From Athlete to Coach
As many of you know I am both a Strength coach and a Wrestling coach, but I started out just where everyone else did in this field, as an athlete first. From the age of 9 till I was 20, my life was consumed with folkstyle wrestling and later making the transition to MMA, but that’s a story for another post. For those of who don’t know, wrestling falls under one of the longest seasons as a sport next to hockey and swimming. Baseball falls under this list too if you count travel. From October to March, you are grinding out 6 days a week between practice, a meet during the week, and a tournament every weekend (which every tournament seems to last about 8-12 hours every time). If you follow my Facebook page*, you’ll see I just had two athletes that I work with had great success in their sports.
The MMA fighter I work with is a great guy that I first started working with when I was at a different gym. I reached out to see how he was and ended up working some wrestling technique, making a gameplan, and helping him cut weight the week of his fight. The night of his fight when I was watching him fight, I wasn’t anxious at all to see him fight, I was calm, collected and confident. I’ve been to some fights for my teammates before after I stopped competing and always had this itch to step back, ready to test myself again. I’ve even had this itch when I watched my wrestlers compete when I was volunteering as a JV coach. After seeing him getting his hand raised, there wasn’t that itch any more, just that same calmness and a sense of pride. It was then that I knew I had made the transition.
I think as an athlete, we are so focused on ourselves and in our respective sports for so long, that we really have trouble turning it off. Whether it is engrained in our personalities, or learned through years of practice, which can make being a coach sometimes very difficult. We can’t turn off the “ this is what I would do” voice in our head. It’s often times why the highest level athletes can’t transition over to coaching unless they get a guy that moves like they do. For the athletes you train, it really needs to turn into a “what’s best for the athlete” mentality. I know this goes without saying when you start coaching, but it’s a tougher feat than you think. Take a second and imagine you had an athlete with maybe a third of the knowledge you do about your sport. Now think how you would explain one of your favorite move/skill/strategy to them. Would you become frustrated that they couldn’t pick it up right away? What would you say to them to try to convey it better or would you give up on it or them? These are some of the thousands of questions you might have to run through when you encounter this situation, but if you didn’t once think in this scenario, “would this work for this athlete?”, then you may still be stuck in an athlete mindset and not ready to transition to coaching. I admit, there is much more to being a coach than this, but I do think this question is up in the top 3 things running through a coach’s head. Remember that we are investing in our athletes to make them better, not to live out our shortcomings or reminiscing of our “glory days” through them.