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31 Jan

I have a new little brother!

Well, he’s not actually my brother but that’s what he calls himself. I started volunteering with Big Brothers & Big Sisters last year and I spend roughly 4 hours each week with my 9 year old “little”. Entertaining doesn’t quite describe our adventures.

I try to find something different to do each week, and so far we’ve gone to the movies, the zoo, a reptile house, and a trampoline park. Actually, we did the trampoline park twice and the second one had a ninja warrior course! I think this big kid had more fun than the little one that day.

When the weather is nice we spend a lot of time in the park playing games.

He tries to turn everything into a competition between us and does everything he can to stack the odds in his favor, like not telling me we are keeping score until he is ahead. I have to give him credit because he’s clever. I’ve been around a lot longer though, so his sneaky attempts at winning never work out like he wants them to.

This leads to a lot of conversations about playing games, sportsmanship, and the concept of winning. He’ll often say something like “If I win this game, you have to take me to McDonald’s and I get extra nuggets!” I usually play along, but raise the stakes for him by saying something like “Ok, no problem. But if I win, we go for pizza and I get to eat yours.”

“What?! I don’t want to play then. That’s not fair!”

Funny how that fairness thing only comes up when he’s not getting his way.

I’m teasing him, of course. He always wants to win with everything, but there’s a problem…

He doesn’t know how yet.

I try to help him with this where I can, but it’s tough and I’m sure anyone with kids can relate!

When we play basketball, he usually starts running around the court, pretending to be LeBron James, then tries to make some impossible shot. When he misses (as anyone would), he gets mad and starts putting himself down:

“This is ridiculous! Why can’t I make a shot? I’m no good at this”

I usually step in at this point with the same approach I use with clients struggling in the gym. My goal is to get him to calm down, understand why what he’s doing isn’t working, and help him figure out a better way. I usually say something like “you’re not bad, but you’re taking shots that are difficult for someone my size. Move closer and try a normal shot like we practiced.”

As always, once he listens, he makes the next several shots and the all is right in the world again.

“I can do it when I pay attention to what you said.”

I explain to him that “winning” isn’t automatic. It takes a lot of work, and no one wins all the time. Even more important, EVERYONE wants to win, and nobody is going to let you win just because you want to.

If winning is important to you, then learn how to win!

Same goes for fitness and any other area of self-improvement.

  • Pay attention to what you’re doing instead of mindlessly going through the motions. This goes in the gym with exercises and at home with nutrition.
  • When you’re paying attention, you’ll start to notice what is working for you. Keep doing that until it stops.
  • For the things that aren’t working, change them. Make small changes to your approach, one thing at a time, until you’re getting the results you want.
  • Keep it simple until you’re confident and can handle everything easily.
  • Don’t quit because you’re frustrated or having a bad day. It happens to everyone. Your ability to manage this becomes important for future success, so hang in there!

Success and winning are not automatic, but you can be successful if you work at it. Put in the time to learn what works for you, pay attention to your actions, and improve them until you’re getting what you want. A simple and effective approach for almost guaranteed results!

09 Aug

I had a conversation with a client recently that made me stop and think for a while. She commented on the advice and coaching throughout the session and how helpful she found it, both in and out of the gym. It’s part of the job and automatic at this point, so I tend to think nothing of it. I thanked her for the compliment and then tried to think of a time when I was in her shoes.

Sit back, put your feet up, and relax. Its story time!

Flashback to 1997 and a gym somewhere in suburban New Jersey.

About halfway through one of many basketball practices, the coaches split us up to practice free throws. Right behind sprints, this was my least favorite part of practice. I had a lot of work to do in this area and I was a very inconsistent shooter.

I must’ve missed several shots in a row, because our “shooting coach” felt the need to chime in…

“Jay, you’re a horrible shooter.”

And that was it. Nothing else. No help, no advice. Nothing. From the shooting coach. The coach who’s job it was to help us improve our technique. To say I was angry is an understatement. As an athlete, you get used to coaches pulling you aside to tell you where you messed up. I didn’t mind the criticism, but the other coaches would tell you something you could learn from and use next time. This guy gave me nothing. Thanks for the help, coach!

Here’s my question: if you’re a coach and see a player struggling with some aspect of their game, why open your mouth to criticize if you have no intention or ability to help them? To any personal trainer and coach, fitness sports or anything in between, I ask you the same question:

why criticize and berate your clients if you can’t do anything productive to help them?

This approach does nothing to correct or solve any problems It is confusing at best, and discourages people from trying at worst.

Stop.

There’s a much better way to go about it.

Compare that experience to my brief time practicing with the basketball team in college 2 years later. 

 

During one evening practice, the coaches had the big men together working on free throws and post defense. My free throw shooting was better, but not by much. After a few shots, the head coach came over and explained what he saw that was causing me to be so inconsistent. He told me what to do and what I should focus on while on the line.

Within 5 minutes there was a noticeable improvement. Mind blown! Even after I quit the team I continued to use his advice when I played or went to shoot around.

These two experiences stick with me to this day as examples of what to do and what to avoid when coaching people on exercise, nutrition, and daily habits that lead to better health.

Of course, fitness is much different than sports, but coaching is an important part of both.  In all my experiences with coaching, on the receiving end as an athlete and student and on the providing end as a personal trainer, these are a few of the things I believe make great coaches stand out:

1.Observe, listen, and do something helpful.

Being critical is fine, but also give them something they can do to improve. It’s silly to have to say it, but this is what coaching is! If you’re coaching a client with nutrition, don’t yell at them for having a bad day. Listen to them and discuss what they can do to get back on track and solve the issue going forward. Instead of “wow, your push ups look awful!”, show them how to do it right. Train them. This is what you’re there for!

2.No advice is better than bad advice.

Sometimes its better to just be quiet. The last thing anyone needs is more bad advice that doesn’t help them solve their problem. If you can’t help, keep it to yourself.

 3. Communication is key.

As a coach, you have an understanding of fitness, nutrition, sports, or whatever your chosen field is. Your knowledge is useless if your clients don’t understand you when you speak. Big words and industry specific terms are fine when talking to colleagues, but your clients most likely don’t care. Skip the buzzwords and learn to speak their language. The better you can communicate, the better their results will be.

4. Be patient.

It would be great if everyone was 100% on board and ready to go from day one, but that’s not how it works. People progress and learn at different speeds. Understand that it takes more time for some than it does for others. Encouragement, reminders, and even a little “tough love” are all fine, but don’t hold it against them or get mad because they aren’t getting it as fast as you want them to.