30min Rant about Coaching and expectations

In this series of articles, I will give myself 30min to write about a topic – a rough draft to published. It will be harsh and straight to the point. Let’s see how a few of these go and if I have any friends left after this period of time.


In strength training, or powerlifting in particular, what is the actual role of the coach? It really depends on what is agreed upon, first of all, as it can vary greatly. But one thing is for sure: you can only instruct and explain, you cannot understand it for them or do it for them. Also, you cannot promise success.

One of my mentors used to say (and still does), “when they win, it’s all them, but if it goes wrong, it’s all your fault.” Has there anything more real in coaching ever been said? I’ve seen this happen to myself, close friends, and fellow coaches over and over. Luckily, it’s not happened too much to me, but sometimes people literally want you to wave a wand over them and magically give them the King Midas touch. Whether it’s a big lift or a better feeling back; everyone is looking for the quick fix that doesn’t exist.

As a coach, you can only help people, guide them, advise them, cue them, but what they do the other 150+ hours that you either don’t see them or have no idea what they are doing is why you can’t ever promise success.  The onus is on the client to provide an overview, ask the right questions, follow the program and provide useful feedback. It’s up to them to succeed.

So many clients program hop when the next big thing comes around. What’s worse is many clients mix programs and start implementing stuff secretly without telling you just because they know better. They typically won’t tell you, but it comes out somehow or another. None of this is new, and it’s a lose-lose for everyone involved.

Some clients you tell over and over the same thing week in and week out, or tell you the same thing over and over (excuses), and they never change, so at the end of the 10 or 20 weeks, nothing has changed, and it’s your fault. Again, they want the magic wand waved.

I’ve learned that you cannot care about their wellbeing and success in sport more than they do. You can repeat yourself, yell, or the like, but until they are ready to be coached, adapted, modified, or however you want to put this, they will do what they want to, regardless of what they pay you.

Just because you hire a top coach does not mean that you can now sit back and coast. You must continue your education, especially if you want to understand every aspect of what you are being coached on; it’s not up to the coach to spoon-feed you. You have to ask questions, but again, you have to do your own research to understand the complete context of the answer you are getting. It’s not our job to understand entire books for you or be your google search engine.

Ensure that when you hire a coach, that your goals are clear to them, and understand that everyone has limits in strength training. Not everyone is going to total 2000lbs raw and 2500 in gear. The truth is you’re not likely to do so. Newbie powerlifters see big weights lifted but have no idea what it takes to get under them and do them.

When you hire a good coach, you can only get out what you put in, and we can’t care about your programming and success more than you do.

When you take on a new client, coaches make sure goals are understood, and those goals are discussed and realistic. To quote Gift of Injury “you will never take a St Bernard to win at the racetrack, all you will get is a broken dog.”Goals MUST be realistic and achievable within reason. Clients wanting to jump hundreds of pounds in a year should be met with a realistic answer. In most cases, it will not happen regardless of what they have read or seen.

We can only help prepare you, you have to execute.

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Brian Carroll

Brian is a world-class powerlifter with over two decades of elite and pro-level powerlifting under his belt. Coming back from a devastating back injury in 2012 that broke multiple bones and that most experts said he would never recover from, he has returned to the pinnacle of world-class lifting (while 100% pain and symptom-free) and is now dedicated to helping others avoid the same mistakes that he made in the past through private and group coaching in Jacksonville, FL. Brian’s impressive recovery has given him the opportunity to teach and deliver talks to physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, professional strength & conditioning coaches and experts from all facets of sport, on how to avoid injury, while building anti-fragile strength and resilience in athletes.
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