Youth strength and conditioning

7 ways I got better in 2016…

So as you may have guessed 2016 was a pretty big year for me personally and professionally. At the beginning of 2016 I made a decision to “Stop talking and start doing.” For a long time I had been talking about all these great ideas I had. But that was it… I was just talking about them. I was doing what we are all guilty of doing at some point: waiting for the perfect conditions to start, waiting for the stars to align, for an open invitation and recognition from someone at the top end of the industry.

Then I stopped waiting. I thought, “I’ve been talking about all these things for so long, what holding me back?” The answer was, I liked the safety of my comfort zone. The comfort zone is easy, it’s simple, it’s the same. I decided it was time to get out of the comfort zone and start acting. So here’s how I got better in 2016, maybe some of this things will apply to you too.
1.I started this blog.
Ok, technically I started it in late December of 2015, but you get the gist. I started and I thought to myself, “If no one reads it, then I don’t care. I’m not writing for them, I’m writing for me.” I set myself the task of writing at least 1 post a week for a year. Although I missed a week here and there, this exercise forced me to research more, construct my own opinions on topics and helped me expand my understanding. It also expanded my network and relationships as I tried out video interviews, written interviews, guest posting, animated videos and instructional videos. As a bonus, the blog now has over 15,000 views.
You don’t necessarily need to write a blog, but putting thoughts down on paper has definitely helped me to improve my understanding of concepts and theories. Maybe a regular journal would help.
2. I read a book a month (minimum)
I deliberately started to read again. My development had slowed and I was uninspired. I didn’t know why at the time, but it was because I had stopped growing as a coach. I alternated between genres from strength and conditioning, psychology and general leadership/business books. This widened my breadth and increased the depth of my knowledge. Also, publishing a monthly review meant I had a deadline to finish a book by. This was very helpful as it forced me to finish the book and read when I otherwise wouldn’t have. I also stumbled across some suggested reading lists of successful people which added some direction to my reading!
In my opinion, reading is the most important skill in the world. If you can read, you open the gateway to learning whatever you want. If you aren’t reading regularly – what are you playing at?
3. I started talking to new experts
If you’ve seen my foray into the “Ask the expert” series, you’ll have seen that I started interviewing other coaches. This made me realise a couple of things. Firstly, no one said “no” outright, some didn’t reply but most were happy to help! I wasn’t expecting this and it made me realise that even the top coaches were more accessible than I thought. Plus, what’s the worst that can happened? They decline. So what? In reality, they didn’t mostly and I have been able to learn something from all of them. Interviewing them also helped me learn more, prompted some different thoughts and expanded my network of professional colleagues. This started reaping benefits instantly. It lead to a guest post on another blog, a focus group on Facebook and these coaches also stayed in contact and generously helped to promote a seminar I ran.
Who do you look to for information? Who presents you with a different perspective or opinion? Are you in a coaching silo?
4. I listened to podcasts
I started regularly listening to a number of podcasts. Ron McKeefreys “Iron Game Chalk Talk“, The Athlete Development Show, Laurent Bannock’s Guru Performance Nutrition,  Rob Pacey’s “Pacey Performance Podcast“, as well as others outside of sport including the “Freakonomics” Podcast and the “Problogger” podcast. All of these were beneficial in educating me further. They are all free and just cost me the time to listen on my bike, on the bus or in the car!
If you have a commute, why not turn it into a development time? Find some podcasts and start listening!
5. I attended workshops/seminars/conferences
This was very useful, not only for educational purposes, but also to meet other coaches. One of the most useful seminars I went to this year was entirely free. As an Alumni from my university I was allowed to attend some free lectures by the best coaches in my industry. This also lead to some visits to the local pub after. These were priceless lectures and conversations.
Is your local uni, sports club, county sports partnership running anything you can attend that might progress you?
6. I started competing in a new sport
Having previously competed (very averagely) in weightlifting, I was disappointed when I couldn’t find a gym between my house and my new job to train in. A friend recommended the Strongman Sanctuary. I headed down and was relieved to find a place that was not only cheap, but where chalk, dropping weights and getting freakishly strong was mandatory. So, when in Rome do as the Romans do! I decided to compete in a Novice Strongman competition. This was a learning curve. New events, new techniques, new approaches. I was a beginner again and I got to feel what it was like to be new to something again. This was a useful experience. More recently I’ve decided to delve into powerlifting for the first time too.
When was the last time you did something as a beginner? I think it gives a valuable perspective of a new athlete that might help you as a coach!
7. I sought out mentors
In September, I relocated to Scotland. Other than a few relatives an hour or so, I had limited personal contacts. I needed to hit the ground running. So I threw caution to the wind and emailed Scottish Rugby regarding any work they had going. Straight away I started to get put into contact with key people. These were people involved at all levels in Scottish Rugby from U20’s down. I decided that I needed to get around these people as often as possible. Call them “mentors, guides, role models” whatever you want. Either way, I decided that if I had the opportunity to get some of their time, I should capitalise on it. After all, they are further down the road, have a different knowledge base to me and can make suggestions I may not be aware of. All these people could significantly aid my development and progression in the industry.
Who are the key 3-5 people you need to get around more? Some suggest we are the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Who do you want to emulate? Get around them.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s blog posts and found some value in this one in particular. I wish you all a fantastic Christmas and some well earned rest from coaching!
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Are you a grassroots youth sport coach or PE teacher who wants to improve the athleticism of your athletes?? Check out our Fundamental series athletic development programs here.

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