A practical approach to individualization

To paraphrase Kelvin Giles, ‘If your coach: athlete ratio is 1:25 then you are managing a crowd, not coaching.’ Some coaches can only dream of that ratio because they regularly manage groups of 40 or 50 people in a session. Coaching large groups presents unique problems. For example, individualization may seem impossible and we have to hope that everyone gets some improvement.

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Introducing weightlifting to juniors

There are few things in coaching as rewarding as helping a young person achieve something for the first time: a forward roll, a cartwheel, leaping over a hurdle or standing up with a weight above their head. Their enthusiasm is contagious. Conversely, there are few things in coaching as difficult as coaching a group of young people whose minds and bodies are going through the turmoil of puberty and school and socialization. In this article I shall outline some of the coaching and technical ideas that I use when coaching juniors.

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Medicine ball myths and truths

The term medicine ball was coined by Robert J. Roberts in 1876. He had been inspired by one of the stories in Arabian Nights where an Eastern Potentate was advised by his physician to toss a large, soft ball of herbs a certain number of times a day until ‘he did sweat.’ Movement was being recommended as medicine back in ancient times. Roberts made a ball weighing 7-8lbs and sewn like a baseball. He then recommended a series of exercises in his work with the Y.M.C.A. that included lifting, circling and throwing the medicine ball. 

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Transferable coaching skills

What skills does a good coach need to have? Is there a universal measure to help us find these? Do we even care?

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Coaching speed for children

Most people assume genetics are the factor that determines sprinting. As the cliche goes: sprinters are born while marathoners are made. That may be accurate if your goal is to become a world-class sprinter. However, if you are an average human being and your goal is to run faster, then environment and coaching become important factors too. This is especially important with children.

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Four rules for microdosing training

With the exceptions of professional athletes and some students, most sportspeople are time poor. Travel, work, study,  family and competing, take up time in strangely inconvenient blocks that mess up your meticulous training routine. If the plan says, “90 minutes”, then it is easy to become disheartened when you only have 60 available. Or, for the ultra-committed, you become sleep-deprived as sleep is what “gives” in order to “make-it.” This is a short-term solution that comes back to kick you in the backside as you underperform in your sport or life.

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Improving mobility for weightlifting

The sport of weightlifting requires speed, strength, coordination, and mobility all packed together with skill. Anyone can pick something off the floor, but picking something heavy up and lifting it above the head is much more difficult. Even the strongest individuals can only lift heavy weights so far off the floor. Therefore, in order to lift, you have to get under the bar. And do it quickly under time constraints. This is the essence of weightlifting and distinguishes it from the other ‘strength’ sports such as powerlifting and strongman.

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Coaching across the spectrum of styles

??There are many different styles of coaching. A coach might be direct, quiet, or use guided discovery. Coaches might be stronger with some styles than others and they may revert to that style by default. Athletes might learn better with a one style or another. And some tasks also demand a certain style: explaining where the fire exits are using a free exploration style before you start coaching a new group will simply waste time. A direct style is best suited for this. Where the style of the coach, athlete, and task line up match, good things can happen. Where they don’t, conflict or disappointment may result.

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Penetrating the data smog through better visualization

As anyone who witnessed the UK government’s recent presentation on COVID-19 data will know, data is only useful if it can be read and understood clearly. For those who missed the broadcast, the presentation consisted of many slides of data with the BBC banner on the screen blocking out the titles! The audience of millions was left looking at lines and bar charts that had no context or explanation. Unfortunately such examples can easily be found in the world of sport too. Read more

A planning framework for weightlifting

The people who come to our club to learn weight lifting are normally in their mid to late twenties and have had experience of lifting a barbell before. Unfortunately, a lot of them use the C-word in their enquiry, but I don’t hold that against them. They have found that they like the lifting part of Crossfit and want to just do weight lifting or they want to improve their technique to go back to their box. A few of these novices want to compete and whilst they won’t break records they have managed to win medals in their age/weight categories since training at our club. Read more