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How a coach delivers his words: Precise selection vital

In an email, I wrote about the selection of words and some impact that they might have.  Intended or not.  Here is a post I read recently from a sports psychologist relating a story about a golfer and his coach.
“…I worked with a young golfer once. 14 years old, scratch handicap, incredible putter. He had a bad putting day and his coach said…”Even the best putters in the world miss loads. Look at the stats from the PGA Tour – the very best putter only makes 50% of 8 foot putts. Isn’t that amazing…that’s a fact”
…the 14 year old looked up teary eyed
“But I can’t believe that…I make every 8 foot putt. I’m really good from 8 foot”
And from then on the 14 year old became an average putter. Why? Perhaps because he had been exposed to objectivity. He’d seen fact. He couldn’t create his own reality.
When he’d missed 8 foot putts before he hadn’t even thought about it. “It doesn’t matter. I always hole those” he said to himself…and off he went to the next tee. He didn’t think about missing the next one. He didn’t think about stats…he didn’t contemplate the idea that the best players miss 50% from 8 foot.
Should the coach be blamed? Absolutely not. He was doing his job…he was helping the player think rationally.
Only sometimes coaches get their craft wrong. They lean towards the science rather than the art. Other times they lean towards the art when science was the best explanation.
It’s likely a balance and it’s a blend…that sweet-spot…that’s the craft of coaching…”
In our club, we have three coaches.  All of us love to coach though each sees the lift in a different manner.  Each processes it in a different manner and each decides whether to give feedback and what that feedback might be.  Lifters lift in a different manner and each has his own communication method.  This allows cues or short instructions to be absorbed or rejected.  On any given day, lifters and coaches may or may not align.  Ultimately, the direction has to be toward better technique with more weight on the bar to the best of that individual’s ability.   There is art and science to making progress.
We have had lifters who only responded to harsh, though kind, criticism.  We have had other lifters who could only process what they wanted to hear versus needed to hear.  “You’re not strong enough today” would lead to tears being shed.
 
We have had a number of lifters who have left our club to go elsewhere as they thought that this path to progress was not to their liking and that our coaching was not getting them there.  I agree that there are times that there are irreconcilable differences between a coach and a lifter and this issue should be addressed prior to any drastic changes being made. Believe me, it rarely happens.  I can think of only one lifter (of course she did make the Olympics) who left and actually had their lifts improve.  All the other lifters either left the sport shortly thereafter or, which I think is worse, labored for months and years never putting much more than a kilo or two on their lifts.  Sigh.
“Hang around, get coached, make progress,’ said the Platform, “Who knew?”

About the author: USAW National Coach President and Head Coach Cincinnati Weightlifting Club Numerous Master Weightlifting national and state records Silver Medal World Championships, Masters 2013 National Championships Meet Director 2013 National Championships, Bronze Medal, 56 kilo 2012 Ohio Club Champion 85 kg 2011 Team Champion Ohio Weightlifting Championships 2011 Best Overall Male Lifter, Ohio Championships 2010 American Open Championships Meet Director 2010 Asian Games Gold Medalist 2010 Best Female Lifter, East Tennessee State University Open 2009 Ohio Club State Champion 69 kg 2008 Ohio Club Champions 2008 Ohio Club State Champion 77 kg 2007 Ohio Club Co- Champions 2007 World Weightlifting Championships 7th place 2008 National Junior Champion 75+ kg now a 2012 Olympian

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