Experience the Difference

Coaches….they have a hand in everything, but control nothing!

Disclaimer: This chapter is written purely from a ‘high performance’ athlete/coach viewpoint.

There is only 2 kinds of coaches! 1. Those that have been sacked. OR. 2. Those that will be sacked.

Whether you work for a club or you work for one or a number of individual athletes there will come a time that every one of those ‘employers’ will ask you to leave their employment.

My aim, as a long term high performance coach has been to continually re-invent myself as part of the process to help produce regular high performance results.

In order to preserve that consistency it is always a requirement to add young and talented athletes perpetually.

There, however, comes a point in time that an older coach, whilst they can still see everything that still needs to be executed by athletes to constantly produce exceptional results, that the generational gap between the coach and athlete will become too large.

After all the body hasn’t changed and the very things that worked before will continue to work but in this fast paced, ‘take away’, quick fix mentality, ever changing world, sport that requires patience and consistency for long term good results, the 2 just don’t go hand in hand.

Being an athlete is an arduous, slow, meandering and difficult process.

When doing my absolute best to explain to an athlete, sometimes 40-50 years younger than myself, it can become quickly apparent that we are speaking to glazed over eyes (for that fleeting moment that their eyes are lifted from the hand held screen that they are looking at).

This is very unlike the generally completely receptive athlete that we would have been enunciating with of a similar age 20 or more years previously as we do our best to deliver a plan that we know full well will work.

Chances are we/you are now on totally different wavelengths and the message that we know that the athlete needs to apply, just isn’t completely getting through any more.

When this scenario happens, it is not the fault of the athlete, it is the way that we are trying to install our older terminology on a new society and they don’t get it.

It is now that we need to reconsider our position and let these young, bright and highly talented athletes go to someone closer to their age that they can fully relate to that will ensure that they are coached in a method that makes sense to them.

After all, the goals and aspirations of the athlete is the number one priority. Do the right thing!

Having had the advantage and also the  benefit of observing and working with the head coaches of many professional sporting clubs in Australia, with myself as head of strength and conditioning has given me great ‘first hand’ insight on this subject.I worked for 8 years in the WAFL. (West Australian Football League), 3 years in the NRL (National Rugby League) and 6 years in the NBL (National Basketball League)

In those 17 years observing coaches and coaching methods I had the privilege of working with some really great coaches and some, well, not so great.

There was a constant though and this is irrespective of whether I thought of them as a great coach or not, and that was that their message routinely goes ‘stale’ in the eyes of the athlete, nowadays in as little as 2 years.

So just how many generations apart until it becomes too many?

Providing you, the coach understood that your delivery method needed continual tweaking and have evolved through time, it will still become nigh on impossible to keep pace with the changes in the generations to a point that it is now just too big a gap and the all-important message is now not as readily received as you wish that it was.

In coaching terms, the most difficult generation so far for me has been and still is the Y generation (those born since about 1984) but at the same time is been my most successful from a results point of view.

Why is this?

I recognised early that the generational gap between myself and the Y generation athletes was already too big and my message just wasn’t getting to where I needed it to as consistently as I would like.

At the time that the Y generation started to appear in my squad, the older generations were still around IE: last of the baby boomers and more especially the X generation and all still extremely strong, highly talented and regarded athletes.

I quickly recognised this void between myself and the Y generation so surreptitiously was able to use these ‘older’, senior athletes to mentor and drive the burgeoning Y generation athletes all with my backing.

These up and coming athletes relished that opportunity and fed off them and gained an enormous amount of strength, both physically and mentally just training alongside them.

The extraordinary results from these Y generation athletes continued for many years using this coaching strategy.

Further complications appeared later was when the baby boomer and X generation athletes finished up and the Y generation athletes became the ‘senior’ generation athletes to mentor and guide the later Y generation and moving into the millennials.

This is where it has become very much more difficult for me.

Unlike the more closed off baby boomer and X generations who kept their emotions much closer to their chest, these later generations are much more open with friends and team mates, they are less likely to keep things close to their chest and they generally have much less focus on long term stoic loyalty.

Why I feel that this openness becomes a problem in a team/coaching/training environment is the negative energy that the more constant verbal dissent and complaints creates is a serious issue from a squad synergy and energy point of view.

Whereas the earlier generations most likely had the very same feelings, they were less likely to verbalise their dissent and just got on with what needed to happen and ‘play their role’ as required.

Couple that with the fact that the later generations have little or no interest in hearing “in my day we did it like this” and are seemingly unimpressed and disinterested in history and tradition.

After all the reason that all athletes are training for and competing within their chosen sport now is 100% because of all the previous administrators and athletes that came before them.

If you are reading this and you are from the younger generations, the way I see it is that it is NOT your fault and I am not being critical of you.

I feel it is a combination of many things within your upbringing IE: parenting, educational system, and peers all accepting of mediocre.

You are all so much more capable than you think you are. You all have it in you to be so amazing. Patience and work ethic is key.

For so long, people had their addictive dopamine fix by hard training or alcohol or drugs or smoking and as a sports coach that was what we were dealing with every day of our coaching lives.

Nowadays that dopamine fix is also satisfied by social media and technology.

The fixation on technology is an addiction that is not going to go away so we need to find a way to work with it rather than against it. Easier said than done for someone my age.

So often now, the gaps I now see in post training data are generally not to fix a flat tyre or mechanical issue or a stop to have a drink, (as it most often was in the past) it is much more likely to have been a stop or pause to take a photo for a social media feed or update.

Then, if we relied on many peoples’ social media, post training updates to see how they are doing, you would be led to believe that ‘wow these athletes are amazing and so strong and fast’.

I know better though, that the only reason that session suddenly appeared on social media is that they are happy (no, ecstatic with it). All the other sessions (that don’t appear on social media) that are completed just how they should be, on point and on the schedule. And those are the sessions I like most because they are the ones that make the most positive changes in the long term.


The most effortless generation to coach for me was the X generation.

I can only assume that these athletes were the closest in age to me and because I was still older and supposedly wiser than they, I found them extremely receptive to new ideas and methods with respect to their sporting aspirations.


Not every athlete or coach can retire within the perfect scenario where they win their last event that they are involved with IE: when everything is rosy and at the top of our/their game.

It certainly can and does happen but more often than not, it doesn’t happen, many hang on longer than they should.

Regardless of the timing, that point to declare that your coaching or athletic career is over, pull up stumps and hand over to the younger athletes and coaches coming through will come and we/you need to recognise that time!


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