Unknown Keys to Strength
We just had the CRAZIEST Sunday training session ever...
Sports performance is a unique field of training. It’s an area of athletic development where coaches need to foster a strong community, a strong training program, a strong internal AND external motivation that can assist in the development of athletes on various playing fields. Sure, exercise selection and movements matter but there are many other unspoken aspects that have an incredible impact on athlete development.
It’s 23 degrees Fahrenheit outside, breath is evident just from a simple cough, hands are cold and there is clear evidence of discomfort. Standing outside by the shot and discus circles, there is somehow 16 athletes CHOOSING to embrace the cold, to challenge themselves physically and mentally to work toward a goal. A speaker bumps J. Cole “Under the Sun” while everyone commences their abbreviated warm ups for the training session. Each athlete has their own specific goals, their own internal motivation, their own idea of what success and happiness is, yet they are all united by this sport of throwing.
The session goes forward. No one is complaining. It’s an unwritten rule to avoid acknowledging the discomfort that everyone is feeling. Instead, it’s a focus on movement to stay warm, movement to progress and movement to get the damn session complete! As a coach participating within the situation, I felt it was necessary to abide by the same unwritten rules. To provide immediate feedback, to keep the motivation rolling, to support the athletes and get everyone on the same wavelength.
Monster throws ensued. Everyone was focused, smashing throws, taking cues and making huge progress. Days like these are the days that throws coaches dream of, but what came after was even crazier. The throws session was grooving, everyone killed it and it was time to head inside, to finish the Sunday lift.
Not much was said as we entered the building. A few athletes acknowledged how nice it was to feel the warmth of the gym, a few noted that they needed some pre-workout to try and wake up their hands while a few of the professional throwers looked for their warm coffee. The athletes started to warm up, move around, establish their stake on the platform area and then immediately proceeded to smash weights.
Embrace discomfort. It was clear that everyone was cold AF, their hands were chilly but there were few, if any complaints about the outside temperature. Instead, it was accepted fact that no one could change and that meant it was time to smash throws!
Preparation for the next task. The athletes could have sat and whined for hours about how cold their hands and feet were. Instead, they did what was necessary to warm up and prepare for the next task during their sessions.
The next two hours became one of the most intense training sessions I have ever coached. This group of middle school, high school, collegiate and post-collegiate athletes did absolutely ABSURD actions during their session. Every single athlete was jiving off of one another. Bars to dropping, support was noticeable and the results were insane.
Noah Kennedy-White snatches 130, then 135k, then 140k and almost 145k.
Rachel Fatherly was destroying cleans, powering 100k like it was a toy, finishing up with cluster squats at 130k every 30 seconds.
Annika Ermold was busy hitting power snatch PR’s at 55k while embracing the professional intensity of the gym, advancing years ahead of her 15 year old body...adding a 75k behind the neck jerk to her PR session as well!
Nick Hyde and T’mond Johnson had recently joined the group and literally just put their noses down, smashed weights and hit various PR’s during this session.
Even my grumpy old-self mustered up a squat PR at 220k for my 35 year old body on our new Anthony Myers bar!
Maria Deaviz went OFF and back squatted 140kg for 4 reps! She is gearing up for a monster season in shot put this year.
It finally dawned on me. When boxers create training camps with other fighters, this is the motivation and community feeling they are searching for. The support of a large group that leads to an emotional intensity that is hard to actually measure or even recognize. It creates a sense of athletic mindfulness. The mature athletes rise to the top, they engage with the intensity and execute to the emotional level that is present.
That brings us to Sam Mattis.
Sam is one of the most explosive athletes on the planet. What he did inside the doors on this Sunday may be one of the most impressive physical feats. He had come in from smashing throws, looking like a machine. I had planted some information inside his brain and Noah’s brain. Alex (Rose) had just thrown 62.76 indoors. They couldn’t believe it. As it sank into their psyche, I believe that also sparked an even greater intensity. Noah smacked a clean PR but Sam WENT OFF.
First it was his snatch.
Sam just SMASHED his PR snatch, good speed, good movement, good technical learning at high speeds. That is why he is one of the best in the world.
He wasn’t finished.
Next came his behind the neck jerks. We have joked in the past about Sam jerking 227k/500lbs. I have told him that if he can hit the split position and HOLD that position with that kind of load and rapid movement, then he should be capable of holding that same position on a 70 meter throw. Well...as he ramped up, it became clear that something special was about to happen.
What the hell? Did Sam just smack 500lbs on the behind the neck jerk right after snatching 150k?!?!?
Yes, he did.
Maybe he would go a tad lighter in squats. We had discussed that last year as we went into our one and only indoor discus competition, that I had set him up with 240k cluster squats to see if he could throw far while under a significant amount of stress. He ended up bombing 63.60 for one of the furthest indoor throws in American history. With that discussion, I told him that I did not mind if he went HAM during the beginning parts of this week to see what kind of feedback we could get from this year’s indoor competition.
He certainly went HAM. As he warmed up for squats, he felt strong, mobile and ready to go big.
Sam finished one of the greatest throws training sessions of all time with a 285k/627lb back squat.
He went from TERRORIZING the discus circle, to smashing snatches, behind the neck jerks and then of course his back squat.
The power of the GROOVE. The power of jiving. The power of positive energy. There are studies on group meditation, on group “flow,” on positive community participation. That is what happened during this training session. Let the group GROOVE. These are the sessions that strength coaches DREAM about. Where everyone is existing on the same emotional plane. Where each athlete understands their goals and contributes to the group existence and execution.
As a strength coach it is very important to recognize who is on, who is smashing weights and in good spirits and who isn’t. By slightly separating the different realm of athletes, the groove can be fostered a bit easier. It is also important as a coach to sit back and let the groove happen. Don’t do TOO MUCH as a coach, these are the actions of control that can inhibit the growth of your group and athletic performance. The more you can foster these types of sessions, the more your athletes can tap into the groove during competition and execute as well as possible!