Being a World Champion in any major sport is a huge accomplishment.
It takes time, dedication, and a lot of hard work to develop the skills necessary to perform at that level. What most people don’t realize is that it also takes the same time, dedication, and hard work to coach at that level.
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Being an athlete and being a coach are two completely different things that require two completely different skill sets. And while a great athlete can become a great coach, being a great athlete does not guarantee that they will be a great coach. In fact, there are many great coaches that either weren’t great athletes or never competed at all. But, because they have such great coaching skills, they’re able to produce multiple World Champions.
John Danaher – Trained Gordon Ryan, Nicky Ryan, and Garry Tonon
Greg Jackson – Trained Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, and Holly Holm
Angelo Dundee – Trained Muhammad Ali, and Sugar Ray Leonard
Cus D’Amato – Trained Mike Tyson, and Floyd Patterson
All four of those examples have zero professional fights. Yet throughout their careers they’ve been able to produce Champion, after Champion, after Champion. At the absolute top of their sport.
So what really makes the difference? As an athlete, you must learn both the knowledge and skills to perform the tasks required by your sport. As a coach, you not only have to teach your athletes the knowledge they need, you also have to transform that knowledge into skill. Which isn’t always as simple as just telling them what to do. Not everyone can learn like that. And, because every person is not the same, a single cookie cutter formula is not going to work. Each individual person is a separate puzzle that the coach must find a solution for.
But that doesn’t mean that a former world champion can’t become a great coach. It’s natural for any athlete to attempt to make the transition from competitor to coach once they’ve reached a point in their lives where they can no longer compete. However, for every one of them that does well, there’s a dozen more that do horribly.
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So how do you know what to look for when you’re looking for a new coach or gym? First, be aware that competing and coaching are two separate skills. Being a former world champion is a great source of knowledge, but it means nothing if they aren’t capable of transferring that knowledge to you. Then, look at their actual coaching credentials.
Are they producing multiple champions? Multiple being the key. Producing a single champion can be a fluke. The athlete could have just been a natural at it that would have performed well under any coach. Or, they could’ve simply been a great matchup for the coach, having the same build and style. By producing multiple champions, the likelihood of them being a fluke is very slim.
Do they have a number of athletes that have been training with them for a long time? A gym that has a number of long term athletes shows that there is a trust and confidence in the program. That’s what builds loyalty. On the other hand, there’s a good chance that if a gym has a constant revolving door of members, there’s something not right. It could be anything from a personality conflict, to an actual lack of skill. Either way it’s not a good sign.
Finally, what is the team atmosphere like? Training for combat sports can be a grueling process that takes a lot out of people, and at times it can really suck. When the training is done, does everyone get along? Are people hanging out, talking and joking with each other? Or does everyone just leave without saying a single word? The atmosphere of the gym will have an affect on whether or not you enjoy being there, which in turn will affect your ability to learn while there.
With the rapid rise in popularity of both MMA and Jiu Jitsu, there are new gyms popping up every other day. Gyms run by World Champions, Recreational Practitioners, Wanna Be’s, Frauds, they’re all going to be there. To ensure that you’re getting the best training that you can get, make sure that you’re getting the best coaching that you can get.
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