Some final thoughts on the future of coaching

The HMMR site theme in February was the future of training. I’m a little late to the party, but wanted to add a few points about the future of coaching. After listening to the thoughts of other coaches, many people gave insight into the future of training, but the future of the profession is just as important.

» Learn more: find links to all our new articles, videos, and podcasts about the future of training.

We will always need coaches

Let’s start with a good thing about the future of coaching: there will still be a profession of coaching. There will be always a big demand for coaches. Kids need coaches, high-performance-athletes need coaches and normal people too – for sure. Technology and coaching apps might help a small segment of athletes, but there will still be a need for the human touch at all levels.

The search for “balance” is futile

While we might still have jobs, things are going to get more complicated or more challenging. In my environment, there is this empty term “work-life balance” going around. Everybody is searching for it. I think work-life balance is a myth and simply a phrase some people use to sell books and seminars. The bank accounts of these coaches are the only thing I see with a good balance.

Coaching is a passion. I never thought I would quote a runner, but as Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness wrote in The Passion Paradox, passion and balance are antithetical. If you’re dedicated, accept the needs of this profession. Good coaching requires time. I know many individuals with great coaching potential that don’t start coaching because of the hours or commitment required. That’s fine. If you don’t have the passion to put in the time you’ll get passed by for jobs and you’ll get passed by as others learn faster.

The good news is that if you have a more or less understanding family, you’ll be fine. Learn this lesson early and you’ll be in a good position in the future.

Solving the PE problem

Kids and younger athletes come from a different level of fitness than we had 20 or even 40 years ago. Today there are so many activities kids can do that don’t require them to move more than their thumbs. As a result, they move less and our whole society is changing. The big challenge here is simple: get these kids an appropriate level in movement, motor learning, and familiar with training. If you fail at the beginning, you’ll run into problems training and staying healthy when they reach high performance training.

As a high performance coach, you do not always have influence over what happens before athletes come to you. So as a practical reality, I think we will see a higher need to take a step back and work on the basics with these athletes. And, as a result, we will see longer processes to get into world class and we will have a higher dropout rate because of the longer time required. This is an unfortunate future of coaching.

Finding the right place for technology

Another challenge for sure is all the technology we can use in our training. Nowadays it’s possible to measure nearly everything and get lots of data out of it. What is even better is that most of these toys are inexpensive and easy to use. But what do we really need them all? Do we need to know every speed of every lift, every angle of every movement, every step an athlete took? Do we need to have a video of every rep in the gym or every throw? I don’t think so. For sure, numbers can give us the comfort to decide easier and better, what to do and hopefully when to do.

I mention this as I see the art of coaching declining as the use of technology increases in the future. Just look around now at competitions and see the number of people recording everything and watching it before they are able to speak to an athlete. More and more coaches will lose their eye for movements and rhythm. Often I can tell my biomechanics before the see the video of a throw, what they will see or the changes they see compared to the video before.

Technology also has an impact on training methods and how we use the data to plan our training. Too much data can confuse athletes and coaches since we assume numbers can’t lie. But they can mislead if they are not put in context. You have to put the numbers in context of the actual training situation, time of the year, etc.

Don’t get me wrong here, I love to use technology myself. I measure bar speeds and record throws. The only difference is that I do not do it on a daily basis. For example, we might use video every week or two depending on the technical issues we try are trying to solve. The most important “data” I get is old school: I talk to my athletes every morning and watch them move. We rely on these main tools first and use technology for testing and validation and second-level support.

Rethinking regeneration

When it comes down to athlete monitoring and regeneration, the recent trend is to regenerate our athletes to death. Everyone is talking about regeneration. But before you need to regenerate you need to work hard and heavy. Not just for one session or one day, but for a few days or weeks in a row, to get that stimulus, that gets everything growing.

I know, there are a lot of papers and studies out there right now about regeneration, but I am sometimes skeptical of research. Most of them are made with students or “well-trained” people, but when you look closer you see “well-trained” means somebody who works out twice a week. In other words, they train less than my 10-year-old daughter is doing for fun. If you work out twice a week, you don’t need to think about regeneration, you get enough anyway. For “normal” people nearly every training works somehow. They will get better. It’s like young boys in puberty. Just show them a gym and they will get stronger. We are talking about high-performance athletes, with a life-long training, the story is different. I do not see athlete monitoring systems as the big step forward here. Again, I fall back on our old school data: good communication with athletes is the key for all needed decisions.

Put the ego aside

More and more specialists are entering the coaching team. As we talked about on the HMMR Hangout recently, my coach used to do everything himself. Coaches now have access to strength and conditioning specialists, sports scientists, nutritionists, and more. What does this mean? You need to put away your big ego. Why? These specialists could help you a lot.

» Related content: René Sack joined other coaches to discuss this point an more in our January 2020 member hangout on training trends.

Rather than letting your ego run the show, try to build a team of experts around you and let them help you and your athletes. Egos can do a lot of damage here. If someone in your team tells you that you’re not doing things right or could do things in a better or easier way – don’t get mad. They don’t want your job or your athletes. They are trying to help you. Listen, think and discuss it. At the end as a coach you have to decide the way, because your name stands behind the athletes name. Set up a system to communicate and share things. If the whole team works towards the same goal, you all will improve and learn.

Final words

One last thing I learned over the years: don‘t overthink things. Before thinking about the future, you have to see how the present will play itself out first. Trust in your system and let it do its job. There are always things you could do better. But if you change weekly, you won‘t get results.