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The Only Absolute is there are no Absolutes
My team member Dan Koppenhaver posted an article by Yasha Kahn entitled “Just Remember to Have Fun”. In this article he contrasted typical Russian coaches that were too stern and cold in their coaching approach with American coaches that are ambassadors of “just remember to have fun”. In his opinion either side is incorrect. However the Russian side will make athletes better if they are able to stick around.
The article was well written, but I have to call BS on everything that was said. I also want to call out once and for all coaches that are out there using absolutes with exactly nothing to back up their statements. Guys this really has to end. Unless what you are saying is backed up by some credible scientific studies, it’s just your opinion.
Let me give you some great examples of absolutes that are simply no absolutes:
• Neutral spine when squatting
• Neutral spine when pulling
• Feet turned out during squats
• Feet turned straight during squats
• Low butt during the initial pull of a snatch or clean
• High butt during the initial pull of a snatch or clean
• Brush the thighs during a snatch or clean
• Extreme bar and body contact during the snatch or clean
• Be a stern coach
• Be a happy coach
Look we can all stop now. By all means you should give your opinion, but if someone is out there doing it the opposite way and succeeding, obviously it’s not an absolute. It’s probably just what your coach taught you, and now you are regurgitating it to your athletes. That’s not science. That’s just unoriginal.
I have watched coaches in America use the “just remember to have fun” quite successfully. Coach CJ Martin used that very term each lift with his athlete Maddy Myers at the Junior Pan American Weightlifting Championships last year. The result was first place in the 63k weight class and Best Overall Female of the meet. Something is working.
I use that very term with athletes that need to hear it. Here’s the thing Mr. Kahn. Great coaches will look into the souls of each of their athletes, and will determine what each of them need individually. There is no one size fits all. When I coach Rebecca Gerdon, you better believe that we are going to have fun. When I coach Nathan Damron, it’s going to be more of a Russian coach situation.
I find it funny that the coaches using such absolutes are the very coaches not producing athletes. How is that people can write articles describing what good coaches should or shouldn’t do when they aren’t good coaches their dang selves? This baffles me. If you aren’t producing athletes, then how do you know what it takes to produce great athletes? Most coaches should focus on perfecting their craft before trying to help others perfect their craft.
As you can tell this article struck a nerve, but it really wasn’t just this article. This has been several years coming. Here’s a quote directly from the article:
“Maybe I don’t have the same definition of “fun” as they do, but if an athlete wants to become better, or reach their full potential, there is really little fun in weightlifting.
Coaches who tell their non-beginner athletes to “just have fun out there” are either peddling bullshit or trying to sugarcoat self-inflicted torture. Athletes who smile through a lift are either masochist, or they aren’t working hard enough.”
I am a weightlifter and a coach, and I personally enjoy the sport. I enjoy the movement of both lifts. I enjoy the progress that one makes with hard work. I enjoy the daily grind with my team. There are definitely aches and pains that come with the territory, but the overall process is quite enjoyable and beautiful I might add.
Then to say coaches that remind their athletes to have fun are peddling BS is just too bold of a statement from a coach at his level. Just because you have traveled around with certain coaches doesn’t automatically give you their credibility. Credibility is something that you must earn with your own accomplishments. One way to earn respect as a coach is to give respect.
My team produced eight International competitors last year. I was the Head Coach for Team USA three-times. I am not saying that to brag. I am saying that to completely discredit what Mr. Kahn is saying. I tell several of my athletes to have fun when competing. Coach CJ Martin is obviously a great coach, and he does the same thing. Coach Ray Jones, coach of CJ Cummings, is a big proponent of having fun, and since CJ is already the best weightlifter in American History at 17-years-old, that makes Ray a dang good coach.
Here’s the moral of the story. All of us should be careful making absolute statements with absolutely nothing to back up our statements. Here are two questions that you should ask yourself before claiming something is an absolute:
1. Is there credible science that confirms the statement from a credible study?
2. Is there someone out there doing it the opposite way and succeeding?
If your answer is “no” to the first question or “yes” to the second question, then your thoughts or statements aren’t an absolute. And look, a thought or statement doesn’t have to be an absolute for it to be a good thought or statement. It’s all about how you are portraying it. Maybe I like a neutral spine with eyes down in the deadlift. Maybe I have used that technique to strengthen the pulls of several athletes. That still doesn’t make it an absolute when people like Ed Coan have pulled much more without a neutral spine and there is not science to back up the statement.
This entire article has been somewhat of a rant, but I hope that all of you can learn from this. Personally I believe that the entire strength world is fun. It’s full of new things to try and new things to say that might help get your athlete or you a little stronger or a little faster. I suggest that all of us enjoy the process and never stop learning. If you take that type of attitude towards strength and conditioning, you are less likely to claim any absolutes as you are always searching for something better.
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