Tamara screamed, “Holy shit!”
That should have clued me in — she wasn’t watching a funny cat video.
The dog stalked a young kid, attacked him viciously, only to be run off by a little cat who saved the day. The dog could easily have killed the boy if the cat hadn’t stepped in.
This video didn’t make me think about how awesome that cat was, but rather, how negligent the dogs owner was.
New coaches are often like a bad dog owner. They aren’t abusive or mean — they are too nice.
Because of their lack of experience — and the associated lack of perspective — they fail to realize that not being able to say “no” and stick to it, can lead to serious consequences down the road.
NOTE: This article is written for coaches. But, if you find yourself in any leadership role, you might find it useful, too.
Cougars Don’t Just Like Guys With Abs
While not common, it isn’t unheard of in Oregon to hear about someone’s kid being killed — and eaten — by a cougar (the animal).
Unfortunately, like cougars, a poorly trained dog can — and often will — hurt young kids — even kill them if they are a big enough to do it.
Neither dogs nor cougars are “inherently” evil, nor are they inherently good. They are — like we are — nothing more than animals.
The dog wasn’t evil. It was simply a dog. But, it will still be put down for what it did.
Thankfully, the kid wasn’t.
Dogs vs Cats vs Humans
I don’t have anything against cats — aside from the liter-box thing — but, I vastly prefer dogs over them.
Cats aren’t friends, they are more like demanding roommates who don’t even make up for their “regal” existence by paying half the rent!
The upside is that you don’t have to train a cat. They are so small, that unlike their larger feline brethren, the damage an untrained cat will cause will remain in the form of hurt emotions and pissed-on couches.
Not so with dogs.
Dogs are so much like us, that I’ve always been surprised by how shocked people get when I tell them that teaching humans is nearly identical to training dogs — hell, P.E. teachers even where whistles!
The key difference is that a human gone bad is capable of causing far more damage than any dog — a woefully poor understatement, I know.
You have to train your dog. Period. There is no way out of that. The consequences are too great.
Humans are animals.
Like dogs, we have instincts and behaviors that make a lot of sense from an evolutionary standpoint.
- Most animals rape and kill.
- Many commit genocide.
We just don’t call it that because they aren’t humans.
2 Quick Definitions
Definition 1: The Naturalistic Fallacy
“If X is natural, X is good” — The Naturalistic Fallacy
Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing.
And yet, we often attempt to justify negative behaviors — behaviors that are contrary to what we deem acceptable in our modern society — with precisely this form of logic.
I won’t get into the diet and fitness crazes that use the same form or reasoning as justification.
Definition 2: The Availability Heuristic
“The easier it is to recall examples of an event, the more probable you believe it to be.”
If you can remember details — especially if they feel personal to you — you will over-value that event as more common than it actually is.
Why Violence Has Declined
A common cliche is that the 20th century was one of the most violent in history. 1
The truth is nearly the opposite when you account for population.
In other words, the average rate of violence per person has actually been going DOWN throughout history, not up — and that includes the last one.
Shocked? Most people are when they find this out.
The Power Of Perspective
Today, we find nearly ALL violence to be undesirable. But, that is a very new concept!
It wasn’t long ago — right here in America — here in North Carolina! — when black people were still being lynched and hung for being… black. Non-black people didn’t think of this as problematic or evil or wrong. Hell, they thought it was RIGHT, even good.
The number of humans who died in the slave trade — just counting deaths, not the horror of BEING a slave — is so astronomical it’s hard to wrap your brain around.
And yet, other humans — in this case, the white ones — thought it was all hunky-dory. That kind of comfortableness with ultra-violence was the norm — not an exception — to the way humans throughout history have lived.
From the Mongol and Viking hordes, to the Roman empire, to the Aztecs, to the ancient Chinese and the Samurai… humans have been horrible.
- Young men didn’t live to be old men.
- Young girls didn’t wait to have sex until they were “ready”.
- The world was not a safe place.
Violence is declining for the same reasons a good dog doesn’t bite kids — we’re being trained.
The Paradox Of Violence-Training
- Have you ever noticed that kids who spent their youth seriously studying the martial arts grow up to be remarkably non-violent adults?
Have you ever noticed that a kid who used to be a pile of shit, then joined the military, came out 4 years later a respectful, helpful, and genuine adult?
Have you ever noticed that your favorite teachers were always the hardest?
These are not accidents. They are predictable.
Hard training is good for humans.
What martial arts instructors, military sergeants, and tough teachers have in common are the following:
- They have massively high standards.
- They hold you to those standards without budging — ever.
- They are unusually good at teaching you how to reach those standards.
All three of these must be true or it doesn’t work.
These instructors all have different — outward — styles.
- Some are quiet like Mr. Miyagi (from the Karate Kid)
- Some yell all the time.
- Some laugh at everything…
On the outside, they might seem dissimilar. That is only surface deep. Underneath the facade, they share a common core: discipline.
They won’t let you slack. There is a bar, and you are going to reach it. Period.
(or, in our case, you’re going to lift it!)
Why Coaches Fail
Coaching has almost nothing to do with knowing anatomy, proper technique, which exercises are better than others, or what the perfect program is.
Coaching is the art of manipulating another human being into becoming a better version of themselves — whether they like it or not.
It is a process that takes YEARS. There are no sneaky tricks. There are no secrets. There is nothing but the work.
The problem is … it’s work. Lots of it.
YOUR job is to enforce the structure that makes it all possible.
- If your athletes have shitty form — that’s your fault.
If your athletes can’t do a single chin up — instead, they flail around kipping their shoulders off the bone — that’s your fault.
If your athletes end up at a contest pressing out all their snatches — that’s your fault.
If your gym atmosphere is negative — that’s your fault
If your athletes consistently fail to get better — that’s your fault.
If your athletes are constantly injured — that’s your fault.
… I could go on forever.
Do You Have The “Mr. Nice Guy” Disease?
The hardest lesson I had to learn as a coach was that the buck stopped with me.
- Was I going to be the kind of coach that was fun in the moment, but didn’t actually get them results?
Or, was I going to be the coach they “thanked later”?
New coaches find it woefully hard to be … “hard”. They mistakenly believe that their primary function is to be encouraging. It isn’t.
What is more discouraging?
- Being forced to keep practicing until it is right.
- Getting injured because your coach never forced you to learn it like you were supposed to in the first place.
Just like that pile-of-shit kid who only shapes up once they go through the military — your athletes secretly want you to be a hard ass! No one has ever done that for them before. It’s a gift you have to give.
REAL Niceness Comes With A Big Stick
I’m a nice guy. That’s the point!
I actually DO care if my athletes reach their goals and become stronger people — inside and out.
Because I care about you: I’m willing to kick your ass.
That wasn’t something that came naturally to me. I had to learn it, practice it, be disciplined with myself until it became the default.
Smile, laugh, joke around — these are great teacher’s tricks — but never let them slack!
That dog in the video is going to die because it had an owner who couldn’t say “no”. The kid could have been more seriously hurt — killed.
Odds are, your athletes aren’t going to bite anyone! But, they CAN seriously hurt themselves. Best case scenario, they just fail to reach their goals.
What is sad, is that most of those negatives are totally preventable — by you.
A coaches job is less about showing someone the right road than it is about keeping them off the wrong one.
You’re a coach: you already believe in the power of training. Train yourself to be a stronger trainer. Your athletes will thank you later.
Now go coach someone to lift something heavy,
- Violence: A good place to start if you want to research more about human violence throughout history is the book by Steven Pinker, “The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”. ↩