What is the Role of the Platform Coach?

The Rules Raise the Value of Coaches

Weightlifting is one of the sports that allows the coach within close proximity of the competitors.  Some sports require the coach to remain removed from the field of play and thus incapable of participating in the strategy and guidance of the athlete.  For example in tennis, the coach can be suspended or fined for signaling to the athlete during the course of competition.  The same can be said of track and field. 

Consequently weightlifting coaches have several well defined tasks that can greatly influence the outcome of a competition.  One of them is not cheerleading.  More on this later


The Warm-up

The weightlifting coach is responsible for a well executed warm-up.  The warm-up should not be so physically demanding that it detracts from the energy necessary to compete.  The initial function is to achieve physiological warmth with a minimum of physical exertion.  This can involve some specific joint mobilization, some local thermogenesis and some general activity to induce overall increased blood flow. 

At this point the warm-up lifts can commence with the goal of neuromotor reinforcement of patterns and the acclimation of the body to increasing loads in the specific lifts. 

Each warm-up lift should be performed toward the goal of preparing the nervous system for the competitive lifts.  Concurrently the psychological preparedness commences.  Conversations should be minimized and should only be between coach and athlete and perhaps medical support personnel. 

The coach should watch every warm-up lift and evaluate it for proper pattern, dynamic and speed keeping in mind that warm-up speed will frequently be less than competition speed. 

The timing of the warm-up is directed by the coach and should take place in an appropriate rhythm so that the athlete is neither too “cold” , in need of recovery or over-aroused when the time for the competition lifts take place.


Attempt Selection

Competitive attempts should be selected so that they are in a pattern to facilitate a maximal third attempt.  Excessively large increments between 1st and 2nd or between 2nd and 3rd can cause disruption of the nervous system.  Attempts should not be changed capriciously as is the custom of some coaches who engage in such activity because they are ignorant of their true task.  Attempts should only be changed if they will directly affect the outcome of the coach’s athlete.  Most athletes are too introspective to accurately call their own attempts.


Reading the opponent

This is a coach’s task, if one of the goals is placement.  A coach should be able to read the opponent and accurately determine the potential and make attempt selections with that evaluation in mind. 


Coaching Demeanor

Any anxiety, nervousness or lack of emotional control on the part of the coach will transfer to the athlete and may subconsciously affect the psychological preparation of the athlete.  This is why cheerleading coaches can actually sabotage their athletes’ psyches.  If a coach is anxious and transmits a lack of confidence it will affect the psyche of the athlete.  A controlled, but well directed demeanor is often the most effective approach.


Encouragement—Necessary or not

Any athlete who has trained as hard as it necessary for competition, has made the sacrifices necessary to be in the competition is most likely not in need of encouragement at the meet.  Coaches that are screaming encouragement to many athletes are often missing the point.  If an athlete is bewildered as to why a certain lift is missed, the job of the coach is to explain what to do to remedy the problem—not provide encouragement.


Identifying Weaknesses and their Destination

Oftentimes a coach will see a slight technical error in a first attempt and knows that it will only get worse in the second and third attempts.  The task of the coach is to provide instruction as to how to correct or avoid or minimize that error in the ensuing attempts.  If the coach sees that there is insufficient leg drive on a successful first jerk attempt, the task is to focus on that aspect so that it does not become worse on the second or third.  Poorly developed coaches may miss the technical deficiency and simply participate in cheerleading behavior. 


Coaching Instruction and Cues

Coaching cues should be brief and focus the attention of the athlete on the point to be reinforced.  Coach/athlete teams that have been working together for a full cycle should be familiar with the most relevant cues so that they can be used most effectively in the heat of battle. 


Developing Athletic Aplomb

Most meets early in an athlete’s career are not major events.  They are opportunities to develop aplomb on the platform.  Developing athletes should be encouraged to enter competition frequently even though it might not coincide with the training cycle.  Weightlifters have long suffered from a lack of frequent competition as the physical demands are so great. Athletic competitions are performances and the sooner an athlete can develop the ability to master the situation, the sooner the effects of training can be maximized.


In conclusion:  Standing at the side of the competitive platform, shooting video with an iphone, and shooting general encouragement are not the tasks of a coach.  A coach is someone who is there to facilitate great performance.  Keep this in mind.