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Yesterday, I was invited to coach Team USA at the 2016 Pan American Junior Championships is San Salvador, El Salvador. I can’t begin to tell you how excited that I am. December 2013 I had two athletes competing at the American Open. Now a little over two years later, I am coaching Team USA, and I have three athlete on the Junior Pan American Team: Nathan Damron, Dylan Cooper, and Tom Summa not to mention Rebecca Gerdon going to the Russian Grand Prix. That is five people for the Mash Mafia representing Team USA. This is a dream come true for me. However, I am writing this to encourage all of you coaches out there, and to share a small piece of my journey. I want all of you to experience this feeling at least once in your lifetime.
I have only been full-time with weightlifting since around that American Open in 2013. Since that time, I have dealt with numerous people making negative comments about my abilities as a coach citing only my background as a powerlifter to back up their comments.
My background as a powerlifter has done nothing but help me in my coaching endeavors. As a matter of fact, it is my unique blend of skills that has given me a slight edge. Here is an idea of my background:
• World Champion Powerlifter
• Nationally Ranked Weightlifter
• Coached by two-time Olympian Wes Barnett
• Exercise Scientist
• Athletic Performance Coach
• Lifelong Student of Strength
I agree if someone just used their knowledge of powerlifting to coach weightlifting that model would fail miserably. However, I have used my knowledge of powerlifting to get my guys and gals strong, and I have used a lot of Louie Simmons stuff to pin point and attack muscular weaknesses. I combine all of this with sound Olympic weightlifting programming, and that equals the success of my athletes.
Forever, I have felt like an outcast in the world of weightlifting. I just wanted the respect of the other coaches that I have looked up to for years. There have been a few awesome coaches that have had my back for almost the entire journey like Greg Everett, Sean Waxman, John Broz, Spencer Arnold, and of course my man Don McCauley. These guys will forever be my go to coaches as they all gave me friendship and respect early on, and for that I am forever loyal to these great men.
If you are a new coach out there, I want you to realize that you can move up the ladder quick. My friend Wil Fleming is building a dynasty in Indiana with Force Barbell. There are a couple of keys that can help young coaches move up quickly:
• Keep the environment fun and exciting
• Allow the lifters some input in their programming for buy-in
• Keep learning from other coaches
• Approach your weightlifters like athletes and not just weightlifters (I will explain)
• Recruit actively
Let me briefly explain each of these, so that you can apply them to your own situation. Everyone asks me about my program, but the biggest key is the environment. We have a bunch of strong people in the same room trying to beat each other. We also have loud music, crap talking, and a lot of laughing. That is a recipe for success. The mood starts with the coach. If the coach is grumpy, the entire team will be grumpy. I try to laugh a lot, and that seems to equal PRs.
I love getting feedback from my lifters. If my programming reflects their feedback, then I am going to get the athlete’s buy-in. That means that the athlete is going to believe in the program, and nothing trumps that. If the athlete believes that the program will work, the program will work. If they don’t believe in the program, that program is doomed.
Continued education of a coach is a requirement. If a coach thinks that he knows it all, it is time for retirement. I am in a great situation with my podcast “The Barbell Life”. I get to interview the very people that I look up to, so I get firsthand knowledge on a weekly basis. I also had the opportunity to coach alongside Don McCauley and Glenn Pendlay at MuscleDriver USA.
Approach your weightlifters like athletes and not just weightlifters. If you are a strength and conditioning coach for a professional football team, you don’t just let your guys play football to get better. You have them do strength training to get stronger, mobility work to move better, speed work to get faster. There are a lot of aspects to weightlifting. Here are the areas that I focus on:
1. Of course technique of the snatch and clean & jerk.
2. Strength training for squats, pulls, and pushes.
3. Power production with plyometrics.
4. Muscular balance
5. Stabilization with carries and plank work
6. Mobility which almost the entire team uses ROM WOD.
8. Recovery using A.R.T., massage, dry needling, sleep, and supplements.
This sport is an incredible sport. We need more people coaching at the local level, so that more young men and women have access into the sport. We need coaches that are passionate that will go out there and actively recruit great athletes into our beloved sport. We now have some pretty cool benefits like the Olympics, University Programs, stipends for high-level performances, and a lot more people are wanting to learn the sport thanks to CrossFit. Increased interest alone will provide more opportunities for people.
Coaching Team USA is a dream come true especially since three of the athletes are mine. I want this sport to continue to grow. I won’t stop until Team USA is bringing home medals from the World Championships and Olympics. We have great athletes in the United States. We just need to build a sport that attracts those athletes.
I want the world to know that I realize that none of this would be possible without the support of my amazing wife, Emily Drew Mash. I also know that none of this would be possible without my family. I want to thank God for this opportunity and for His grace on this totally imperfect man.