Learning to Speak Coach


Learning to Speak Coach – originally written for www.strengthcoach.com

My friend Valerie Waters is an expert in coaching females. She claims to speak “female”. Much like Mel Gibson in the movie of the same name Valerie knows what women want. She really believes that she speaks “client”. By that she means she understands what the female client wants and can present a program in a way that engages the mind of a female.

When I speak to strength coaches I often tell them my own version of the same thought process. You need to learn to speak coach. The great disconnect between strength coaches and sport coaches is often like the language barrier in a foreign country. Sport coaches always say things like “we don’t want to do football stuff”, “we want a program specific to our sport “ . Strength coaches often battle back by saying “strong is strong and fast is fast, you coaches don’t get it”. The truth is most coaches don’t get it on either side. Sport coaches believe that football players were supposed to be in the weightroom lifting heavy weights. In the coaches mind every other athlete should be running and lifting light weights so they don’t get too bulky and lose speed. How do we get around all these old school thoughts?

The simple answer is learn to speak coach. Much like Valerie saying she speaks “client”, we need to learn to speak coach. Do you think your soccer coach will respond if you tell him that when his players get faster they will get to more loose pucks? Of course not. In soccer it’s winning the fifty –fifty ball. You need to know the language. How about if you tell him that hang cleans will increase his players vertical jump and they will be able to dunk? He could care less but, if I tell him we’ll control more headers off corners, his eyes light up. When I say ‘well dominate in the box on set pieces” we are now talking the same language. The truth is, I’ve said the same thing but, in a different language.

In hockey coaches may say “who needs upper body strength”. When I answer, “we do” and then mention that hockey is the fastest game in the world played with less padding than football and with the highest speed collisions in sport, they immediately say “boy do we need upper body strength” and “Mike really understands our game”.

I could give example after example of how to speak coach. In women’s basketball and soccer strength training is important because it helps to prevent ACL injury. Want to get a female coaches attention? Talk ACL prevention. That’s the hot button. The truth is that strength training will make her players run faster and jump higher but, the way to sell the strength program is spelled A-C-L.

When the swimming coach doesn’t want his or her athletes to lift you simply say “but coach in short course swimming at least 33 percent of the race is start and turn”.  What makes for good starts and turns? Leg strength and leg power. Suddenly, you know swimming, the coach is your buddy and the athletes are lifting.

Bottom line is that you need to understand the sport, what makes the players tick and what makes the coach tick. Many strength coaches fail not because they don’t know the material but, because they don’t speak the language. Imagine this. You go to France. No one speaks English. Everywhere you go you speak English and no one responds. Would you be surprised if no one paid attention to you? Would you be frustrated? The key is to learn to speak the language.

6 Responses to “Learning to Speak Coach”

  1. It’s funny how I do this every day without acknowledging it! Selling programs and telling guys they’ll take on muscle mass if they train hard with it… They’ll do, but most importantly they’ll correct their posture, save their lower back and shoulders, etc

  2. […] 特に強調していたのは「サッカーの視点から必要な体力要素を分析して、サッカーの言葉で話す」という事でした。要するに専門用語を使って難しい話されても訳わかんねーよって事で、これはサッカーに限らず、S&Cコーチとしてアスリートやコーチと話しをする時に必要なコミュニケーション能力だなーとしみじみと思いました。自分はこれができているだろうかと反省してみました。同じような事をMike Boyleも書いています(Learning to speak coach)。 […]

  3. mboyle1959 Says:

    I struggle to see how pushing or pulling ( the two primary upper body actions) can be made sport specific.

  4. Great article, and as a team coach, I can see how the ways we present our selves and our needs can be challenging to a strength coach.

    Quick question on general philosophy though- do you not find there to be ‘sport specific’ training, even within the general umbrella of say “upper body strength?”

  5. […] I have talked over and over about learning to speak coach and wrote a post on it here. Learning to speak coach or , learning to speak parent is the key to sport specific selling. One of […]

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