A Coach's Merit by Naomi Kooiker
Naomi Kooiker is a fantastic coach, one of the most dedicated, smart, and attentive ones I have come across in Kettlebell Sport. She coaches at Jaap's Gym in the Netherlands. I met Naomi at the IUKL World Championships in Dublin in 2015, and since then I have stayed with her several times in the Netherlands. Over the last three years, we have had lots of conversations on kettlebell technique, programming for kettlebell training, how to move the sport forward, and of course coaching our students. We had a particularly interesting discussion about what makes a good coach. Most people in the Kettlebell Sport world choose their coach based on their personal accomplishments (i.e. World Champions and the like). While it makes sense to want to learn from these champions, just because they are a champion does not mean they are a good coach. There are many things that determine what makes someone a good coach, but being a top level lifter isn't necessarily one of them.
The Kettlebell Sport world is still very small and niche, and it can be hard to find a coach in general, much less a good one. But I do think it's incredibly important to find a good one! If you don't, you could spend years undoing bad habits or injuries from overtraining. I could go on forever on this topic... however, I'm going to let Naomi do it!
A Coach's Merit
Some think that the merit of a coach is measured by how many world class athletes they have produced. Or by how many medals their students have won. Or even by how well they themselves have performed in competition.
It's not. Or at least, it shouldn't be.
Great coaching ability is demonstrated when you efficiently teach beginners the basics of good technique and manage to make them enthusiastic about the sport.
Great coaching ability is demonstrated when you coach an athlete that is never, ever, ever going to win any (real) medals but you do manage to change their technique and performance from a 3 to a 7.
Great coaching ability is demonstrated when you can keep a group of recreational lifters consistently and enthusiastically lifting. Injury free.
Great coaching ability is demonstrated when you manage to keep the atmosphere in your gym and among your gym friendly, humble, and empowering.
Great coaching ability is demonstrated when you manage to finally make something click in someone's head even though they've already been working on their technique for years.
Great coaching ability is demonstrated when you know just the words to say to help someone deal with competition stress or when you know just the program to write to keep someone lifting during a rough period.
We all have our weaknesses. Some of us (me) will run away screaming when asked to teach kids. Some of us have no interest in teaching recreational lifters and just want to work with serious athletes. Some of us simply have no idea how to work with recreational lifters. And some of us might not have the ability to coach someone to Master of Sport International Class level (or have never had anyone step in their gym who wanted to put in that kind of time and effort).
But we also all have our strengths. And we are all contributing to the growth of the sport. In fact, if you teach kids, you might even be contributing a tad more.
And if you ever find yourself in a situation where you can't help someone further their goals or ambitions, that is absolutely no problem. Just discuss and together find someone who can.