Hayley Reichardt just returned from the Dominican Republic, where she competed in the IWF Senior Pan American Championships. Hayley hit a 71K snatch and 95K clean and jerk for fourth in the clean and jerk and 8th overall. This is part two of a series of reactions to the meet by Dane. See Part One here
As we saw with Hayley, nerves and the mental aspect were the weakest point of her competition in Santo Domingo. Even with this weakness, she was still able to post a fourth place finish in clean and jerk and an 8th place finish overall, contributing to the point system system for next year’s Pan Am Games. So...where can we go with her training?
The first analysis needs to be done with stress management in a high pressure situation. What can we as coaches and her support team do to improve or decrease the stress before and during the competition. To start, I need to do a better job with absolute specifics regarding her body weight and water consumption, especially in weather over 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, food intake prior to and after weigh ins needs to be more specific. Hayley and I are always well prepared with nutrition but I need to do a better job with very specific details. Post weigh ins, this needs to be very detailed as well, specific to the minute, ounce and type of food. This will prevent any overeating or undereating and lead to overall better feelings in general for competition.
Backroom coaching analysis is also a key to better communication and less stress. From the coach’s perspective, there needs to be a loader, an individual analyzing the cards and table, and an overall leader. The cardsman can watch the board, count attempts and communicate to the leader if anything has changed. The leader is the primary and occasionally sole individual to communicate with Hayley. This leaves foreign technical advice to a minimum, lessen confusion regarding movement and creates a situation with less talking heads. The leader can help load, help with attempts on the cards and be the technical translator to her.
Regarding mental preparation, there are a few aspects I could improve upon with Hayley. Activities like yoga and meditation or quiet sitting can lead to impressive control of the brain. Couple this with performance based breathing and there could be a dramatic improvement in mental capability. One final thing that may also lead to an improved mental aspect during performance would be challenging Hayley to snatch a little heavier on a more consistent basis. This helps with her confidence and could lead to an improved result.
The final aspect of improvement would be regarding her technical movement in the snatch. She holds a relatively strong position off the floor but struggles to maintain those positions leading into her second pull. This is an aspect of her movement that must be changed, and will be. With a slight tweak in her pull and strength improvements in her hams and hips, Hayley will continue to grow as a world class lifter.
In technical sports, coaches are notorious for becoming overly involved with technical progress, hypertechnical and downright obnoxious about cues and technical tweaking. This is very evident in the back room at any weightlifting comp and around the circles at any throws meet. Coaches are under the impression that during comps, more is better and if they cue every part of the movement or intensity, the athlete will succeed because of those countless cues.
In all reality, this is quite contrary to what actually works. The old saying of paralysis by analysis comes to mind. Athletes don’t know what to focus on, how to find appropriate feeling or even block their coach out of their head. Technical sports are introspective, the work has been done and feelings in competition are crucial to find for optimal performance. Coaches that talk or overly cue and athlete may be doing this because they are nervous themselves and don’t know how to expend their energy in competition. These situations arise not because of a lack of effort but instead because of a lack of preparation for the competitive environment.
How can this be prevented?
- Communicate with the athlete about their technical feelings and what cues lead to strong feelings for them
- Document and note those cues and those feelings, keep these in your back pocket during comps.
- Have one or two cues as technical priority heading into a comp. LISTEN to your athlete and SEE what they’re doing. If the athlete says something is off and in the past you need a cue to trigger that improved feeling, then pull out the simple cue and see if it works!
Prepare your cues based off priority. Keep the discussion simple and easy to understand and always value the feedback of your athlete.