Beware of the Copy-and-Paste Coach


As the new year begins to populate with updated meet schedules, filled with ladder-style events that require higher qualifying totals, the need to find a coach to provide a game plan grows. Unfortunately, so does the number of unqualified individuals looking to pick your pocket, eager to divulge their “expertise,” and lead you to the promised land of a higher DOTS score and esteemed accolades.

So where does one start? How can you find yourself a coach and not a con artist?

Forewarning: this article might offend some of you, and if it does, good. Maybe you should consider your own morals and level of education before offering your so-called “services.”

Identify Unqualified Coaches
I have fallen victim to hiring unqualified coaches in my younger years. There was even an instance where my wife and I caught our coaches copying from one another. I have been let down by many, ignored and ghosted by some, and given notes sent in a text that anyone could have typed up from the toilet from a “top-level” mentor.

That being said, this article is not about me. It is about YOU. More importantly, it is about where your money is going to go.

When scouring the sea of neverending training tutors, how could one possibly decide on the right choice? While there are always exceptions to the rules, here are a few dead giveaways that you can dig up on your own as you navigate these treacherous waters.

1. An Easy and Quick Trip to Open Powerlifting
Hailed by many as the end all be all, the glorious Open Powerlifting database provides current rankings, best lifts, and totals, meets completed (or not), years competed, divisions, weight classes, feds, you name it.

With this database, you can look up any coach by their real name, see their meet history, and carefully consider just how qualified they are.

You can find answers to various questions. How many meets have they done? How many years of training versus competing do they have under their belt? Looking to increase your bench? How much have they advanced their own total in those years, and what type of lifter are they? Examine if they have progressed themselves. Is the list so short that you can not answer many of these basic questions?

Guess what? That means they barely have any more experience than you do. As the old saying goes, is the blind leading the blind?

Chances are they have done three meets in a year or so, barely have a clue what they are doing, and decided to make up a name and put “coach” in their Instagram bio.

2. What They Do for the Sport and Community
Competing is self-centered, and making money from others to coach them is, too. These things serve the sole purpose of self-gratitude and a way of income, which is all fine and dandy. But what does your coach contribute besides that? Are they a referee and able to see things from a perspective from both sides of the platform? Are they a gym owner who consistently hosts meets and opens their home to lifters of all levels? And are they a meet director or do they help organize events across an area? Do they volunteer to spot and load or staff these events? Do they provide sponsorship or prizes for meets? All of these questions are options for a competitor to give back and see the world of powerlifting from the other side. Do you see them actively helping others and showing they care?

It boils down to two options: a money grab or a moral high ground. Where does your new “coach” stand?

3. A Student of the Sport
I am, at heart, a teacher, which brings me to my next point: Do they fucking read?

You would be amazed at how many of these trainers show up to our meets and think a pair of joggers and a clipboard with some kilos on it make them a coach. They do not know the rules, have not even touched a rulebook, and constantly question every call a ref makes. And why is that, you ask? BECAUSE THEY DO NOT FUCKING READ ANYTHING.

If your coach does not continue to learn and progress and read up-to-date info, how do you expect them to be on top of the game for you?

Spending five minutes on Russel Orhii’s YouTube does not make them an expert on squatting. While videos have made movements and guidance visually accessible in a pinch, nothing replaces the lost art of reading.

You should know you are reading right now…good on you. Now let’s hope your coach does, too.

Recent: The One Armed Guillotine Training Split
4. Programming and Attitude

I firmly believe most programs work, especially ones that auto-regulate and make sense for the lifter. It needs to be one that they can manage and stick to. Does your coach switch everything every block, making it impossible to track a variation or see progress? Do they chalk it up to “trust the process” and “muscle confusion?” It is okay to ask your coach why you are doing something, and they should have an answer.

Does your coach punish you? This is a huge red flag. If you get overzealous, do they prescribe overly difficult percentages or lifts to teach you a lesson? This involves accountability on both parties being open to criticism and understanding we are all human. Coaches should accurately give you a time frame for response, but you should also ask questions beforehand, not five seconds before you have to do the set.

On the flip side, many new lifters want custom everything because that is the cool buzzword. What they need to do is buckle down and train. If you have been lifting for two or fewer years, I know what your “weakness” is: It is everything.

Everything on you is weak. That is not a shot at you, but more a simple statement of, “You do not have enough time in” yet, which is absolutely okay. Just do not kid yourself.

5. The Business Card Model
Above many, not being a walking business card is one aspect I cannot let slide. Is your coach an advertisement of the goal you want to obtain? If your goal is to be strong, but your coach is not, what does that say about their commitment and standards if they can not even showcase what you want from them?

This applies all around. Are they a nutrition coach and look like ****? Why would you want a meal plan developed by someone who can not discipline themselves? This one can be tricky. As I said before, there are contingencies and exceptions. For example: if they are past their prime as a competitor, what is their track record and success rate with current and previous clients? Have they taken beginners to a much higher level or moved intermediates to the top tier? More importantly, have they taken someone from your level and moved them to where you want to be?

Concluding Thoughts
Not every great competitor makes a great coach, and not every coach is a good competitor. However, there should be some explanation and examination between the blurred lines. All too often, I watch young or new lifters get conned by coaches. Many I see at my own meets or ones I traveled to. It is embarrassing and waters down what could be a great opportunity for a lifter to learn and grow. Unfortunately, unqualified coaching is growing like wildfire. Often those that do, open the door and lay the unstable foundation for more wannabe coaches. It is a vicious cycle.

Stop giving your money to people who are not an example of what you are trying to be. What grounds do they have to stand on if they can not even do the very thing they want you to pay them for?

If you want a coach, do your homework, ask around, listen, watch, and know who you are getting involved with.

However, if you want to BE a coach, take your time, get some years under your belt, and never stop learning for your personal benefit. Practice the things you preach! It is okay to wait and learn more before doing yourself and your athletes a disservice. Work and run meets, volunteer your time, and understand that everything comes full circle. And when it does, do you want your circle to be full and complete or riddled with holes and a revolving door of athletes?



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