There are currently a considerable number of weightlifting coaches in this country who are newcomers to both weightlifting competition specifically and sports competition in general.  For many, due to lack of experience, they don’t have a long view of the process.  This is not surprising and not really a hindrance when dealing with the average athlete that a new coach is apt to encounter.  It can become a problem, however, when you begin coaching a very talented individual. 

A newer coach undertaking the coaching of a talented athlete is much like giving an adolescent an expensive sports car.  There is an overpowering need to drive it fast, show it off and take unnecessary chances to impress friends and whatever audience one might encounter.  Unfortunately this can often result in a crash and a complete loss of the vehicle.  I’ve seen the same thing happen when a new coach gets a talented athlete. 

Making Mistakes With the Less Talented Versus the Highly Talented

The advantage that a new coach has working with a moderately talented athlete is that the progress is slower.  This allows mistakes to arise at a reasonable rate that enables repair.  Talented athletes can make mistakes and still succeed and continue to make rapid progress without ever allowing for a sound technical foundation to be established.  An inexperienced coach can get carried away with the initial great success and become hesitant about stepping in and correcting errors because of a fear of offending the athlete. 

Keeping The Long Term Goals In Mind

One way for a coach to make sure that the most is made of a talented athlete is to keep the long term goals in mind.   If your athlete is to become a champion and top performer, the following goals should be kept in mind:

·         Coachability—You need to condition your athlete to receive coaching tips and implement them.  This should not only apply to your coaching, but also other coaches as well.  Someday your prodigy might qualify for an international team that you cannot attend and will have to be coached by the team staff.  If you create too great a psychological dependency on yourself, your athlete will feel unguided on the international platform.

·         Adaptability—Young coaches have a tendency to pamper talented athletes fearing that they might choose to leave if they are offended.  Well, anyone who is easily offended is just not mentally tough enough to become a champion.  Coach your athlete to lift in a variety of conditions, at different times of the day, with no favorite bars or favorite platforms.  The more varied the conditions, the better your athlete will be able to adapt to conditions in unusual situations. 

·         Performance—The performance is the most important factor, and the job of the coach is to keep the athlete focused on the performance.  The actual physical act of lifting the weight is what will bring success.  The title of the competition, the nature of the opposition, the possible qualifying total, the placing in the competition—these are all distractions that prevent the athlete from focusing on performance.  If you, as a coach, don’t understand performance you need to talk to others who do. 

Goal Setting

A very talented athlete is going to beat much of the opposition without refining technique or even learning how to lift well in a meet.  This type of scenario can cause a talented athlete to believe that the sport is too easy and not enough of a challenge.  Setting a slightly out of reach goal can help to develop competitive instincts.  A national qualifying total is one type of goal.  Setting up an informal competition between your prodigy and another athlete (even if it’s someone in another weight class) at the next competition is another way to maintain incentive.  Such goals can keep an athlete regularly trying to improve technique and show up consistently for training. 

Minimizing Attention

This is an important one in the era of social media.  An exceptional first meet for a new lifter can generate a ton of coverage through Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook.  Although some folks, (including parents) think that having a mass following is cute it can actually create unwanted distraction and pressure.  Most youngsters aren’t ready to handle that kind of adulation and attention.  Keeping the athlete’s perspective is important and will probably require some type of team effort to keep it from getting out of hand. 

Dealing With External Forces

Once a talented athlete begins to develop an impressive resume, it will undoubtedly attract external entities interested in jumping on the train.  Potential sponsors, coaches from other teams, social media folks and others can provide distracting voices that can interfere with the developmental process and inhibit progress.  A coach needs to set him or herself up as the voice that speaks to the athlete and all others wishing to communicate must come through the coach.  This needs to be understood by all the parties in the inner circle. 

Selecting A Level of Competition

You truly do not want your prodigy to win all the time.  Suppose you have a junior that can easily beat every other kid in the state.  You might do well if at a certain point you enter your athlete in the open or senior divisions where they’ll have to compete against more seasoned athletes.  Perhaps they’ll still win or perhaps not.  If they have the mind of a competitor they will react appropriately to getting beat and train even harder with vengeance in mind.  If getting beat discourages them and forces them to back down, they are spiritually underdeveloped to become a champion. 

The Final Product

What you are looking to develop is a proficient, tough-minded competitor who can fly across the country or an ocean, wake up at any time, be coached by a stranger and lift PR’s on unfamiliar equipment.  If you can develop such a competitor, you have groomed him or her very well.  You are a coach!