Big goals and dreams require big training and often big sacrifice. When an athlete first starts lifting, they will often be progressing at near unfathomable rates. This will usher in a hunger for more that can quickly turn into greed. Left unmanaged, this can be the very thing that leads to a weightlifter's undoing. As a coach, it is your responsibility to stoke that flame while keeping it under control to help the burn last. With a special athlete, managing that will likely be the hardest thing you run into. Making a special athlete want to train will be the easy part. Getting them to back off, or being okay with them backing off when its needed for longevity, is entirely another thing. There is a sweet spot where the athlete can maintain a life outside the gym, progress nicely, stay healthy and still be hungry for more. The trick is finding where that point is, and through an athletes career it will be a moving target.
You may be curious what I mean by it being a moving target. What that means is as an athlete's training age increases, so does their strength, ability to move higher intensities more frequently, and how intense the recovery needs to be to make up for these things. What many coaches miss is the stresses that come from outside the gym. Relationship stress, work stress, family stress, social life, hobbies and all the energy these things take away from the athlete's ability to recover make an almost unpredictable stress load. A coach's best tool for this is being conservative, while communicating with the athlete early and often. When you train on the ragged edge of overtraining, you leave yourself little to no slack for when things come up and you need to pivot. Pulling back and leaving yourself room will ensure you are able to keep the athlete moving as they grow on and off the platform. Setting this expectation early, and making sure the your athletes understand the reasons behind it, will make pulling back on the reins easier later on.
Best practices include planned down periods of training, tracking volume, intensity, and other pivotal markers, frequent open communication from athlete to coach, and support teams like PT, LMT, Nutrition Coaches. Be careful not to let something that is completely manageable turn into something that ultimately drives an athlete out of the sport. Weightlifting in it's simplest form is a lifelong sport that people can enjoy recreationally and competitively for years, and most athletes that make it to the top levels of the sport did not get to the top in less than five to ten years. So why be in a hurry? Take your time as a coach, take your time as an athlete. Enjoy the ride, learn about the sport and movements, and help weightlifting grow as it helps you grow.
Coach Andy Coggins - USA Weightlifting National Coach