The Competitive Coaching Mindset

Every coach approaching a competition needs to have a plan for each athlete and the goals may vary with each lifter.  At recent competitions at which I’ve coached, I’ve had the opportunity to observe other coaches and not surprisingly many of them have no real plan in place.  This is obvious when lifts are missed and adjustments must be made in calling the weights for the next attempts. 

Some sample plans

The plan for coaching a first time lifter with no competitive experience is definitely a situation in need of a very specific outcome.  A poor performance can result in psychological trauma that can affect an athlete’s entire competitive career.  The goal should be to provide a rewarding experience that will whet the appetite.  The ideal outcome would be a six for six performance resulting in 3 PR’s.  In this scenario the weights would not be called so low that the athlete feels unchallenged.  Now the circumstances change if the athlete has had competitive experience in other sports and needs a challenge from the meet.  Definitely not a one size fits all situation if you have two or more first timers in the competition.

You could also be in a situation where you are coaching a “recovering” lifter who has had an especially bad experience previously.  This might be because of your coaching or it could be caused by another coach whom your athlete has recently abandoned.  In that case you might be looking for a successful outcome in terms of a high percentage of successful lifts.  This could also be the scenario for an athlete who is coming back from a severe injury and needs to regain confidence. 

Another not uncommon situation is the more advanced lifter who is part way through a macrocycle and is lifting in a meet just to test out the training while the real peak will take place in a few weeks in a major competition.  This will require a different mindset for the coach. 

The Most Obvious Plan

This is one in which the coach and athlete have been working together for at least a year and the programming has been written so that the peak will take place in the current competition.  At this point the athlete is trained to lift PR’s in both lifts and the coach knows exactly what weights should be lifted for the third attempts.  There should also be a firm idea in the mind of the coach for first and second attempts to insure an optimal run-up to the PR weights.  The anticipated result is a six for six performance with PR’s achieved on the third attempts.  Not only must the coach be aware of how the athlete responds to the training, but also how many kilos more the competitive ambience is worth. 

The Qualifying Scenario

Another common scenario is hitting the qualifying total for a higher level meet.  The best approach is to determine which numbers are necessary to make the total (depending on the relative abilities of the athlete) and plan on taking those on the second attempts.  This will allow two attempts at the appropriate weights if necessary. 

The Placing Scenario

This is the most reactive situation in which the goal is to beat one or more opponents.  With the lighter bodyweight factor out of the equation, coaches will need to be knowledgeable about how placings are determined in order to call the weights that will insure the highest placing.  When there are several athletes closely grouped this can be challenging to stay on top of the proper weight calls. 

Team Scoring

Team scoring can be fun, but it all too often ignores the personal goals of some of the athletes.  Some coaches, however, are quite taken with team scoring and have a clear idea of where each athlete must place in order to maximize team points.  If you can score high as a team while all your athletes are lifting PR’s, then you’re doing a fabulous job.  If, however, you are asking athletes to lift in a bodyweight class that is not their best option just to score more team points or you are ignoring an athlete once they’ve achieved a certain placing, then it’s time to revisit the goal of individual sports. 

Switching Mindsets

Not infrequently things don’t go as planned.  Whereas you might start out with the goal of an athlete easily qualifying for another event while on the way to setting 3 PR’s, when for some reason the first two snatches are missed.  This will require some mental slight of hand to re-group and qualify your athlete or simply keep them from bombing out. 

Multiply all of the above as you coach a team of 12 or more lifters at a meet and you can appreciate what a challenging job platform coaching can be.