A coach’s plea

To my athletes, I would like to take a moment of your time to explain how I might see things differently about training, your training.

Last night was a designated ‘heavy’ session. I know that you very much look forward to such sessions in the hope that you can push beyond your present personal bests. Last night, many of you were rewarded for your efforts. Well done!

But as we head towards the next competition, there are some things I want you to keep uppermost in your mind.

As a coach, I have witnessed countless athletes emerge from countless warm-up rooms, on to countless competition platforms, to attempt countless lifts. I have seen athletes attempt more in competition than their training best and succeed on a regular basis, especially in major events. I have seen many more athletes fail on the competition platform with weights much less than their training best. This is especially the case when the competition is a major event where conditions are different, very different to the local or regional competition. As a coach, I see a stark contrast between athletes.

Sometimes you don’t like me stopping you from going higher, or my questioning of why you choose to attempt 5kg over your best rather than a modest 1 or 2kg increase. Sometimes you bargain with me to choose what weight to attempt and sometimes you go it alone and do it your way. In that moment, you are emotive, pumped up and ready to go. You have targets in your head that you want so much to achieve. I understand your emotions and your motivation.

But it is possible that I see ‘heavy’ training somewhat differently to you. In the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, you prove yourself on the competition platform, not in the training hall. As a coach, I see heavy training as a dress rehearsal for the platform. On the competition platform, you are faced with the need to execute precise technique under pressure. Each lift on the competition platform requires great commitment and great composure.  An important competition is not just another heavy session, for failures are far more consequential.

As my athletes, I want you to see training and competition in a new light. Here are some things to take on board:

  1. You can succeed with more in competition than you do in training. This should be because in the moment of competition you are 100% committed, you have prepared well and you have faith in your own ability.
  2. Your success rate in training needs to be extremely high. Failures need to be very rare. Your consistency in training will impact on your platform performance. Becoming accustomed to frequent failure in training does not bode well for platform performance.
  3. Heavy sessions are not an excuse to go crazy, they are dress rehearsals for competition. Do you ever think about doing 3 good singles, or is it just a case of you going flat out and trying, against all the odds, to succeed with a crazy weight.
  4. Play the percentage game. If your personal best is 100 kg, don’t go for 105 kg. Instead, take intermediary steps such as 101, 102, 103. If this means you end up doing many more lifts, then that is GREAT! You are mimicking what you need to do on the platform i.e. succeed with heavy lift after lift. This is a great rehearsal.
  5. Focus always on the quality of your lifts. You need consistent high quality, technically well executed lifts in training to build confidence. Use heavy sessions to build confidence in your technical ability not destroy it.

The stark contrast I see between athletes on the competition platform is borne of their attitudes to training.