The following is an extract from Ian King's latest book 'Barbells & Bullshit' - due to be released later this month.
I have noted a trend over the last decade or so for physical preparation coaches involved with athletes and sporting teams to refer to themselves as ‘performance’ coaches or directors. In fact, this title appears to be the pinnacle of employment positions within sporting teams. I don’t support this and here’s why.
In my thirty year involvement in the industry to date I have watched the slow acceptance of physical preparation coaches by other coaches in sport. From my perspective the formal role of the physical preparation coach in western sport began in the 1970’s at the earliest. My point is the industry is relatively young.
As such, it’s been pretty easy for the more established coaching roles to manipulate physical preparation coaches. The most common techniques I have seen include:
1. The athletes are getting injured because of what the physical preparation coach is doing
2. The athletes are performing worse because of what the physical preparation coach is doing
To achieve point 2, you will often hear coaches blame the team’s ‘fitness’ for poor performance. This technique is so entrenched that you will commonly hear lay people make the same statement – ‘They are not fit enough’.
Teams and athletes don’t lose simply because of their physical preparation. Physical preparation is at most 25% or one of four components of athletic success. When you add culture, equipment, and funding you now have ten components. Physical is one-tenths or 10% of this model. It’s a very long bow to suggest that controlling the physical preparation dictates the performance.
All the use of the term ‘performance coach’ does is play into the hands of those who seek to use the ‘new kid on the block’ (physical preparation) as the fall guy should one be needed in the event of individual or team failure. Controlling one-tenth of the total athlete preparation gives physical preparation coaches no more rights to claim they are ‘performance coaches’ than any of those in the coaching and support team who control / influence the other nine components in the 10-part model.
It reinforces the myth that if an individual or team fail to win, it is because they lack appropriate physical preparation.
And no, the flip side is rarely promoted – that when they win it is because of their physical preparation. The same people in the coaching team who seek to shift the blame to the physical preparation coaches in the event of a loss will step up in the event of a win to take credit. Now they seek to be titled ‘great coaches’.
This pattern of blame / credit is only outperformed in inaccuracy by the physical preparation coach who controls only one of the four sub-components of physical preparation (e.g. strength training only) – and seeks to take credit for the wins. They control 25% of 10%, or an estimated 2.5% of the generalized preparation.
The only situation I believe a physical preparation coach can even consider calling themselves a ‘performance coach’ is when they control over 50% of the total athlete preparation. Which means they would have to control technical, tactical, physical and psychological preparation (totaling 40%) – and more – to control over 50% if the total program.
Rarely achieved. I would not need more than one hand to count the number of physical preparation coaches I have encountered in three decades in this industry who meet this criteria.
This also raises the question of how many years back in each athlete’s career they had this control. Take the athlete’s age minus say 4 years of age, and then divide by 2 – have they been in control for more than half this number? If not it means they haven’t controlled the majority of the training process that led to this point.
Know anyone who would meet these criteria?
Most physical preparation are in so much fear of losing their job they don’t have any intention of seeking to alter or control departments outside of their own. In fact, this scarcity mentality - where is my next job coming from? What will I do if I lose this job?- usually means they allow others in the administration, coaching and support team to interfere with the physical preparation program to the extent that I doubt they could be said to even control that.