot of us (coaches) have lost sight of how important that last part is. Knowing enough and getting the most out of an athlete. At the end of the day, our goal is to help an athlete improve. That means that sometimes (often times) we will have to adjust certain things for the individual. Using science as a foundation and guide, but putting a unique spin on it to help that athlete. It’s funny actually, that as I’m writing this, I am having this ah-ha moment. Doesn’t that describe CrossFit? Using science, but individualizing it (scaling/modifying) to best suit the individual?
The street does goes both ways though, as does any relationship. As much as the coach needs to have the ability to tweak things for an athlete, the athlete also needs to effectively communicate with the coach. Letting them know about any issues, fears or feedback as to how something went. The more transparency from both parties will only allow both to continue making progress. It also requires trust from everyone involved; trust that your coach has your best interest in mind and trust that the athlete will work with you, not against you. It is a symbiotic relationship between athlete and coach. If the coach does well, so should the athlete. If the athlete does well, so should the coach.
So, what’s the takeaway? There has never been and will never be a simple solution to anyone’s fitness needs. There is great science and information out there to help guide you, but remember it isn’t necessarily the end all be all. Just because someone has as many followers as Beyonce, doesn’t mean they are automatically a great coach. Someone who focuses solely on the science and ignores the intricacies of what it actually means to be a human, is leaving a ton of potential on the table. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be the smartest person, but you need to know enough and have the ability to get the most out of an athlete. The relationship between coach and athlete has to be one where everyone wins. It is not a one-sided deal in which only one party enjoys the spoils.