As we approach the end of 2013 its only natural to look back and have a wee reminisce of days gone by.
After the Limerick Grand Prix kettlebell event at which I fielded my largest team of lifters, the topic of being coach is hot in my mind.
Coaching is something I take very seriously and for good reason. I had a coach in my youth that also took it seriously, a man who taught me how to do what I do today.
This man is Jack Parker, founder of the St Martins Junior Karate Club that I became a member of at age 11 and I’ve never really left.
Here are a few things I learned from a man who is as close to me as my own parents.
Basics, Basics, Basics
Jack was a stickler for mastery of basic technique, nothing took precedence over this simple fact. He would have us drill the basics ad nauseam, he saw no value in the flash, fancy gimmickry that other clubs used. We’d spend hours working on the fundamental skills with literally hundreds of repetitions done in every class.
This philosophy is still with me today even though my focus is that of strength coach rather than Karate Coach, in mine and my clients training, the greatest amount of time is spent on Squats and Swings with push ups being a close second. All else is window dressing, the basics are the key.
Practice every waking hour
As grading time approached Jack would lecture us on the importance of frequent practice. He’d tell us to do even a handful of practice reps any time we had a few spare minutes. He’d go on to tell us that even sat on the bus or on the toilet we can still be running movements through in our minds eye, I think the “smart” people call this visualisation these days. Jack taught kids so didn’t feel the need to use big, intelligent sounding words, so he called it the mind’s eye.
These days it seems every man and his dog is harping on about visualisation. But I’ll tell you now, it works.
Anytime there’s a big event coming up I’ll lie awake at night running scenario’s through in my head so that on the day nothing comes as a surprise. If it’s something as simple as attempting a PR lift the next day, by the time it comes round I’ll have done a thousand reps already, some the night before, some over breakfast, more on the way into the gym.
I try to pass this on to my clients, especially my competitive guys as the mind game is as important as the physical game.
Jack is a motivator. People will run through wall for Jack, myself included. Why?
He has a gift for inspiring people to be the best they can be. Sounds cheesy I know, but it’s true. I was the laziest, least physical, softest kid on the planet when I met him and within a few years I was running, lifting and pushing mental and physical boundaries. And I’m not alone, I witnessed dozens more similar transformations in the other kids he taught. Some were wild kids that he gave discipline to, others were lazy kids like me who he lit a fire under and everything in between.
Nothing was forced, he just showed you what you were capable of and made you feel important, like you and the skills you were developing were genuinely important. In other words, he cared.
I just hope I can live up to this, because I believe that this what changed my life and if I can do the same to my crew…..
Competitions were a regular feature of us growing up in the Karate world and Jack was the most passionate coach out there when it came to us performing.
When we were on the mat fighting, he was practically beside us roaring advice. The number of time he was asked to shut up and move back was sometime ridiculous, but he persisted.
He’d also be running back and forth making sure we knew which mat to be on at what time, when to start warming up, checking we’d eaten and hydrated. His energy on these days was unbelievable. And it worked, because we picked up on this and used it on the mat, we cared, because Jack cared.
Now when I’m on the sidelines and one of my athletes is in competition, I have a huge knot in my stomach, my legs shake, I probably didn’t sleep that much the night before, it’s like I’m competing. It seems, I am Jack.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I can see from my competitors that they appreciate it, they feed off it, the same way I did as a kid. Passion fuels performance.
You Have to Get Strong
This was the sentence that made everything change. I mean everything.
As a young teen I was above average. I was pretty much cruising in most things and getting by just fine. Then puberty started to happen to all my contemporaries and they sprouted leaving me way behind.
This was the time where my school work took a nose dive, my competition performances dropped and I actually failed a grading.
This is when Jack told me to get strong.
Because of this order, I took up weights, ran harder, learned to focus and push.
The discipline that this developed translated into everything, my school work, my temperament, attitude and of course my Karate all improved.
Jack taught me that strength is so much more than physical, but the development of physical strength would shore up every other avenue.
Coming into a gym when your tired and facing that barbell is a choice. The barbell won’t go easy on you like a sparring partner might. You can’t “walk” through a Power Clean at half pace because you’re “tired”
No, that bar needs to be dominated. And there’s no way on earth you can dominate it until you first dominate yourself.
This is where strength lies, I didn’t understand this until many years later, but this is the biggest lesson Jack ever taught me.