“Coaching is an art – particularly if you’re any good at it. It is not a paint-by-numbers.”

I recently read one of the most insightful, affirmatory articles on coaching–and by extension, my professions of sports PT and strength & conditioning coach–that I’ve ever read.  The article’s link below concerns the coaching of soccer.  While some of you aren’t monster soccer fans, I would encourage you to stick with it as it describes, in quite clear terms, what makes a talented coach exceptional . . . and, therefore, what makes physical therapists and strength and conditioning coaches exceptional.

Paraphrasing a portion of Gary’s post,

We all have ingredients at our disposal to use, but just how do we incorporate those ingredients into an overall plan?

I know hundreds, if not thousands, of exercises . . . no exaggeration.  That’s great, but it’s not the most important part of my job.  What’s essential is not just that I am familiar with those exercises; what matters, what benefits my patients and athletes most, is HOW I use those exercises.

  • Are the right exercises being used?
  • Are they being performed properly?
  • What cues are being given to ensure proper performance?  Visual?  Verbal?  Should I constantly provide cues or spread them out?
  • Are these exercises appropriate for this athlete?  Should I start with others first?
  • Is each session the same?  Are certain impairments/dysfunctions focused on during one session, then others the next?

There is a push to be sure treatment selection is evidence-based.  I completely agree with this as every exercise/treatment I choose has a reason and is based on research.  However, the introduction and combining of these exercises and treatments relies quite a bit on art.

A couple of examples:

  • There are thousands of orthopedic surgeons in the US and all of them basically know the same surgical techniques.  But why do all the professional athletes want to see James Andrews for their shoulder issues?  In your area, why does that one surgeon seem to get all the patients?  Again, all of them basically have the same knowledge, but there is an art to how it is used.
  • I understand that parts of the hip (the abductors) tend to be weak with some who have knee pain; but I also know that just throwing hip exercises at an athlete will NOT get the job done.  Rather, addressing the hip is but one important component (and it IS an important piece of the knee pain puzzle).  The entire body MUST be considered, just as an athlete’s entire function (e.g., technical proficiency, game-time strategy and tactics, muscle strength & power, cardio endurance, etc.) must be considered.  There is an art to understanding to understanding the best, most efficient method of combining those treatment and exercise variables.

So, before the link to Gary’s post, one more of his quotes . . .

“The product a coach fields is a function of philosophy, experience within that philosophy, and passion.”

Do you have an exercise or treatment or coaching philosophy?  If not – and it’s OK that you don’t yet – what are you doing to develop one?  Developing that philosophy now will pay huge dividends in the future!

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