The recent rise of prep-coaches has led many to debate the necessity and efficacy of coaches during contest preparation, the basis for many debates online with strong arguments on both sides. In the anti prep-coach camp, some feel that it hinders growth of an athlete by keeping them ignorant to the process, while others in this group believe dieting is a simple enough process that coaching is not required for success. On the reverse of the coin, there are many people who support quality coaching and believe it a necessity as both a novice and veteran bodybuilder, though what’s required of a coach may change with time. It is ultimately a personal decision, but one that could have a dramatic impact on someone’s career, and for that reason it is important to get an objective perspective for both sides of the argument when making the decision of whether to use a coach or not.
While those who argue against the coaching process genuinely have the best interest of competitors in their heart, the logic and reasoning for this is often dated and can quickly be negated when closely scrutinized. What both sides agree on is negative impact that poor coaching has, but just because the majority of coaches are under-qualified, it does not mean the good ones are any less beneficial and sometimes necessary for success.
A common argument is for an alternative education of sorts, similar to that of people taking online classes without registering at the University. This concept is based on the principle that with vast amounts of web-material now available around the globe for athletes, a truly determined self-starter in this 21st-century information age, could be self-taught in the entire process of bodybuilding and contest preparation. As awesome a concept this sounds hypothetically, in application it repeatedly fails, with only limited exceptions. The problem is one of the main arguments against prep coaches applies even more so to the internet, where there is a vast web of information, but a proportionate amount of misinformation as well. This leaves an athlete to decide what is quality content and what is not, with a very limited base of knowledge to make these decisions from. It is for this reason both a poor coach and misinformation online can be equally damaging.
As important as a coach can be in providing solid fundamentals to an athlete early in their career, they can be equaly important as the second set of eyes to monitor the athlete’s progress, while giving an objective and educated perspective. Because nothing in the process is inherently natural or instinctive (our ancestors weren’t in the gym until about 60 years ago, and even less experience with the plethora of pharmaceuticals readily available in modern-day,) quality coaching has taken an even more pivotal role by providing a level of resources and knowledge previously not available to new competitors. It is important for athletes to understand what they are doing to their bodies and why (a good coach will help them do this,) but at the elite levels of say the IFBB or even NPC Nationals, an athlete’s sole focus should be proper execution on game day.
Take NASCAR for example, obviously every one of these drivers has come up through the ranks and understands the workings of an automobile better than 99% of people on the road, but they are not the ones designing the cars or fixing them in the garage. Instead, elite drivers have become specialists in their role and dependent on a team to assist them. This team also specializes in their role which allows for maximum production, by allowing the driver to focus on his task at hand. The same principles apply to bodybuilding, where the body is a vehicle of all the work put in by both the athlete and team behind him.
Bodybuilding often serves as a reflection of life, and the harsh reality is most of us are average, if not only slightly below or above average statistically at anything we do. It is hard to be exceptional at anything in life, let alone multiple things, as the odds of being in the 1% of what you do are so minimal. It is for this reason it is impractical to have a one stop shop in the upper echelons of any sport, especially bodybuilding. By no means does using a coach indicate that a bodybuilder is not capable of doing their or other’s prep, but a 2nd set of trained / objective eyes never hurts, especially on low carbs.
In the last half-decade coaches and their ‘teams’ have tripled in number it seems, but not their quality. In fact, in recent years coaching has become quite trendy, and everyday a new bikini competitor takes to social media announcing how happy she is to be joining team (fill in the blank) with coach (random guy who pays the promoters.) As well, hordes of under qualified competitors whose sole qualification is the $100 they payed for their NPC card, are now gladly stepping up to the plate and taking people who are new and ignorant to the sport’s money. Suddenly ‘Sandy Sue’ who got dead last at the NPC Nationals, only after garnishing automatic qualification at the hypothetical Potato Classic, has become your city’s newest self-proclaimed prep-coach. This is the type of behavior that gives quality prep-coaches a bad rap.
The end result of this upsurge in coaching is not all negative, in fact it has some positive impacts as well. Not only does it indicate growth of the sport, but this cultural shift in the last 5 years has been reflected on stages around the country, where every weekend it seems the quality of champions has increased. Just compare the Top-5 at this years Teen Nationals to those a few years ago, and these dramatic changes serve as a direct reflection of the impact coaching has had on the sport. As with anything in life, coaches can be hit or miss, but in a rapidly advancing and increasingly competitive world of bodybuilding they serve a pivotal role alongside the athlete.
“Arnold didn’t have Coach” … Arnold also didn’t have 3% bodyfat at anypoint in his life.
Even Tiger Woods has a Caddy