Practice What You Preach: From a Competitive Athlete’s Perspective

As a child, I just wanted to play. Play with my friends, play on the field, play on the court, just play. I had a good experience in youth sports. I was with my friends, just playing. As I grew older and transitioned to higher-level competition, I began to recognize coaching and what made a good coach good, and a bad coach bad. The good coaches always told stories. They told stories about how the sport we were participating in related to life and it’s ups and downs. How it’s application could make us better people in society, and ultimately teach us things that school, and other professions could not. They cried with us when we lost big games, and they celebrated with us when we exceeded our own expectations. They pushed us to where we needed to go, and they knew our potential before they ever saw us with a ball or a barbell. They played with us.

Bad coaches didn’t care. They coached for a stipend, or because their child was on the team. They didn’t understand the human body, and how to properly condition and prepare us for sport and exercise. They made us scrimmage until somebody could muster up the courage to ask “why.” They didn’t have empathy for us. They made us run the same drills over, and over again until we lost motivation. Same amount of free throws, same amount of routes, and same amount of at-bats. Most importantly, these coaches were out of shape and didn’t play with us.

They told us what to do, and not how to do it. They claimed to know everything because “they had been playing their whole life.” I have heard that so many times in sport, and in fitness. Participating in a sport or exercise for a long period of time does not mean that you know how to coach, or how to play. It does not mean that you can teach someone how to cycle a barbell, or do a simple body-weight squat. Or how to properly transition an athlete from one movement to another to save time in an intense competition. It just means that you have participated in sport and fitness for your duration.

If you coach me I want to see you play. I want to see you workout. I want to see your facial expressions when a workout gets hard. I want to see your reaction after a workout like Fran. I want to see you hold on to the barbell for the duration of Grace and Isabel like you tell me to. I want to see you row your legs off for the last 20 calories of a workout like you tell me to. I want to see you react in the realm of adversity. Don’t tell me to run when you aren’t running. Don’t tell me I should be eating properly and counting my macro-nutrients when you aren’t doing it, and don’t tell me I should be working out to the point of vomiting, when you aren’t doing it. I want to see you perform the same cues better than me when you tell me to “punch the ceiling” on a snatch, or “punch my elbows through on a clean.” I want you to figure me out as an athlete, and empathize with me when I’m having a bad workout week. I want you to tell me I’m slacking when I’m going half speed. I want you to know who I am, and what my motives are. Most importantly, I want you to practice what you preach.

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