Why Distance Coaching Doesn’t Work for Olympic Weightlifting

I don’t believe that weightlifting coaching for competition can be done properly online no matter how developed the quality of the medium. Here’s why.

Recently I’ve been getting inquiries about the possibility of my doing distance coaching. I have to admit that I’m not quite sure what this entails. I followed up with one individual and he was interested in having me write training programs for him. Another wanted to know if I would be willing to watch his friend across the country from me lift on Skype on a daily basis and provide coaching cues. Still others have wanted to know if I would be willing to watch videos and critique them for technique.

Apparently there are individuals willing to do all these things online, else there would have been no such inquiries taking place. This is unfortunate, as I don’t believe that weightlifting coaching for competition can be done properly online no matter how developed the quality of the medium.

The Purpose of My Online Training Programs

Although I regularly post blogs that detail the weekly training program I use with my team, I do so for the benefit of my lifters, so they can see the week’s training and save it in whatever format they please. Coaches, lifters, or anyone wishing to use the programs as study examples may also find value in them. Some coaches have applied them very well in the training of their own athletes, but they are monitoring the athletes and making adjustments on the fly.

These training programs are for the most part, however, primarily meant for my lifters to use so that I can monitor the training and make adjustments as necessary. In this manner I can see how the programs I’ve designed are working and I can use that information to design future trainings. In order for the programming to be effective, I need to watch it being put into play. 

Why Online Training Doesn’t Work

Along the way through a program, I need to watch the lifter to make judgments about the speed of the bar at various percentages and the speed of the lifter at appropriate points in the training cycle. The speed of an 80% lift during the third week of a second preparation mesocycle should not look like 80% during the second week of a pre-competition mesocycle. At the same time I need to be regularly conversing with the lifter to find out what sort of subjective feelings might be perceived, and what sort of stressors are occurring in the lifter’s life outside the gym. These factors are also going to affect modifications of the original training plan.

I can’t easily do any of that from a “distance” without huge investments of time watching someone training on Skype in an environment that I have no control over. Do people really believe that optimal progress can be made training in a solitary situation, or in an environment made up of less than serious, committed athletes? These people are asking for unattainable results in such a situation. 

online coaching, distance coaching, coaching on computer, coachingFurthermore developing lifters do a lot of their learning by watching other more experienced lifters training. This is not only true of technique, but also regarding attitudes toward training and competing. Another problem with watching video of lifting is that the timing is never quite right. The timing of a lift on video is slightly different from watching the lift live. The difference may not be perceptible to the untrained eye, but it is readily apparent to the refined coaching eye. This will affect the appropriateness of the coaching cues.

The Athlete’s Goals Will Determine the Best Coaching

When I take on an athlete for coaching the goal is to achieve the best possible results, to fulfill the athlete’s potential. This is not possible to do online. There may be some coaches who are available to spot coaching technique through an online situation, and they may well be capable of doing so. Some individuals are just looking for someone to critique their technique, but not necessarily with an eye to developing themselves into competitive lifters. I suppose that distance coaching may satisfy some of their needs.

But coaching, if it is to be accomplished at its highest levels, is an activity that must be done in the proper setting with the consistent scrutiny and teaching by the coach. The fact that new technology may have developed does not mean it can replace the well-tested pedagogical means that have produced the overwhelming majority of the world’s athletes. 

In summary, online coaching for beginners learning technique may be a reasonable substitute for face time with a competent coach. Coaching an athlete to achieve or fulfill his or her potential is a proposition best undertaken in a live situation with the best coach available. 

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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