No Athlete Gets There Alone: Importance of Good Coaches

Media loves great athletes. You hear all about the life stories and hard work of people like Serena Williams, Kobe Bryant, Usain Bolt, and Michael Phelps. But no athlete ever gets there alone. It's smart and caring coaches that build the platform for these athletes to really take off from.

I've been lucky through my short 6 years as a strength athlete to be able to train under the eyes of some incredible coaches. My current post-surgery success is completely due to the knowledge I've been able to absorb from them. So without further ado….

Max Aita and wife Joann Aita
Max Aita

Max was my second Olympic lifting coach, and probably had the hardest time with me. He inherited a very strong but physically and mentally worn out and down athlete. When I showed up at his house (practically a lost dog looking for a home) I came burdened with technical and physical issues galore. My knees, hips, back and shoulders were in constant pain. 

His technical guidance allowed me to ditch the ibuprofen and the knee wraps. I stopped needed copious amounts of tiger balm and red hot to get through a practice. And despite my mental game being in the ditch and struggling to make myself train at all, he was able to coach me to medals at both the American Open and Senior Nationals.

Influences of Max's training style can be seen in the way I plan my progressions in both the Olympic lifts and how I progress my linear progressions for the squat post shoulder surgery. 

Kelly Starrett
 Kelly Starrett

While Kelly was never exactly a direct weightlifting coach, he certainly has done a lot to change the way I move, make me more aware of how position affects function and how to take care of my shit. When Max "inherited" me, and I was a physical hot mess, at one point he said "You need to see Kelly. I have an appointment with him next week, you take it."

Kelly taught me how creating movement in healthy ways and creating tension for that movement will help support my system through the years of abuse I gave it and plan to give it. And although my shoulder issues ultimately led me to a surgeon, Kelly was able to give me the tools and the help so that I could continue to train and compete at a national level until that point.

Jesse Burdick

Jesse Burdick
Powerlifting coach extraordinaire. I met Jesse through, yup, Max. Max took up powerlifting when his wrist exploded and of course was only going to seek out the best. I then took the CrossFit Powerlifting certification course from him and Mark Bell and got the gumption to drive out the CrossFit CSA twice a week to soak up all the knowledge that I could, in hope of getting stronger in the process. 

Unfortunately, I was deep in denial of being burned out, so the training didn't do as much as it should. But the principals of Westside Barbell style training I've taken back to the powerlifting class I created at San Francisco CrossFit and use with some personal training clients that love the heavy lifting. I've also learned more from Jesse than anyone else how there is a time and place for every style of training, you just need to have an open mind and be willing to look at all sides of an issue. 

Jesse's program influences can be seen in how I order my day to day training, trying to blend Olympic lifting with powerlifting and some CFFB and vanity work.

Diane Fu
Diane Fu

I met this lady in the weigh-in lines at the Redwood Empire Weightlifting Meet. My second meet, her first. The weightlifting community is small, so we ran into each other a lot and I'm glad to say we got along really well.

I don't know anyone who noodles on weightlifting nearly as much as Diane does. When she turns to me and says "I've been thinking…." or "What do you think of…" I know that my training session is going to have a 10-20 minute gap as she hashes out a perspective on technique or training that has been sitting on her mind.

After surgery, she helped me work my snatch technique around my somewhat limited mobility and easily pissed off scar tissue. Also, through conversations with her on lifting and listening to her coach seminars, I'd say my own coaching eye for the lifts has progressed much faster than it would have on my own.