The Asking of, "WHY"?

Don’t F*$k With Me

The chatty Cathy, the kid who loves to challenge everything, the kid who simply wants to learn but the coaches ego gets in the way because that kid can be extremely annoying.

This kid was Tyler Schade for me. Two weeks out from Junior Nationals, Tyler came up to me

and said, “Why am I doing this?”

Looking back, his question was inquisitive. However, I perceived his tone of voice as a challenge to my program, the program I built to get him to peak well and potentially win the Junior National title and qualify for Junior Pan Ams or the Junior World team.

I lost it. My blood pressure went through the roof, I started pointing and raging and reacted like an imbecile. This is something I tend to do every 4-6 weeks, particularly when I am struggling with stress management. I broke Tyler, but most importantly, I broke myself. My ego got in the way and a simple question from a 19-year-old kid put me over the edge.

Fortunately, Tyler did indeed win the Junior National title, he also earned a spot on the USA Junior Pan Am team, he and I grew from that experience and it got me thinking about his question more and more.


The idea of the athlete saying/asking, “Why?” to the coach is like a freshly sharpened ax blade. Why is a loaded word. The connotation in which the coach perceives the question, “Why?” as well as how the athlete projects the word, can go a long way in strengthening or ruining the relationship dynamic.

To begin, the question of “why” can be a challenge from the athlete to the coach. It can come across as pointed and ill-tempered. The question of “why” as a challenge is not good. To be technically precise, it’s horrible. As an athlete, don’t ask the question “why” in an effort to challenge your coach. It’s unhealthy and detrimental to the relationship. The coach, and rightfully so, will feel disrespected as if they are being undermined, while the athlete is showing attributes of being uncoachable. This is not a mixture for success.

But “why” as a question can also be a seeking of understanding for the athlete from the coach. For instance, why can be phrased and delivered in a way that communicates: what does this fix regarding technique? What position in the lift does it strengthen? How does this help me as an athlete? These forms of the question of “why” are healthy and positive for the athlete/coach relationship dynamic. The questions allow the coach to showcase their understanding of movement patterns and proper technique, as well as indicating the athlete wants to grow within the sport of weightlifting by gaining a deeper understanding of positions and technical aspects of the sport. A conversation around how the question of “why” should be used by an athlete to a coach is paramount to improving and growing the relationship dynamic and exploiting its full potential.

As a coach, you need to be very secure and level headed when the question of “why” is vocalized to you by an athlete. First, assume the athlete is seeking knowledge and not coming at you (even if the tone of voice indicates knives are out). Deliver your response to the question deliberately and with confidence. Don’t over-explain. Keep the explanation concise and to the most crucial points for how you want thinks executed. If an athlete persists in questioning, you as the coach can look at it in two possible ways: 1. The athlete is frustrated with their progress/training session/numbers/whatever happened before lifting/work/spouse/etc., etc., etc., and they want a magical solution to materialize--which isn’t going to happen. Everybody knows the key to weightlifting is consistency and perseverance day in and day out over the course of a multi-year marathon of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly grinds. 2. The better way to look at it is that the athlete asking you the question of why is providing you with an opportunity to sharpen your technical mindset, technical explanations, and how to effectively coach athletes. By taking this mindset, you are taking control of the situation in a way that positively contributes to your coaching repertoire.

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