Peak Problems: The Coach Sucks

Warming up for a big competition, the coach is giving 5 cues. The athlete gives a nod and the next throw, the next lift, the next warm-up, the coach adds a sixth cue. The athlete shows frustration, they are breaking mentally, they can’t hone in on what the hell they should be feeling or even how intense their movement should be executed. The next rep they are all over the place, their positions are inconsistent and the preparation becomes a disaster.

Peaking is difficult, coaching is difficult, athlete communication is difficult and often times coaches do a really good job of messing up a perfectly fine peak. Strength coaches will layout a perfect plan, they follow everything precisely, their periodization model, they know their athletes sleep cycle, they even know their female athletes menstrual cycle, they try to put effort into every single possible physical aspect of training and competition that could have a negative or positive impact on the athlete’s performance. They lay in bed, giggling at how well they put together a plan, not recognizing that they will be the ones that completely ruin that exact plan.

Where does the failure begin?

We all know the dude who never SHUTS THE HELL UP. The guy that your weird friend brings along to the bar, the dude who stands their and tells you their entire life story. I like to call those dudes, “Toppers.” They love to hear themselves talk, they struggle to deal with silence, they would likely die if they drove in a vehicle for more than 17 minutes without a stereo playing their favorite songs from the ’90s (The Cardigans - Lovefool).

And that’s exactly where all decent coaches find themselves heading into a peak with their athlete. They are anxious, nervous about the performance ahead, wondering if the athlete will execute as well as possible and if they don’t the coach is already developing a plethora of excuses to place blame on the athlete. Because of the tension, the coach struggles to shut their mouth. Every poorly executed rep forces the coach to second guess their cues, their periodization and ultimately their existence (speaking from experience…..).

What can they do? Remember the old adage, “consistency is key.” Be consistent. Understand the work has been done, the previous 6-8 months led to the development of this peak. Pick 1-2 cues, focus on those cues for 2 straight weeks, nothing else. If something glaring pops up, address the glaring problem BUT in an ideal situation, the coach should continue to address the 1-2 cues that will lead to a monster peak for the athlete. Remember, the more consistent the athlete moves, the better! Their movement may not be the best technical movement but if they are consistent in their movement and trust the positions, they will be able to increase their aggressiveness knowing they will still smash a throw!

Recovery Takes Time

You taper back the athlete, 6 days later they look flat, no pop, fatigued and unmotivated. Coach thinks the taper was an epic failure, the athlete thinks they need to max back squat the day before competition from this day forth and the world is going to end and the athlete will never compete well ever again!

But seriously, what the hell happened? As I worked with a large number of athletes over the last decade, I started to notice a few things that made me put my head through a wall.

Actual hole Dane put in the wall out of frustration.

Some athletes recover within one week, some athletes take two weeks, some athletes take 3 weeks to recover. It’s important to understand which individual recovers and at what pace. Part of recovery is also learning the new speed of technical execution that will occur in a recovered body. This is where months and years of experimentation come into play. Provide various stimuli to the athlete, understand their micro AND macro response to training and then over time determine the period of adaptation an athlete goes through.

This is something I learned from Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk while training under his tutelage. Over the year working with him, I picked his brain and would ask him questions upon questions, to the point of being extraordinarily annoying! He would show me reaction curves, he would compare me to Dylan Armstrong and Dylan and I to our training partners Jesse Roberge and Justin Rodhe. The lessons he taught me never fully sank in until I began to work with athletes during my own coaching endeavors.

Rule of thumb: understand periods of adaptations, use them to the athlete's advantage and attempt to even educate the athlete on the principles to ensure success can continue.

Continued Failure: Changing the Environment

Impatience is the death of a good coach, not just from the athletes perspective but also the coaches perspective. We all have had the coach who loses his/her mind after a plan has been implemented. The first three to four days on a program may be rough for the individual, the coach listens to the athlete (too much so) and hears their negativity and takes it: 1. As a personal attack or 2. As a sign, they should change the program again. This shows a lack of trust in the training system the coach is adhering to and also shows an utter lack of confidence. The athlete then picks up on the coaches insecurity and that negativity is proliferated throughout the training group.

When designing a program, it’s important for the coach to write out their expected response from the athlete. How do they perceive the athlete responding daily and how do they perceive the stress impacting the athlete, both daily and weekly? When these are documented and communicated to the athlete, the athlete then understands expectations and can then do a better job holding themselves accountable mentally. The mental aspect is a CRUCIAL part of peaking that we often forget as coaches. If the athlete simply buys into the program and buys into the response they will also buy into the long term result!

Remember, every time a program is changed, those are extra days of adaptations the individual must make as an organism. That can further delay full recovery and lead to a negative response long term.

Decrease Stress on All Levels

Peak week is around the corner, stress is high and the coach is on edge. We have all seen and heard the coach on edge lose their mind over something small during a stressful period. This leads to a negative impact on the athletes AND the coach and can create tension within the group. If the coach is stressed, that will rub off on the athlete and extra stress on the athlete will lead to a negative impact on their peaking. This is why it’s important that the coach not only educates the athlete on stress management but they themselves also engage in stress management to ensure a level headed training period.

Some keys from the coach should be to make sure everyone is engaging in yoga throughout the season. As the peak comes along, the COACH should be utilizing yoga, they should be engaging in meditation and creating healthy responses to situations of stress. As a coach, it’s important to take a step back and recognize the intensity of each situation. I believe some of the best things for a coach to do are the simplest things to get done to avoid a potential mind meltdown during peak week.

1. Have a morning and evening ritual to start and end the day.

2. Every evening, plan out the next day so you know what stress to expect and what stress will be hard to handle.

3. Meditate in the morning and then write down your daily goals in your planner.

4. Exercise and meal prep, make sure you have your workout in and food is pre-planned for recovery.

5. Make travel simple. Book direct flights and avoid long drives.

6. Make checklists to get things done!

Missed Peaks

Most peaks are missed because of poor planning from the coach, poor communication and being negligent to hold athletes accountable for their reactions. Communicate every step of the way, focus on simple methods of execution, educate the athlete on the training system and plan ahead. These simple steps will lead to MASSIVE PR’s, a great experience and improved coach/athlete relationship.

Click here for Part 1: https://www.garagestrength.com/post/peak-problems-the-athletes-fault

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