This is a repost by request of a an old Sam Leahey post from, I think, 4 years ago.
“No one really cares how much you know until they know how much you care”
– Some Really Smart Dude With Experience In That Thing Called “Life” (aka I forget who said it)
If you asked me about a week ago to explain the meaning of that quote I’m sure I’d give you an eloquent soliloque of words rooted in passion and extravagant articulation . . . but you could have told me I still had no clue what the heck I was talking about! Guess what, you’d be right! Up until this week its definition was all words but recently the meaning of that quote manifested in a different sense through direct firsthand experience. It was an “ah-ha!” moment for sure in this young coaches life and one that will never be forgotten. One that I want to share with you fellow coaches as it really shows just how important people skills are in the field of strength and conditioning and it’s not always your understanding of post-activation potentiation or micro-hoopla that counts.
Building Relationships in Strength & Conditioning Anything!
In one of our mini-seminars with Coach Boyle he mentioned that when it came to working with the professional athlete groups we were to take more of an observer role rather than try and coach’em up. He gave an example of a past intern who apparently was giving advice to these big shots and after suggesting with upmost confidence “hey, you should really try this. . .” the response given back was a resounding “hey, you should try and screw yourself!” Coach Boyle made sure we understood that these guys have been training at MBSC for a while so they wouldn’t take advice from some young random newbie who just got a summer internship and feels like he needs to tell the million dollar man “WORK HARDER FOR PETE’S SAKE! THROW THAT MED.BALL LIKE YOU MEAN IT!”
Well as time rolled along my name was called to assist with the pro group. Right before the workout I tried to review everything Coach Boyle mentioned and how I was supposed to act during the session. Of course, with too much passion and an overwhelming zeal to take over the world of strength & conditioning and be the greatest coach of all time the information seemed to have slipped out the other ear! The very FIRST session I had with the pro’s I spotted an athlete doing the 1-2 Stick slower than molasses running up a hill in Antarctica! I couldn’t understand why he was moving so slowly through the hoops. So of course I gave it only 5 seconds thought before I decided to walk over and show him how the drill is supposed to look, maybe he didn’t know you’re supposed to go full speed? I blasted through the hoops with a perfect demonstration only to finish and then have him say “dude, I JUST had knee surgery, I’m not that lazy kid. I gotta take it easy you know”!
My response: Insert foot into mouth and then go defenestrate myself! HA! I didn’t say a word to any athlete for the rest of that workout and I wanted to kill myself for being an idiot. Low and behold he didn’t rat me out and life went on. That was Experience #1 with the pros.
Experience #2 came soon after when I was scheduled to work with them again, and this time around it was the polar opposite. I spent the entire time just basically engaging in small talk. Asking the guys where they went to college, how long they’ve been playing in the NHL or NFL, and where there from. Some of the D1 college football players from around New England were also in that group so we found commonality and chatted in between sets. This workout went much better and I didn’t want to kill myself at the end of it. So what’s my point? I took time to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS the second time instead of telling people what to do and as you’ll see it paid HUGE dividends the next workout!
Experience #3 is where it all came together and helped me learn one of the biggest lessons of my life. As it goes, one of the elite college football players I had been chatting with previously showed up late on day. He was hoping to have a promising combine so better late to workout than never I suppose. The group was about 30 minutes ahead of him and as Coach Boyle noticed him coming in he turned to me and said “hey Sam, go take him through what he’s missed and we’ll see if he can catch up”. My jaw almost broke my toe as it dropped so hard. I couldn’t believe Coach was going to let me work one on one with this guy! Even though I was flipping out on the inside I pretended like it was nothing and said sure thing Coach.
He greeted me right away and even remembered my name from our previous small talk last week. I told him I’d be working with him for movement session until we went into the weight room. We foam rolled, warmed-up, did med. ball throws, etc. and surprisingly he would often ask for my critiqument. I cautiously worked in some more coaching cues and even more surprisingly he didn’t seem to mind at all. In fact, he was SUPER responsive! I was SHOCKED how much I was able to coach this guy and how much he didn’t mind it. I started wondering why. . .
We approached the final drill of the movement session, lean-fall-run. I gave a quick and simple demo expecting him to already know how to do it and probably having developed his own style anyway. Here’s where it gets crazy though. He did one rep and then stopped to talk to me about the NFL combine; he asked my opinions on it! We engaged in a couple minutes of more small talk after which he cranked out another rep. I noticed some flaws and since things were going so well I decided not to hold anything back and I coached the crap out of his acceleration mechanics. So much so that some guy next to us stopped doing his hurdle hops to look over and wonder “why the heck is this pro getting coached by that intern!” . . . I was wondering the same thing but I just kept going. It got so carried away he wanted to practice his 40 yard dash start and have me coach him on it! Finally, what was supposed to be a 30 minute movement session ended up with an extra 15 40 yard dash clinic!
Just stop for a second and get a perspective of what just transpired. This athlete who will probably make tons of money in the NFL one day trusted me to briefly coach him in one of the most important events at the NFL combine, the 40 yard dash. He welcomed my coaching the whole session in fact. Furthermore, he considered the young bucks’ opinions worth listening too. WHY?!?!?!?!?!?! I know EXACTLY why. Because last week I took the time to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS and just get to know him and the other guys in the group. I didn’t realize at the time we were chatting, but I was in fact gaining his friendship which eventually led to his trust and respect in me as a coach.
“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care”
I showed him I cared by building a relationship first and in turn he cared about what I knew and therefore wanted me to coach him. Lesson learned!
I could hardly contain myself with this new found revelation so I went up to Coach Boyle immediately telling him all about it. He merely hit me on the shoulder and said “that’s it Sam, that’s what it’s ALL about!” and then walked away with a smile on his face as if to say it was nothing new. I guess he must have realized this 25 years ago. I’m sure they’ll be many more lessons to come under my tutelage with Mike Boyle but one thing’s for sure, each new lesson is always more impacting than the last. I’m so thankful that this internship at MBSC opens the doors for me to be a better coach and gives me the opportunities I need at this stage of my coaching career.
Don’t ever forget that no one cares about how much you know until you show them how much you care about them and their situation first!
Sam Leahey CSCS, CPT