Archive for “art of coaching” Tag

Ron McKeefery – Making a Difference

ron mckeeferyRon McKeefery has become one of the most influential men in the industry by simply being himself and caring about people.  He has been a strength coach at the highest levels of football – University of Tennessee and the Cincinnati Bengals – as well as programs that he had to help create a winning culture – University of South Florida and Eastern Michigan.  He has also helped more young strength coaches break into the field than just about anyone through an outstanding internship program he created over 10 years ago.  He wrote the book The CEO Strength Coach a couple of years ago and is now the Director of Education for PLAE USA.

Even though he has done so many big things, it still all comes back to making a difference in people’s lives.

“I chose to be a strength and conditioning coach and why I love being a strength and conditioning coach is it’s a laboratory for life” explained Coach Mac in a recent discussion about how coaches make a difference. “Every single day, you walk in and you have an idea, you have a goal, you have a concept of what’s about to happen, but then all of a sudden you get smacked in the face with a tough workout, you know? And now you have to deal with adversity, you have to deal with success, and you have to work as a team, and you have to create energy when there’s none. What a better, it’s a microcosm of life. What a better laboratory for developing the skill set that you need to be successful after sport by doing that each and every day. So why would you every compromise those values to not reinforce that for their entire life?”

But, coaches can’t just start with crazy workouts and an abrasive attitude anymore.  We’ve learned that there is much more to being a strength coach than just lifting weights.

“I think I would go back a little bit further and start with your meetings with the athletes” McKeefery suggests. “Too many people don’t haveron mckeefery internship those initial meetings about why a kid is actually there. I call them WHY meetings. There’s a great book called Start With Why by Simon Sinek and there’s a good TED talk on it if you’re not into reading.  These meetings really help get down to the core of why they do what they do.  Maybe this is their only escape.  Maybe this is the only way that they see that they have a future. Maybe they just love being around people and interacting with people.  When you find out what their WHY is, you know the buttons to push. Just going up to a guy and saying ‘that bench press right there is not gonna get you into the NFL’ may resonate with them. He may not even care about that.”

Coach Mac went on to talk about how he handles different athletes when he knows more about them:

“If you know what their WHY is, then you find those little buttons to push as you’re walking around the room.  Some people like the public challenge. They like the limelight. They like the audience and the gladiator style deal. So, in that group you’re blowing the whistle and you’re getting everybody around and being loud when you’re talking to the guys so it brings attention. Then there’s other guys that don’t like that at all. They don’t like that attention but they want to know somebody cares about them. So, you put your arm around that guy so he knows you’re there for him. There are moments like that in every session where it’s almost like being a CEO.  Sometimes you have to run the entire room instead of just one squat rack.”

ron mckeefery weight room“I try to find touch points with every single person that’s in the room. That touch point may be putting my arm around a guy. The touch point might be play boxing with somebody. It might be cracking on this guy and it might be telling the next guy to come meet me after the lift so we can talk about home situation. But I find touch points with every single guy as I’m going through the room. By doing that, when they know that you care about them more as a person than as a player, then asking them to do things that are uncomfortable, which people don’t want to do in this society, you can do that.  You’ve been given that permission.”

Another interesting way Ron McKeefery gets to know his athletes is by asking them about their most challenging life experiences.

“Sometimes you’d be surprised what you hear when you ask about challenging life experiences. I had a player who watched his dad shoot his mom and then shoot himself right in front of him. He grew up in a foster home. And this kid, he’s a doctor now. You would have never thought. He’s happy, go lucky, smile on his face every day kind of kid. You would have never thought that this guy grew up that way.  And, I probably would have never found that out had I not asked him what’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever gone through. So, when you do those things, you start to find out at the core what is important to them, and then you can help counsel them, not just from an athletic standpoint but from a life standpoint.”

To get ever further into his relationships with athletes, Coach Ron McKeefery tries to create experiences for them.  Experiences they will never forget.

“When you create life experiences for kids, they hold you in a different light.  We’ve done all sorts of things, like taking them to the sand dunes on Lake Michigan, or shutting down the roads of a small town and doing a workout in the middle of the street.  After that kind of thing, when you’re asking them to give you another sprint, it’s not the guy that’s being a jerk with the whistle saying do it. It’s the guy that cares about me and he thinks that the sprints can help me. He believes in me. He’s investing in me.”

You don’t have to plan an elaborate trip.  You can create experiences right in your space by doing special workouts, bringing in speakers and having new experiences.

The IYCA philosophy of making an impact on people’s lives is one of the things that makes our community so amazing, and it’s great to see someone like Ron McKeefery placing such a high value on this aspect of the profession.

To get more Ron McKeefery in your life, listen to an interview with Ron McKeefery on The Impact Show podcast talking about making an impact through your business or listen to his podcast Iron Game Chalk Talk where he interviews coaches from all over the world.

Mike Boyle – Coaching Kids

A while ago we had a great thread on the forum entitled Athlete Engagement and Behavior. Anthony had suggested that I expand my thoughts from the thread into an article.

The thread began with this question:

“Would really appreciate if anyone could share their experiences or direct me to some good resources regarding engaging young athletes (13-15 year old female athletes) in structured strength and conditioning sessions.”

My response ( expanded on here) began with this:

Training kids is a balancing act. Kids are kids. They should be having some fun training. However, at 13 -15 they should also be learning that there is a serious aspect to training. If you are having trouble controlling a group, I strongly advocate removing those who are most disruptive, or at least threatening to do so. The threat of getting kicked out adds a bit of “what if” to the equation. What if I have to go home and explain that I got kicked out of a training session?

This “threat” gets the message across. You are the boss and this is a practice. What you really have to learn is to be “tight but loose.” You have to establish the boundaries. With kids it’s a constant push- pull. Sometimes you are pushing them forward from an effort standpoint and other times you pull them back from silliness. With females you can be pushing them to try a heavier load, with males you might be pulling them back from trying to impress the other boys.

Start with simple organizational stuff. Put them in lines, keep them in lines. Call out those who distract the others. Always lines, no circles. Keep everyone where you can see them. Kids behind you is like an invitation to screw around

With kids we want to be light on science and heavy on structure. You can keep them busy as the loads are light and the work is primarily technical. Rest between sets is not nearly as critical as it is with older, stronger, more experienced athletes. I use their energy as a guideline. If they have time to screw around, we are probably going too slowly.

On the flip side, develop relationships with the problem kids and realize that winning them over is the goal, not kicking them out. Kicking them out should be the last resort.  In truth, develop relationships with all the kids. Learn all the names, ideally learn about them. Do they have siblings? Do they have two parents? Do they have two moms or two dads (more common than you think these days).  In truth, the relationships will end up being the best part of coaching. You will be changing lives for the better.

I advocate a John Wooden style of teaching for everything we do. This works particularly good with kids. Wooden had a simple, do this, not this, this approach.

Show them three times (while telling them). Give a good demo followed by the most common mistake, and finish with the good demo again.

Remember, the demos mean much more than the words. Kids today are powerfully visual. Keep the talk to a minimum and let them learn by doing.

Training kids can either be the best experience or the worst. You just have to remind yourself that you are the facilitator, the culture creator. You will get what you ask for.  Ask for more.

Michael Boyle is one of the foremost experts in the fields of Strength and Conditioning, Functional Training and general fitness. He currently spends his time lecturing, teaching, training and writing. In 1996 Michael co founded Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, one of the first for-profit strength and conditioning companies in the world.  Go to StrengthCoach.com to interact with Mike on his popular message boards.


Coaching: Art or Science?

By Alex Slezak – M.Ed, YFS, YSAS, HSSCS

Let me begin by posing a question for you to ponder aimed at the core of your coaching philosophy. Is training young athletes to get bigger, faster, and stronger a sports science or an art form? Do you believe the science, research or training methods are most important? Or do you believe that the art of coaching and working with youth is more important than any science or training methods?

I have spent the past 9 years of my life training youth of all ages and athletic backgrounds in my physical education classes or through my tennis business. I would venture to say that I have spent on average at least 30 hours each week over the past 9 years directly involved in coaching youth in some way shape or form. That is 14,040+ hours of coaching and counting. I believe that gives me some credentials in giving my opinion on this topic.

I firmly believe without a shadow of a doubt that you have to thoroughly grasp the content knowledge of how to properly training youth. You have to fully understand motor development, anatomy, strength, conditioning, mobility, flexibility, soft tissue work, power, speed, agility, and so on. Then you have all the methods of training like kettlebells, bands, free-weights, body weight, suspension trainers, etc. There is just no way around it you have to fully understand the science of sport and athletic skill development or you are just randomly selecting exercises in hopes of getting results.

Art of Coaching

On the other hand ultimately you can have all the knowledge and understanding in the world but none of it matters unless you can convey that information to the youth you are working with in a way that resonates with and inspires them. Not just so that a child understands what they are doing in their training but in a way that inspires and ignites them to be the best athlete and person they can be. Each young person we come in contact with is unique and the art of coaching lies in bridging unique relationships with your athletes so you can share your knowledge, motivate, and inspire.

Youth fitness training, in my humble opinion, is both a sport science and an art form. The best coaches in the industry get it. They understand the science behind the methods to their madness while at the same time are able to move their kids from simply being compliant, to committed, and ultimately over time to becoming passionate about their training. Our job is much more than simply getting youth more athletic prowess. Our job is about motivating and inspiring very impressionable youth to challenge themselves to become the best athletes and people they can be.

The IYCA clearly understands this unique balance between sport science and the art of coaching. In all of their courses they provide cutting edge research, methods, and information for coaches looking to get better. The real genius of the IYCA is that they do not mandate that there is only one correct way to apply their methods. They realize that coaching is an art form, each child and coach is unique, and something that cannot be captured purely by science and data. Albert Einstein said “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” The IYCA provides the knowledge and concepts while at the same time empowering the individual coach to be their own person, let their personality shine through, and take ownership of their work. You would be wise to invest in yourself by picking up any one of the many certifications or courses the IYCA offers. Even after 14,040 hours of direct coaching I am still improving at the art of coaching and adding to the depth of my content knowledge.

Youth Fitness Trainer or Coach

Youth Fitness Professionals

Personal Trainer = Someone who works with a client to plan or implement an
exercise or fitness program.


Coach = Someone who gives instruction, advice or direction.


As defined by Webster’s Dictionary.


Much has been discussed about my use of the term ‘Coach’ in favor or the word
‘Trainer’ when describing myself as well as IYCA certified professionals.


And I have been asked many times why I have such a strong inclination towards
the one versus the other.


Re-read the definitions above and you should be able to figure it out for yourself.


The Art of Coaching information I provide in the Level 1 YouthFitness Specialist
course is both a great source of pride for us here at the IYCA, but also serves as a
strong differentiating factor in terms of our organization versus other educational
bodies in this industry.


Programming, training, exercise selection…


These are the sciences of our work.


Communication, coaching and instruction…


These are the arts within Youth Fitness.


Understanding how to reach each and every one of your young clients in a manner
that they will hear and respond to is perhaps the single greatest challenge facing
Youth Fitness Specialists.


We must be chameleon. We must accept the fact that understanding the specifics
associated with learning and communication are every bit as important, maybe
more so, than creating and implementing effective and developmentally-sound
training programs.