By Nick Serio
‘with a primal lens’
A successful coach is one who can guide and elicit the behaviors necessary in a given environment to achieve a desired outcome. Normally a coach is praised, ranked, or disparaged based on attributes such as expertise, coaching style, and methodology. However, in moments of competition, battle, or survival these attributes may survive the leaders rank but pale in comparison to the needs for objectivity, concise analysis, and definitive articulation. A coach’s ability to understand both the environment and their athletes self-and-socially perceived place within that environment, is crucial to behavioral guidance.
Thus, this article is intended to provide a lucid description of the climatic underpinnings and behavioral battles that develop within the competitive platform of Olympic Weightlifting through the eyes of a coach.
THE FACILITATOR: “THE COACH”
A coach is purely a manager of behaviors. Their interests lie in either the controlling or eliciting of consequences via education, behavioral guidance, and climatic control. This is all with the idea that consequences are not only interpreted in a negative light, which is common to societies use of the term, but also as a potential positive reaction to environment variabilities. However, the behavioral guidance of a coach can, and should, only go so far. Fore, if their efforts over-reach or boarder on manipulation, their behavioral intentions can produce negative consequences in an athlete and have lasting effects (i.e. the development of ‘fear of failure’ or ‘burnout’).
The importance of understanding not only the aura of the environment they are educating within, but the quality and quantity of motivation their athlete possess, is absolutely crucial to proper behavioral control. Once again, a coach is merely a facilitator of consequences not direct ability, skill, or athleticism. At the time of competition the three aforementioned attributes can no longer be manipulated without the introjection of behavioral and psychological management. Attitude and effort stand alone as the two affective criterion in which a coach must influence.
THE MARCHING OF THE MILITIA: “START OF COMPETITION DAY”
Olympic Weightlifting (OLY) is a sport with clear delineation from likes of the Greeks and Romans, with its almost parallel affinity to a ‘Gladiator-esque’ atmosphere. However, this is not a sport defined merely by size and strength but by mastery and technique as the alpha of this coliseum could be 5’5” and weigh a 160 pounds. Thus, the battle is often won with strategy and sheer mental focus; strategy which begins from the moment the athlete steps foot in the arena.
As the gates for competition open, the athletes begin to fill the arena bolstered by their entourage of coaches, followers, and pupils. All proudly displaying their colors and emblems like badges of armor, representing a unified support for their tribe or militia. Each militia’s color scheme more grandiose than the next, but not with interest in vanity, but with design in boasting superiority and evoking fear. Thus, the marching of colors has anointed the start of the battle. Strategy has been initiated, but more importantly so has the THE CUNNING HUNT!
THE CUNNING HUNT: “WARM-UP AREA”
As the first match nears closer, the athletes will take to the warm-up area and claim their preferred stage. I choose the label ‘STAGE’ here over ‘PLATFORM’ as this precursory battle ground, is for some, as much about a theatrical performances as it is predatory practice. It is here that you will see the challengers, the presumed betas, choose the stage with the most eyes, and the most viewpoints. They lumber around with boisterous noise, as they slam the platform with sheer aggression and fury. This demonstration may seem predatory yet its primary interests lies in the demonstration of strength, speed, and power. Hoping to evoke fear and envy into the souls of their eluding adversaries as they dominate the attention and focus of all.
As the demonstrations of power and ascendance continues there is one among the heat who remains calm and astute. He drifts to the far back of the room, obscured by the grandiose spectacles of their hopeful successors, as he takes the stage with the most vantage points. He rejoices in his solitude as his patience has been earned by knowledge and experience. He knows the battle is not won with boisterous proclamations but cunning strategy and stealthy attacks. It is as though he welcomes intruders, challenging those who feel they are relevant to demonstrate why they should be compared to the likes of his prowess. As he knows here, in this time is where he will capitalize on the less experienced lifters, as they will begin to falter. First it is their focus, as they become egregiously ego-oriented, self-absorbed with the perceptions of others, their talents, so mitigated by the paralysis of comparisons and fears of future failures. Next comes a break in their strategy and fatigue begins to consume them as the stress hormones rage through their body like a virus attacking adrenal like a plague. But this is exactly what the alpha planned, this is his cunning strategy, their experience oozes from them like a pheromone of dominance, as they remain cool, they flow through the room, absorbing the focus of all. They remain vigilant in their preparation as they astutely wait for that precise moment to strike, the cunning hunt is upon us and the bar is about to be loaded, the alpha is ready to PROCLAIM HIS DOMINANCE.
THE PROCLAMATION OF DOMINANCE: “THE STAGE”
The battle has begun and the first shots are fired by tertiary omegas, those who came to sharpen their skills, feel the lay of the land, and hopefully return at another battle to take an attempt at the alpha. They move through their lifts fast following each other in an almost repetitive march of small kilogram jumps. However, their approach is not with out stern attention to their preparation and strategy. As the alpha piers across the grounds, he remembers the days he was amongst that heard, he becomes agitated by the desire to pounce, but is quickly tamed by his facilitator, who quickly attempts to channel the athletes aggression into another warm-up attempt.
The next wave of attacks will come from the bulk of the betas. These are the challengers who have earned their stripes, the right to be among the alphas. They will take attempts likely higher than they ever have with almost reckless abandonment for their bodies and minds. It is as though they are in a fight or flight state and they can scream nothing but fight. They will stop at nothing; pain, injury, fatigue, fear, all wash away as they have one goal in mind and that is to dethrone the king. Yet often, even this immensely intense desire to succeed is corroded by their own corruption. Perhaps it is the hysteria of the moment, the preoccupation with perceptual value, or lack of mental cognizance that does them in.
As the final attempts near, the alpha sit patiently, as to almost peer down upon all those who have yet to even achieve a lift equaling their first attempt. Failure’s scent fills the room like gloomy cloud of smog washes over the cemetery. The carcasses of challengers dreams are what remains from the thunderous barrage of misses that has just rained down. The mood in the room transitions from hopeful enlightenment to an ominous fatigue ridden aura reality as the alpha now takes his first march out to the platform.
He calmly approaches the platform finding his focal point within the crowd and in an almost gliding like manner swiftly makes his way over to the chalk bin. As the alpha takes his battle position, each with their own unique pre-attack ritual, he sits patiently as the clock winds down. He waits for that precise moment when he can align his mind, body, and spirit, and then… it happens. He strikes with incredible precision and speed, landing with poise and aggression intermingled like a creation only a god could create and only an athlete could imagine. Once awarded his kill he drops the bar in almost effortless fashion as to once again PROCLAIM HIS DOMINANCE over this kingdom.