The only thing you can do wrong as a coach

Coaches, let’s be honest. We’re far from perfect.

We’ve made mistakes, told kids to do things they shouldn’t have, and put together programs in the past that make us cringe. While it’s tough to swallow at times, there’s absolutely nothing wrong about it. Those moments are a necessary part of the learning process to become a better coach.

In fact, there’s only one thing you can ever do wrong as a coach: Make everyone do the same exact thing. 

If you coach all of your athletes exactly the same way, your results are going to mirror a bell curve: Roughly 20 percent will see some improvement, 60 percent won’t, and 20 percent will get worse. In other words, eighty percent won’t see any results.

If you want actual results with all of your players, you can’t cut corners and repurpose old programs. You need to learn how to solve problems. This starts by building a large toolbox of cues, thoughts, drills, and implements designed to attack movement deficiencies. The more you have at your disposal, the more likely you are to find a solution for that athlete at that specific moment in time. Dan Pfaff, ALTIS and Olympic track and field coach, said it best:

“If you’re a general contractor, when you get to the worksite in the morning, you’d better have a big toolbox with a lot of different tools. Because you’ve got a lot of puzzles to solve when you get out of that truck.”

This is a big reason why we don’t hand out programs at 108 Performance. Building elite movement patterns isn’t as slapping together 4 to 5 drills that are executed sequentially. Programming is for computers. You coach athletes. For us, our coaching has to operate under a framework. Frameworks give us the flexibility to adapt and pivot when certain drills, thoughts, or cues stop working. Programs are too rigid. They don’t allow for you to change course when the plan needs to change.

At 108, our framework can be summed up in this statement: All humans are living and breathing biotensegrity systems that move reciprocally and crave efficiency. Once we start here, all of our future coaching interventions become calibrated problem solving. We know what we want to achieve, why it’s important, and we constantly test, assess, and retest until we get there.

While great coaches often simplify, we have to be careful not to simplify too much. Cookie cutter programs are a great example of this. Getting results isn’t about following a simple progression of drills and limited tools. Getting results is messy. Everything has to be on the table at all times because you’re never really sure what’s going to work well that day. Sometimes a specific drill or cue can be a huge unlock for a kid. Two weeks later, the same exact thing might have gotten overcooked and now it sucks. If you coach using a framework, you have the ability to adapt and utilize a large toolbox of solutions to find something that works. Programs don’t allow for this kind of dexterity.

One of our favorite phrases at 108 is: “Everything works and everything sucks.” You just have to remember that everything doesn’t work for everyone. If you never forget this, you’ll never do the only thing you can do wrong.