Defining a Philosophy and Core Principles

If you watch major professional sports, you can see the philosophy of the team, or should be able to, every time that you watch them.  I am a big soccer fan and a fan of the Tottenham Hotspurs.  I know when they play that will play a high line and be very forward and aggressive in their offensive attacks.  The philosophy is a total commitment to attacking soccer and the high line is one of those principles.  Falling back into a low block would never be an option as it goes against the total commitment of attacking football aka the philosophy.  

Ange Postecoglou, the coach of Tottenham, wants to ensure his teams have a greater purpose than just winning.  This idea was instilled into him by his mentor and coach of Hellas, Ferenc Puskas.  Postecoglou’s philosophy requires a tremendous work rate by his players.  This value of hard work was instilled in him by his parents being immigrants in a foreign country.  He has said that your philosophy has got to be something that comes from within you, so step number one is understanding who you are as a person.

 For Ange, he believes that playing a certain style of soccer can bring about a sort of utopia.  It is fun for the players to be so focused on attacking and working hard for each other.  If you have never been in an environment like this, you are truly missing out.  It is the best feeling in the world.  He also said that playing this style of soccer keeps people on their feet and into the game the whole time and when you have 70,000 people up and yelling for you, it is something much bigger than winning and losing.  As a byproduct though he wins a lot.

His first core principle is to have the ball.  You can’t score without the ball.  His defensive strategy is tied to this core belief with his center backs playing the high line so the midfielders can get immediate pressure on the ball once it is lost, and the goal is to attack the offense until they turn the ball over.  You will give up goals like this, but the plan isn’t to win 1-0 it is to win 4-3, because that is more exciting to him.

He believes in empowering players.  He doesn’t believe that coaching is telling players what to do, but instead making them believe that they can make those decisions themselves.  Lastly, he coaches for the future.  He always coaches from a place of thinking about the team in five years’ time.

For many that have followed me through the years you can see why I resonate with this coach so much.  A coaching philosophy needs to have a purpose.  Without a purpose, lifters will not even begin to understand how to make decisions.  I trained under the legendary Boris Sheiko for over three years, and truly learned so much about strength training, but the idea of just following orders and getting the reps in never truly resonated with who I am as a person.

In sports I have always enjoyed having the freedom of PLAYING.  The freedom of a coach trusting me to make the decisions as I feel my way through a game.  My favorite coaches would point out things the opposition were doing to make sure I noticed and allowed me to make the adjustments to it.  We had prepared and discussed these things in film sessions in most cases.  Much like Ange Postecoglou, they made me believe I was capable of those decisions.

I grew up rough.  Living in an abusive home for 20 years has left its mark on me.  Sports was an escape and an outlet for me, but I also had to work harder at everything I did to be able to compete.  Imagine being woken up at 2am when your drunken father got back from the bar and felt like beating on someone.  Then waking up at 6am to go to school, followed by practice, and work afterwards.

Conjugate really resonates with me because every rep needs to be done at 100% effort.  Every single rep has a purpose.  This is representative of my work ethic to be here today.  Give 100% effort to everything you do, and no one can hold you back.  When I was federally indicted and fired from my job with a newborn at home, I continued to give my best effort.  I earned multiple degrees and started a successful business.

The challenge of a new exercise weekly that you need to figure out and conquer is exciting to me.  My life was chaos so having a more “chaotic” plan like this resonates with my personality.  I know many others that need more certainty with things, and conjugate is probably not for them.

I don’t believe in doing things with moderate intensity.  Average people give moderate effort, and I have never wanted to be average.  There are times that we need to hit the brakes and recover, and practice some other things, but that makes up a very small percentage of the program.  Each day has a purpose where we lift heavy weights for a max effort single and the other day, we move light weights fast to build the ability to produce force more quickly.

Everything we do is centered around the ability to produce more force.  Repeating exercises over and over decreases the force to lift them.  This is the increased efficiency that coaches talk about.  This does not fit into the philosophy of always developing the ability to produce more force.  Lifting heavier requires rotating exercises too due to the force/posture curve.  Where peak forces occur needs to rotate so that those places fully recover, and we do not get hurt.

I educate the lifters and allow them to make their own decisions.  There will be a lot of mistakes earlier on and it probably takes 2-3 years to really understand the system.  I try to emphasize the important skills developed in sports that carryover int everything in life such as self-awareness, mindfulness, resiliency, integrity, learning, and effort.  Maybe that message is not heard in the gym, but they hear it enough to apply it to other areas in their life they may care more about.

I don’t change my philosophy based on the individual.  If a coach does that, they do not truly possess a philosophy.  Core principles do not change, if they did, they are not principles.  The core principle of attacking every rep at 100% is non-negotiable.  This means that we will not do more straight weight rep work at 70%, because you can’t give 100% effort to those lifts due to deceleration as leverages improve.  This is why we use bands and chains.  To develop maximum force, a box squat is king due to the collision (physics definition) with the box.  These things are non-negotiable.

Most coaches just regurgitate other coaches, write up programs that mimic something they saw, or try to combine a bunch of different philosophies.  None of those work.  Newer coaches won’t have a philosophy yet but will constantly just change their mind.  Look back on my stuff and you can see that.  It takes a good amount of time to get there, many years even.  I have been participating in sports for over 35 years, and coaching for close to 20 years now and just now am I finding my philosophy an how to communicate it.  

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