As I’ve progressed over the years in my training, I’ve come to the realization that I am beginning to have to take on the responsibility of being somewhat of a mentor to others. This is not only a responsibility that I’ve chosen to accept, but embrace. I must say that whenever a beginner or someone with less experience than myself comes to me for advice, it is not only an opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge with others, but also an opportunity to reflect and come to a more in-depth understanding of said knowledge so that I can mentor others in the future more efficiently.
The reason I bring up this point is because of something I witnessed this past Friday. While I was preparing for my own training session, I watched a kid whom was roughly between the ages of 14-16 attempt a new PR in the squat. I’ve seen this kid around the gym a couple of times and it has become apparent that he is still fairly new to the iron game. Undoubtedly, the weight he was using was too heavy for his abilities and as such, his form suffered and it was a pretty ugly set. What happened next is the reason for writing this blog.
Upon the completion of his set, despite how ugly it was, the kid was excited that he had set a new personal best. After turning around, someone in a position of authority at our gym decided to belittle him and tell him how awful his set and technique was.
One of the many things that I’ve learned about this sport over the years is that you should never belittle someone who really gives a damn about weightlifting, and their progress, and even more important, someone who clearly looks up to you as a weightlifting idol. Rest assured that at one point in my weightlifting career, I was that kid. I was that kid with sub-optimal technique, but drive and passion to progress and be the best. Further, had I not received advice on how to get better, I would likely not be an avid lifter today.
I can tell you one thing is for sure, even at the age of 22, with 10 years of training under my belt, if one of my idols such as Dan Green, or Brandon Lilly, were to watch me deadlift and proceed to belittle me and tell me how awful I am at it, it would crush me. It would also likely cause me to wonder why I am even still trying to be the best. Now if you can imagine that, imagine what it would do to a beginner. I can only speculate, but I’d be willing to bet that it would make that beginner feel like shit, and likely be self conscious every time he lifts, rather than learning from his past mistakes and eventually becoming a great lifter.
When placed in a position of ‘Expert’ status, whether self proclaimed or certified, it is always important to be the best example possible in terms of technique as well as how you carry yourself so that others can emulate you. Further, when you are seen as an expert, you should never put yourself on a pedestal. In order for others to learn from your advice, you have to be approachable and act in a way that others will want to put your advice into practice. When in a position of authority, positive reinforcement succeeded by suggestions on how to improve, will ALWAYS trump negative reinforcement with no advice. Moreover, if someone is willing to have an open mind and learn from their mistakes and an “expert’s” advice, then they are already on the road to success and should be looked at as an equal. They may not have the level of knowledge or experience as you yet, but it is clear that they want to. With positive reinforcement and productive advice, you may be a major influence on an up-and-comer in this lifestyle that may have an important influence on the industry as a whole someday.