4 Coaching Lessons and How To Grow From Failure
From The 2021 Pan American Championships In Olympic Weightlifting
A lot of coaches go through weightlifting competitions, or competitions in general in sports like wrestling, football, or track and field. Coaches tend to sit there and get really frustrated with how their athletes performed, almost to the point of blaming the athlete if they don’t do really well.
It is important that coaches recognize that anytime an athlete does something bad or loses, it is 99% of the time the coach’s fault. When the athlete does really, really well, 99% of the time it is the athlete’s success; the athletes put in the work, the effort, and they are the one who puts in the work.
It is all about the athlete; it is not about the coach.
Coaches need to get rid of their egos and recognize that everything that comes out positive is about the athlete. The journey is about cultivating and getting the athlete to grow as a person, become a better person for society, have crazy experiences, and constantly make progress in some way, shape, or form.
Reflecting after a competition is key. Pinpointing what were the wins and what were the losses are important.
Using Hayley Reichert’s Pan American Championship (2nd place in the female, 49 kg weight class!!!) competition as an example, we are going to look at two wins and two losses we gleaned from reflecting on that competitive experience to help everyone reading make progress as coaches and athletes.
Loss: Planning Out Longer Max Out Period
One of the biggest failures as a coach in this competition was preparing Hayley for rest times in competitions at the continental and world levels. There comes a time when there is just a lot of athletes in a very tight area.
At Pan Ams there were seven or eight girls opening up between 77-80 kilos. The struggle deals with planning out the warm-ups while being aware of how athletes can bump and not warming up the athlete too early.
We had a great plan devised, but there ended up being two times Hayley had to sit for about six minutes. With the heat and humidity factored in, we decided not to have Hayley take any more attempts. She took 80 kilos and smacked it. Went back to the warm-up area and hit 77, went back out, and hit 82 kilos on the platform. After that is where she had to wait six minutes before taking 84 kilos, which she missed.
We have timed Hayley’s maxes based on her own rhythm. She likes it to conclude around 30-32 minutes. Her snatch session took about 47 minutes. This is something we have to take into the future. Knowing that it takes about 15 minutes (50%) longer. It is important to recognize that when going into training and building them up for a really big competition that they need to be prepared for that comp. That means longer sessions during snatching, a much longer break between the snatch into clean and jerk, and then a really long session during clean and jerk as well. Athletes will need to recognize when training that some days a long time needs to be taken.
In the past, Hayley has tended to Clark big weights. This drives her nuts. This comes back on the coach. As the clean and jerks get really heavy, she goes to pull and the bar might be a little bit forward and she doesn’t go to get under it.
As athlete and coach, we need to have Hayley, when peaking, still maintain a lift that might be a slow pull to the shin, lower, and then a clean pull. We have never tried this because of fear of it lead to being unnecessary volume not needed, maybe causing fatigue on the back and even the legs. Still, we think it will help her really squeeze the bar tight through the heels, tight to the shin, as she comes back off the floor.
We believe snatches get athletes the kilos. Clean and jerks win the championships. Hayley is a beast clean and jerker. Moving forward we want to play around with this to see how she does earlier in a periodization block to figure out how she responds to that specific strength movement to help negate all the Clarks.
Win: Knowing The Plan
Remember the wins are all about the athlete. However, we as athlete and coach set out over six weeks leading up to the competition attempts and creating scenarios of attempts. We created two attempt base scenarios. Hayley knew almost exactly what her attempts were going to be.
We had all her warm-ups laid out on a resource. We had on this resource the two scenarios of attempts: one if she is really good, one if she was slightly off or if there was a log jam. We had this lined up and planned for in the snatch and the clean and jerk.
Knowing the plan for four weeks is huge. Coach and athlete knew the plan and constantly prepared for it. This made Hayley very familiar with all the attempts and this created a ton of confidence taking the attempts.
Win: Take Care Of The Little Things
Hayley has done a phenomenal job of maturing. Hayley has been an athlete at Garage Strength since 7th grade. She is turning 22. She is a world-class athlete.
Hayley takes care of all the little things. Think of nutrition. But that is not all she takes care of. She does nine training sessions in a week. Three days a week she trains twice a day. She handles volume like the competitor she is. On top of that, she needed to get acclimated to the heat.
We purchased a sauna for Garage Strength. Many coaches and athletes use the sauna at Garage Strength. Hayley, who takes care of the little things, went into the sauna five days a week for weeks leading up to the competition to adapt and become acclimated to the heat.
Doing things to hold oneself accountable is important: take care of mobility, take care of nutrition, and take care of all the other things that require critical aspects to improve.
Coach gets all the blame for the loss. The athlete gets all the accolades with the wins.
Take care of the little things, be critical, and always look for the wins and losses that can be taken away from every and any competition to take out of competitions. There is always a manner to make progress, even when things go great enough for a tremendous win.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.