Mike Robertson, owner of Robertson Training Systems and the co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training, writes in a genuine and heartfelt way about six key Lessons in Coaching he has learned in his fourteen years as a coach to athletes all across the spectrum.
Lesson 1: It’s a Relationship
“Sure, there are some coaches out there that can rule with an iron fist, yell and scream at their athletes, and do things 100% their way. If certain coaches do it 100% their way and have success, good for them. But as a former athlete myself, that approach doesn’t really jive with me.
I prefer to balance what an athlete wants with what I know they need.
This is highly dependent on the age and skill level of the athlete you’re working with. If you’ve got a young kid who has never trained with anyone before, chances are they’re willing to do whatever you ask of them.
On the other hand if you’re working with an elite athlete that’s playing at the highest level of their sport, you’re probably going to have to make a few concessions along the way.
But this is the essence of a relationship. Both people in that relationship have wants and needs, and the goal is to balance these so that each of the people in the relationship is fulfilled and having their needs met.”
Lesson 2: You Must Develop Foundations
The Movement Foundation
Creating mobility without optimizing stability is a huge issue, and I see it in many of the training programs that are out there today. Far too many programs out there assume that if you’re strong, you’re stable.
I can tell you without reservation this is not the case. I’ve seen guys squat 1,000 pounds who couldn’t do a lunge or split-squat, and guys that can bench press in excess of 700 pounds that have no scapular stability whatsoever … While mobility may be first in the pyramid, I think that’s something of a misnomer. Mobility and stability must go hand-in-hand when creating functional movement
The Maximal Strength Foundation
Getting stronger can also improve endurance capacity simply because it makes you more efficient and economical.The cool thing about maximal strength isn’t just the fact that you get stronger, but how that strength can spill over into numerous other qualities as well. Strength training has the ability to improve power, speed, and agility. I think we’ve all seen this with the athletes we train.
On the other end of the spectrum, getting stronger can also improve endurance capacity simply because it makes you more efficient and economical.
Now I’m not saying you go out with your 13-year-old and start pushing max weights; it’s a process. Zatsiorsky often talks about the three-year rule with young athletes: They don’t use anything other than a PVC pipe or the body weight for the first three years of training.
In my estimation, this is perfect in that 10-13 age range. 6-9 years old? Let them play, learn a bunch of sports, and be kids.
If your kid is on “travel” or “Elite” anything from 6-9 years of age, you need to re-evaluate your priorities. (Yes, I said that right. YOUR priorities).
The Aerobic Foundation
So many of our athletes today are stressed out, poorly recovered, overly sympathetic dominant, can’t sleep, can’t relax, and flat-out can’t recover. … Life stress, work stress, training stress, financial stress, it all goes into the same bucket. And that bucket is constantly getting filled up.
This bucket also represents your sympathetic nervous system. You’re constantly telling your body, “I’m stressesed out – I have to deal with this.” All day, every day, you’re fight or flight.
But what if you don’t have any equally strong parasympathetic nervous system to shut it off? To tell you body, “you know what – it’s cool. I got this.”
Arguably the greatest benefit of training the aerobic energy system is strengthening that parasympathetic drive. It provides balance to all the high-intensity, balls-to-the-wall training that our athletes get dumped on them every single day.
… [And] just because it’s long duration and low intensity doesn’t mean it has to be cyclical, mind-numbing exercise like running, biking, etc. It can be playing a sport at low intensity, working on technical skills, or even working on correctives, mobility and stability.
Lesson 3: There Is No Perfect Program
“That perfect 16- or 20-week block periodization protocol you wrote up just for fun? Or for a class project? Unfortunately, that just doesn’t work in the real world. Unless you’re working with Olympic caliber athletes whose only sport is to compete in World Championships and/or the Olympics, and whose life solely revolves around training, this just isn’t reality.
Here are a couple of the realities I deal with on an ongoing basis:
- Collegiate soccer player comes back in the off-season with 10 weeks to train. Needs to re-build movement foundation, get stronger, and build a massive aerobic base to endure sport-specific training and conditioning tests.
- MLS soccer player comes in for a 6-8 week off-season. Training must not only re-build aerobic foundation, but also address strength and power needs that should lay the foundation for a 9-10 month competitive season.
- NBA basketball player comes in with approximately 3 months to train during his off-season. Goals are to improve conditioning, strength and power. This foundation must last the entire 82 game season (100+ games depending on playoff schedule).
Can you see why that beautiful 16- or 20-week program doesn’t work?
… Your challenge as a performance coach will be to write the best training program possible for this athlete, given where they’re at now, and taking into account how long you actually have to train them.”