While I’ve had a number of jobs in sports throughout my career, at one point in time I was a DJ. I guess you could say I like to get people moving. And just like mixing the right sequence of songs in a club, when it comes to coaching, you’ve got to read the room, grab attention, and adjust your levels for the best experience and results. (OK that analogy might sound like a stretch, but hear me out.)
I’ve been with EXOS as a performance specialist since 2011, working with some of the most elite football players, from the college level to retired professionals. The key to my success has been getting to know people as individuals, fostering relationships with co-workers and clients alike, and staying humble.
As a youth, I played baseball and tennis but admittedly wasn’t very good. I was better at running track. But I found my true passion playing football. In 1998 at Northern Arizona University, I walked onto the varsity football team and earned a scholarship my sophomore year playing defensive back. Here I learned all about team culture, and how it can shape players’ mindsets. Check your ego at the door: a lesson that would serve me well throughout my professional career.
After college, I stayed in Flagstaff, connected to the game I love, working as a high school football coach for two and a half years.
Then I moved to the Phoenix area where I worked as a physical therapist aid and football coach at Camelback High School. Seeing some of our athletes rehab a torn ACL and how much pain they were enduring and time they were putting in, I started to understand the importance of the performance coach role. And I realized that this was a passion I wanted to pursue further. A year and a half later, I began the sports performance and wellness program there, and led the operation for five and half years.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned during this time was to constantly seek feedback from athletes to help ensure we were providing the best guidance and physical therapy. It’s as simple as asking, “How do you feel today?” and “How was the session yesterday?”
As a performance specialist at Velocity Sports Performance in Carlsbad, California, for a couple years, and then finally EXOS, it’s been nothing but hands-on experience tailoring programs to athletes based on their goals, lifestyles, abilities, and preferences. And over the years I’ve only gotten better at gathering the right information from each athlete, and then using what I learn to design a program that’s not only sound but also fits the mentality of the athlete.
When training athletes, it’s important to be a guide almost like a parent. Sometimes you have to let them fail so that they know what failure feels like. For instance, I often see younger coaches try to correct every movement on day one of an athlete’s new program. When instead, it’s better to see the athlete move, decide where the origin of dysfunction is occurring, and then figure out the cue that best suits the athlete’s thought process.
Here are five coaching lessons that can help you amplify your impact and deliver the best experience to your athlete.
1. Spotlight motivation.
Uncover each athlete’s real motivation, that underlying reason why he or she is training, and use it to guide your decision-making.
2. Set expectations.
Let your athletes know the plan from the beginning so they can prepare day to day and week to week.
3. Assess, adjust, repeat.
Design movement tests that best fit an athlete’s lifestyle and sport demand, think about what you’re seeing, and use other exercises as additional assessments.
4. Continually seek feedback.
Ask how your athletes are feeling the day of training, and what they thought of the previous training session.
5. Dial intensity up and down accordingly.
Always have a variety of training plans ready, so you can go hard, take it easy, or do something in between.
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