A Better Way to Plan

2019 has been a roller coaster of a year for my team and for me personally. There have been some extreme highs and lows, which unfortunately seem to go hand-in-hand.

My business has noticed steady growth – something I am extremely thankful for. My baby girl, Magnolia Taylor Mash, was born in February – which was the highlight of the year. But this is not a year in review, this is more of my thought process heading into 2020 based on the happenings of 2019. I think a lot of you will be able to take this process and apply it to your own life.

Highlights… and mistakes

If I listed all of our successes this year at Mash Elite, it would appear we’ve had the best year of any gym in the world. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

  • Two gold medalists at Junior Nationals
  • Two athletes at Youth Worlds
  • Two bronze medals at Youth Worlds
  • Silver medalist at Senior Pan American Championships
  • Best male and female lifter at the Senior National Championships
  • Two athletes at the Youth Pan American Championships
  • One gold medalist at Youth Pan Ams and Best Male Lifter
  • Great year for Tommy Bohanon in his final year in the NFL (maybe his final year)
  • Two athletes at the Pan American Games
  • Two athletes at the Junior Pan American Championships with two medalists as well even though both were still Youth Athletes.
  • Multiple American and Pan American records
  • Winning the team championships at Youth Nationals including multiple gold medal performances
  • Best overall male athlete at Youth Nationals
  • Qualifying four American, two Danish, and one Irish athlete for the Senior Worlds
  • Visiting Jamaica twice with Stronger Experts to help their track athletes
  • Tate Carney compiled 2,000 yards of offense as a sophomore in high school
  • Tate and his teammate Cam Beck were nominated all-conference
  • Cade Carney played his last season of Division I Football for Wake Forest University
  • Creating the newest University Weightlifting Program in the country at Lenoir-Rhyne University
  • Youth Athlete Ryan Grimsland won the 67kg class at the Senior American Open.

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These are just a few of the highlights. If you look at this list, you’d think I had a great year. I would be omitting a lot of the bad things that happened, but it would make me look awesome. But that would be a lie, and it wouldn’t help any of you. So I want to talk about the biggest issue I ran into this year, and I want to explain some of the steps I plan on taking to counter this snag.

Culture, Capacity, and Commitment

Our culture took a dive at the end of the year. We lost several top athletes. Of course some needed to go, and some I will miss forever. The questions are:

  1. What happened?
  2. How do we avoid this happening again?

The biggest mistake I made was bringing on too many top athletes in a year that would require them traveling all over the world. Most coaches have at most one elite athlete, which is easy to handle. Even the ones who have multiple elites normally have seniors, juniors, or youth. This year we had multiple of each age category. We had four youth qualifying for international trips, including Youth Worlds and Youth Pan Ams. We had two junior athletes qualifying for Junior Worlds and Junior Pan Ams. We had four seniors qualifying for Senior Pan Ams, Senior Pan American Games, and Senior Worlds. This doesn’t even cover the international athletes we coach – and we had youth, junior, and senior international athletes qualifying for meets all around the world.

Does this sound like a lot? Well, it doesn’t even cover our powerlifters and athletic performance athletes. Oh yeah, I’m a husband and father to four children who need my attention, and I run multiple businesses. This is not an excuse. I am simply setting up the mistake that I made. I simply didn’t consider my capacity as a coach, and it bit me in the butt.

Pretty much all of the problems originated from the fact I was too busy – causing me to ignore issues, to communicate ineffectively, and to allow things to slip through the cracks. A big part of the problem was bringing on athletes simply because they were awesome, without considering if they fit the culture of my team or me as a coach. All of this combined has caused me to think deeply about how I do things. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, an extreme trial normally precedes extreme growth.

Considerations moving forward

So what do I plan on doing about it? That’s the real question. All of us have bumps in the road, but it’s how we respond that makes us who we are. The first thing I plan on doing is figuring exactly what the values of our team are. I am not basing this 100% on what I think. I am taking into consideration what my athletes and coaches think as well – so the set of values that decides how our team will be conducted is developed from our team as a whole. I want the entire team to take 100% ownership in our set of values moving forward.

I am also having each team member hand me his or her personal goals. I am going to help them develop these goals into a macro and micro set of goals they can check off almost weekly. This will govern the way I expect them to act.

For example, if an athlete tells me he or she wants to make an Olympic team someday, then I will expect their actions to match their goals. If they are staying up all night playing video games and demonstrating terrible nutritional habits, then I am not going to take them seriously. At that point, we will either:

  • Change their behavior
  • Alter their goals
  • Ask them to change or train somewhere else

These same goals and values will follow us to Lenoir-Rhyne University and will help govern our team there as well. Each new crop of athletes will give their input – making the set of values a living document. So far I love what our team has evolved into. Everyone is working hard, focused on their goals, and ready to take on 2020. We still have multiple senior, junior, and youth athletes here in America and around the world who will be traveling to multiple international competitions. We are looking to smash American, Danish, Australian, and New Zealand records along with some world records next year.

One thing I am doing as a university weightlifting coach is allowing current coaches to remain the coach of record, so they will do the traveling with the athletes they have developed. I also plan on working closely with the coaches in regard to programming and technical cues. This will help cut down on my travel time and will help keep me focused on the training of each athlete.

Planning Ahead

I’m excited that all of this happened now – causing me to think hard about the way I plan on growing our program at Lenoir-Rhyne University. I want to develop a program we can all be proud of. More importantly, I want to form a culture that will allow the incoming athletes to have the best collegiate experience possible during their tenure at LR.

I hope all of this helps you guys as you grow your own clubs. More importantly, I hope all of you can learn from my mistakes, so you don’t have to go through a season like I just did. Twelve countries in one year was a bit too much for me.

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