Training

The Power of Words


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Lately I’ve been thinking about my coaching style and how I get athletes to realize that the developed program will produce desired results. As a collegiate strength and conditioning coach in Olympic Sports you can almost be guaranteed to have more than one sport. Currently I am working with men’s golf, softball, sprinters, jumpers, multi event (decathlon and heptathlon) and throwers. Each of these sports and individuals require some specificity when developing a program, the stronger the relationship with coaches and athletes, the better!

As a coach one must research and venture to gain more experience in each of their sports. I challenge myself to know what my athletes are going through both in training and competition. Through observing practices, attending competitions I can develop a stronger relationship with the coaching staff and the athletes, ultimately benefitting everyone involved.

Relationships are tough to create at the start of a new job. Collegiate strength coaches are constantly moving, although Olympic sports coaches tend to stick around for a little bit longer. A coach comes in and must work with a new coaching staff and athletes, the sooner everyone is on the same page, the quicker the program can be utilized, and the faster results are achieved. A coach needs to come in and learn the names of all of their athletes! I cannot tell you what a difference it makes when addressing an athlete as “hey you!” or whatever the term of endearment of that day is. As opposed to “Kyle, knee’s out, feet flat!”

Along with knowing all athletes on a first name basis, you must be able to develop cues that can help them understand how to relate a movement in the weight room to what they are doing in their sport. I can write about “the transfer of training” forever, but being able to throw something out verbally can really help an athlete make the connection between weight room work and increase in production on the field.

As a former thrower I especially enjoy working with the throwers here at CSU. (They are not my favorite; I enjoy working with all of my teams) However, I remember back to the days at ‘Zona of raging in the weight room and dropping bombs in the shot and disc. A thrower is usually very motivated to hit the weight room and increase max rep numbers as quickly as possible. However, it takes a good coach to be able to channel an athlete’s intensity towards certain lifts in specific sessions at a planned time of the year. Helping to relay the similarities of an Olympic lift to a throwing event is a very sound way to help the athlete realize the transfer of their own weight room training to technical event success. Yes, the starting position in the snatch is much different to the entry in the discus. However, many similar aspects are involved when comparing the entire movement to one another. Both are very explosive, total body movements that require the highest level of neuromuscular efficiency and two full handfuls of RAGE!

“Tangent: Often I am asked “how much should I be able to (bench/squat/clean/snatch) to throw (19 through 70 meters) in (shot/disc/hammer/javelin)?  This question drives me nuts; as I’m sure it does several other strength/throws coaches around the world!  Throwing is a blend of so many athletic measurements. Technique always rules, strength is an easy way to see quick improvement. However that quick improvement quickly diminishes and one much is able to transfer their gained strength to their throws with loads of drills and throws of various weights. “

Utilizing sport-specific cues to establish a mental connection for an athlete can be a double edged sword. A strong example is telling a golfer (right handed for this example) to “keep the knee out” when landing on a single leg. So you’ve got a right handed golfer performing a single leg hop onto a box and the coach drops that cue. It is definitely the correct cue (to help prevent the valgus movement of the knee when landing on the box). The coach should use it, but refrain from overuse—and here’s why. As that golfer is told to “knees out, weight on outside of the foot, push knees out, etc.” he/she is thinking about that constantly. They are being conditioned in the weight room to drive the knee out, when it can become detrimental to their sport specific movement- the golf swing. During the back swing the golfer needs to establish a strong right side (actually driving the right knee medially) to create a strong base of support. This is completely opposite of the cues he/she is hearing in the weight room. YES it is a totally different movement, just be aware of the overuse of some cues as they can lead to unwanted changes in the technical event.

To summarize these are the main points:

  • Know your athletes by name (and position!)
  • Have/Develop an interest in the sports you coach- gain experience
  • Help them realize a transfer of training from weight room to sport skill
  • Research and be selective with coaching cues in the weight room

That is about all I’ve got time for now- Feel free to respond with questions / comments and I will do all I can to answer.

Adam Kuehl has worked with a variety of athletes in football, track and field, baseball and golf at the University of Arizona, University of Oklahoma. He is now an assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Colorado State University. He Adam was a 5-Time All-American at the University of Arizona while competing in the shot-put (x2) and discus (x3). He has thrown 63’9 in the Shot-put and 213’2 in the discus. He was the alternate to the 2008 USA Olympic Team in the discus and was the alternate to the 2005 and 2007 World Championships Teams placing 4th both times. He has been ranked top 25 in the world 4 different years.  Adam uses his knowledge and experience to motivate his athletes and transform them into machines of athletic success.  
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