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141. Being Relentless

141. Being Relentless

On today’s episode, Fern and Ackerman discuss being relentless when it comes to your coaching. What that means is that you, as the coach are more stubborn than the athlete standing in front of you. You can not let your eyes get used to sh*tty movement. They talk about the importance of this, how to overcome it, and how it is so hard to implement.

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Ackerman:
All right, today we are talking about being relentless, Fern, what does that mean to you?

Fern:
I've heard this. I stole this from somebody. And it means being more stubborn than the athlete that is standing in front of you.

Ackerman:
I like that being more stubborn. You know, I think I just tell people that it's, you know, you can let your eyes get used to shitty movement and and, you know, often when you say that you're offending whoever the athlete is, such as if they're moving shitty, it's just you can't be the coach. That's like, well, they're Susie and Susie polls early. There's so and so, you know, and they always you know, they always forget to open their hips. So it can't be simply. You allow people to continue to move freely.

Fern:
Yeah. This is something that I know you regularly bring up at the level two and then something that I've really had the opportunity to dig in to in things like the CDP because the. Because when people are outside of their comfort zone with regard to they seek, they normally see Jenny or Bob or whatever, they kind of they brush that off to the side. But the second they come in to my facility and they don't know these athletes, you can't kind of get away with that anymore. Like there's no justification for it because you don't know that person like you. What you've done is you've just not tried hard enough.

Ackerman:
So that's the interesting topic. It's how do we balance this idea of being relentless with the same idea of providing the best hour of their day? Well, you know, when I took my level to back in 2008, I passed it, which was a challenge that very few people were. But one thing that always resonated with me was Nicole. Carol said, Hey Jay, people really liked your coaching. They really like being around you, but you need to be more relentless. And that was almost. The reason I didn't ask. It's just it's a struggle and it's hard, especially for newer coaches.

Fern:
Yeah. The relentless I think a lot of the reason the relentless ness aspect of coaching is difficult is because it's it's largely abstract and it's very much situationally dependent, which makes it really difficult to navigate. As I have multiple class throughout the day and have different athletes in those classes, and each one of them has an entirely different scenario and the relentlessness needle gets moved differently based on all of those athletes. So that I understand why the concept of being relentless is exhausting and but it doesn't mean that we don't tackle it. We just have to, you know, just do it better than we're doing it currently. We've got to make that T-shirt.

Ackerman:
By the way, if we to make that T-shirt. So when we say this. No, let's let's give our listeners as really kind of decent, tangible takeaways when we say being real on this first thing we want you to think about, it is, OK, you know, what am I coaching and what am I looking for in this forum? So let's just take the errant squad. Okay. What am I looking for? Well, you know, heels needs depth, aren't we? One proper line of action? Great. Now, do we just accept someone's moving a tiny bit better versus they can be moving even better? So it's really comparing them to their potential.

Fern:
So the way I would describe it is have I gotten this person to move as well? Is there going to move today for this movement? So that automatically factors in like what they got going on, their movement restrictions, what the workout is like. All of those psychologically, what they're dealing with. And the goal is I have to get them moving as well as humanly possible in this hour. Right. To make it the best hour of the day. So, for instance, I have. I just did the 9am class at the gym. I think there was fifteen people in there. The workout was it was double unders, squat, push up. Burpees Pull up and then air assault like at the ends of chippers for rounds and there's rest in between. So each one is a sprint. But anyway, so if you think about things like the air squat in the push up specifically. Really, really prime offenders for people moving, not if their best because it's an air square. I don't even want to say shitty. Just moving. Not at their best because they're moving quickly. There's no loads. So the safety factor is virtually non-existent. And. What you most people would look at that and be like, well, they're moving fast and it's just an air squat and right there what I've done is I've justified not doing anything right. So I think it was, I think Steve Haydock. Kind of introduced me to this concept, which I really try to emphasize in this, and I do this to try to enforce relentlessness or push the needle on people's ability to take action on improving movement. So if you so let's say somebody is squatting and they're and their stances narrow. And it's not it's not like their heels aren't together. So they're not in tiny dancer stance, but they're narrow.

Fern:
It's inside the shoulders and they're squatting right at that point when it's grey. Right. So it's like right on the cusp of of is hip crease below the knee or not. And a lot of coaches, the vast majority that I would deal with would put a qualifier on that movement. They would say the stance is a little narrow or they're, I don't know, pretty close to parallel. And when I say a little narrow or pretty close to parallel, what I've done is justified not doing anything because I've created some arbitrary metric on like what is severe enough deviation from appropriate. That justifies my intervention in this problem. So I don't let people say things, and normally it comes in the seeing draw. I don't. I remove their ability to say and they do this all the time. I'm like, what do you see about the elbows in that for acquisition? The elbows are a little low, to which my response is. Are they a little low or are they just low? And psychologically, there's a difference there. If I just say the elbows are low, that very much forces me to do something about it. But if I say they're a little low. Then again, now it's like, OK, well, what makes it a lot low? And now it's this weird arbitrary metric of like where do I intervene? Like what's acceptable? Like is that kind of quas I. Decent movement acceptable now and then you get into this weird, you know, and this is another thing I think I think Steve Soltas from Andy Stump, which is like what you allow in your presence is the standard. So if you allow people to have their elbows low regardless of deviation, then it's just OK at this point.

Ackerman:
Well, I think everything you just said is entirely true. And as you're saying that what it reminds me of is something I say often at the level, two, is if you see something, say something.

Fern:
Yeah, regardless of the degree of deviation from from accepted parameters.

Ackerman:
Well, yeah. You know, I think you and I really like to use analogies and real-world analogies. If you got two kids and it as as Logan's growing up, she starts to chip in with the chores and she does the dishes one night and she leaves a bunch of food on one of the dishes and puts it away. And you're like, hey, Logan, this is still a little dirty. Well, I guess the bigger question is. Are you gonna eat off that plate?

Fern:
Yeah,.

Ackerman:
The is answer is probably no like what is.

Fern:
Or more importantly, like what is clean. If it's a little dirty. More importantly, like what is clean?

Ackerman:
And there is an acceptable line lay.

Fern:
Yeah. Right. And I would say clean as clean. Clean means like it's been washed. There's no food on it. And that's the thing. The same thing with the elbows. We know that front position really. And again, the problem is people take into account people's struggles in positions which from a coaching someone does have to remove my feelings about that. And my evaluation of movement needs to become very binary. Not like in a robotic lacking empathy kind of way, but it needs to be very, very binary. It's either a one or a zero. It's either what it's supposed to be or it's not. Once I'm determined that it's not, because it will virtually always be not.

Fern:
How close can I get it to a one, right? Whether it's a one or zero, like how close can I get it to what is acceptable? Best possible movement pattern for this person today and then start working towards that. But it's not it's never like.

Fern:
It's never will there. They're kind of moving well, they're moving well.

Fern:
They're not in it's relative to their athletes like you never move well, like just is what it is like.

Ackerman:
Cydnee, if you're listening right here, there's your clip and we go ahead and chop that up in social media. But but I think you're absolutely right now that the balance is OK. One. Well, first of all, before I even get to them, I guess my question is, how often do you hear this one, though? Like all of their elbow are a little low, but they need some mobility.

Fern:
I mean, we've already talked about it that ad nauseum in the problem with that statement. It's the problem with the statement is not that that you're wrong, right. That the person is wrong when they say that. Usually if we if we if we put context in this scenario, the issue is. So let's say you tell me that I'm evaluating your coach and I say, what do you see about that from acquisition? And you say, well, his elbows are a little bit down. He probably needs some mobility work on that. I'm like a you don't know that. We we've not done an assessment. You haven't asked him to bring his elbows up any higher. You've done nothing that would resemble relentlessness in order to get some data back. That would be, for the most part, universally agreed upon. But that is the extent of what we are going to get in this scenario. And that is that's where the hiccup is as it is. There is an assumption about what people can do without actually trying because it's uncomfortable for us to make other people uncomfortable for whatever reason. And I get it.

Ackerman:
And I think my favorite example of that is typically the loved ones during the front squat. I think the front squat during the squat breakout is one of the most eye opening opportunities for new coaches, even just recently I had someone I think I was in. I was in Tampa and forgot the guy's name, but he was from another country that I like Suriname or something.

Fern:
And that's not a country, by the way.

Ackerman:
It's a continent, maybe other area.

Fern:
So definitely not a continent. For those of you wondering, J. Did not pass geography.

Ackerman:
I did terrible history. History and geography were not my strong suits. So you like elbows pointing down these going in the right? I took them in to the middle. Three minutes later. I'm telling you, it was. I remember telling Jenny after she was there and I was like, wow, that's the biggest change I've ever seen in someone's front squat. And it was really just being relentless. You know, I always joke like, hey, there's usually two things going on in someone's front squat. They're either really tight or they're really lazy. And we can fix them really lazy stuff pretty quickly. You know, get those elbows. I've given those targets. But like you said, you have to be willing to. I know that people at their level ones are most likely willing to work very hard for you. They're there for a reason. But so are your athletes at your box. Now, finding that balance of, you know, we talk about being relentless when it comes to criteria's and an effective coaching presence and attitude. But where do we balance that being relentless with also letting people leave the box happy?

Fern:
So the first one is, and I think the vast majority of people, in my experience inside my own affiliate, having done the coach development program, having done level ones and level twos and evaluated many, many coaches over the years is the first way we delineate the difference between that role. You know, like what's overly relentless versus not is. There's a clear line in the sand, which is have you done anything to improve that position? Whether it's a visual cue or verbal cue, a tactile cue, all of those things. So that's the first one. And I don't know what your experiences, but the vast majority of coaches that are not having somebody look over their shoulder will not do anything and make the assumption that the person cannot get there. Right. So a perfect example will use the front squawk because it's a prime offender with a PDC vibe. Everybody knows that that can be a challenging position to get into. So I have seven people in the group. A coach will be evaluating. Nobody will have the PVC vibe on their shoulder. And I'll simply ask the coach. What do you notice about 100 percent of the athletes in this group with regard to their front acquisition? And they'll say. Well, the PVC. pipes not on the shoulder, but they can't get it there.

Fern:
And I said you might be right. But you haven't asked anybody to put it there. So that's the first thing, right, is like, have you tried? Right.

Fern:
Like, either you've done something, you're having again, going to make it very objective. You like either ask them or gave them a cue or you didn't. And if you didn't, then that's the line I draw on. The sand is like that is the first step towards relentlessness. You have to put some degree of effort into trying to improve that movement. And every time I push somebody a little bit farther for minimum, 50 percent of the group gets into a better position like a noticeably quantifiably better position. Either the PDV Pipe on the shoulder or the elbows come up fifteen to twenty degrees into the front acquisition and it's uncomfortable. But the point is we already know it's gonna be uncomfortable. So it's like let's just not beat around the bush anymore. Just get them into a better position, like work on it a little bit more. And then I think we can start to. Not until then. But then once we've asked, once we've given some sort of cue, now we get into that gray area of like what's pushing too far vs. getting to the best possible movement that I'm going to get to today.

Fern:
Now, this is where I think it gets a little bit abstract, because now I have to have a pretty high EQ score like so the ability to read people's facial gestures, their body positions, like how? Like, you know, I like to describe myself as like I'm a I'm a wizard at determining the difference between a fake effort face and a real effort face.

Ackerman:
You tell what I'm doing right now?

Fern:
Yeah. You're not trying it. All right. You know, it's an and in the end, then all the there's a I'm not a wizard. Like everybody knows the difference between somebody who's really trying hard and somebody who's mailing it in. Right. So I would tell you, I'm going to but right up to the point where I've gotten all that I really need, which is effort, and then I'm going to reward effort and then I'm gonna move on.

Fern:
Right. So I'm going to ask them to do something. I'm going to determine whether there was a good or bad change there. I'm going to push them all the way up to the point where like there's clearly effort being made there. I'm going to reward that with some sort of positive reinforcement and then I'm gonna move on. That's like the simplest real time tactical variation of relentlessness possible that I could give you is like a did you say anything if you didn't? We can't even begin to have their conversation about being relentless as a coach. And then B, how much did you try to change it? Did you go through every possible change? Did you just tell them to squat a little bit lower? Did you change their stance? Did you change their foot angle? Do you still have to push their knees out? Did you ask them to go a little bit lower? Yeah, they like all those things.

Fern:
And it's like it, I feel like. Relentlessness falls in that that category, it's like if you ever heard the. Like the like somebody tried the kind of analogy about porn, which like even if you have you've never seen porn. If you tried to describe it to somebody, be a little bit weird. And even if you've never seen it. If I were to show it to you, you would know what it was. Right. And it's the same thing with relentlessness is like, hey, listen, like you might not have never seen porn, but if I show you, you know what it is. Right. And it's the same thing with relentlessness. You may never have seen it, but if I show it to you, you know what it is. Well, that's the thing.

Ackerman:
Know, good analogy. And the truth of the matter is, I think that's really what separates a good coach from a great coach. You know, by the time you're a good coach, maybe you're coming back to your level to where, you know, you're just improving at your box, but you're getting better at seeing movement. You know, you can see early on, well, you can see a knee waving and you can tell whether it's time to adjust someone's stance. That question becomes. Are you willing to put in the effort and make that athlete put in the effort to get better? And you know that the elbows up as an easy example because it's something you can see, but maybe it's, you know, pulling early in a snatch and that becomes a little more challenging. You really got to dive deep into cues from verbal, visual, tactile. But like you said, it's really that's that's a hard balance. Is this the best they're gonna get today? I you know, I go back to an example at a level two from years ago. This guys coaching the air squat literally did three reps. Was like, well, that's how he's going to get to day. Like, really? You don't think you can get him any better than that, but you have to be able to find that balance.

Fern:
You know, you think and and I think yeah, I think if you're looking for like a tangent, like if you if you've not made an athlete frustrated and I'm not I'm not even saying this is a good thing. But if you've not pushed to the point where you made an asked an athlete frustrated in some way, shape or form, then we've not even approached anything that resembles relentlessness. Because as a coach, until you get more skilled and until you can start to develop the eye that lead you to root cause versus this thing that's going on and you have, you know, multiple variations of cues in your back pocket that you can kind of rip out and kind of get to some sort of solution, you're going to overshoot that like it is inevitable part of the process. Right. Like you're going to overshoot it. You're going to ask for too much. You're gonna ask for something that's unrealistic. And I would argue that that is the process with which to get to that fine balance of relentlessness that that still allows people have a really, really good experience in the best hour of their day. But you're you're going to overshoot it. And if you're not, then you're not, again, without use. I hate to use the term, but you're not being relentless enough in your. Pursuit of relentlessness with regard to coaching.

Ackerman:
Yeah. You ever made someone cry? You're not really trying hard enough. And, you know, and oftentimes it does manifest in frustration. And I've seen tears. But really, what we're also looking at is just. Three, two, one, go. You see someone's elbows, are you still reminding them over and over during it and it doesn't have to be badgering. And it does not do me the only thing you say to them. You know, balance that relentlessness when you see that effort being put in. Good job, Johnny. You know, you do a good job. You did get your elbows out for, you know, great. Now let's keep that going and then come back next round. It's part of that is just remembering, hey, this is what I'm working on. Each athlete not trying to hit them with so many different fixes and so many different uses. But, you know, and in one workout, like the example I used today, you know, maybe on the double under one athletes, it's keeping their hands in. You know, maybe for another athlete on the Polish press, it's, you know, not pushing early, but remembering where you are and just hammering those one or two things for athlete.

Ackerman:
So I'll give I'll give like some I was just writing these down as you're doing that and a couple of things with regard to how to execute this. But more importantly, for people to understand, like people are hesitant to try to exercise this idea of relentlessness because it usually goes wrong. Right. So here's a couple ways that it goes wrong. Number one, they say the same thing over and again, over and over again for those. Hey, elbows up. Hey, get your elbows up. Jason, get your elbows up. Jason, your elbows are still down. Right. So all of that is the same cue without really changing it. Right. So the first thing is like ask, don't tell. Meaning, hey, Jay, can you draw those elbows up a little bit harder for me? And you're like, yeah, I can do that. Yeah. And I'm like, thanks, man.

Fern:
And you're like, you're welcome. And I'm like, this is a really pleasant exchange of, you know, stuff. You're right. So like ask don't tell because you're far more likely to get a response if you ask, don't tell. Right. Instead of saying somebody. Hey, widen up your stance. OK. Can you move your feet out one or two inches on each side? I'll try that out. Cool. Thanks, man. Tell me how that feels on the next couple reps. Cool. Yeah, I will. Again, like a completely. Kind of like a ninja tactic from a coaching standpoint.

Ackerman:
And just to stop you for a second, for all you gentlemen listening, that's a difference between your wife asking you, hey, do you mind doing something and your wife, telling you to do something like no i don't at all? And now I'm happy that you're going to be happy. There's just, you know, is bitch telling me to take out the garbage again?

Fern:
Yeah. I don't know the reason that you call that you. I'm telling Roz.

Ackerman:
In my mind, I say I'm scared of I'm scared if I don't tell her said that the.

Fern:
So, you know, a is ask don't tell. Because the likelihood of you having success or some sort of moving the needle there is far more likely. The second thing is more often than not, I see this all the time. I saw this recently where one of the coaches was. Asking an athlete to do something for like several minutes. At the level to the athlete and this athlete was clearly resistant, like body language, facial expression. The whole nine, like everybody within five miles knew the athlete was not really about it. And so finally the coach got the athlete to make the change. And I'm jumping for joy on the outside of the circle, I'm like, yes, I'm like a you relentless. You got to change. And then the coach just walked away. So I stopped the group and I was like, You blew it. You gave about 7 cues there. She clearly is not into this and I'm like calling you athlete out. I'm like, you need to be more coachable. Number one. She changed it and you said nothing. Right. If they give you some sort of improvement, you need to acknowledge that. Right. Like that is how I get equity with my athlete in order to continue to be relentless as I have to reward the behavior that I'm asking for if they give it to me. OK. So that's the second one. So first one is ask don't tell. The second one is acknowledge or reward.

Fern:
Good movement. The third one is what happens all the time. So the coaches, the coach always says the athlete gets annoyed when I do that, too, which I always have a follow on question. Who else are you queuing in the class? And the answer is generally, nobody like you've just decided to pick on Sally because she squats high. So in order for me to not have some sort of perceived bias for this shitty mover, whoever this is, this person that caused me problems in the class. You have to be equitable with your cues. And maybe strategically you start with the best mover. If I cue the best mover in the class for the first couple reps. It's not weird. Now, when I moved to the person who knows, they don't move. Well, they're also not butthurt about it. Because they're like, oh, well, Fern's the best mover is clearly better mover than than Jay is. And he just got cute. So maybe it's not where maybe they're not picking on me because I'd move poorly. Maybe that maybe they're just coaching everybody. So that goes back to the whole, you know, kind of presence and attitude, which is like you need to have those very clear one on one interactions with every athlete in the class by name. So that that person who really does need a significant amount of improvement in their movement doesn't feel singled out.

Ackerman:
Right. And I think what you're saying there as well as. You have to be coaching everybody and you also have to be aware of people's personalities like there are. Definitely. I'd like to think I'm coachable, but there are days I'm tired and grumpy and it's like, hey, not today. And you'll be able to pick that up. And part of it is, you know, being able to read people, and that comes. But but if you're the coach, that always is assuming people don't want it, you're probably just afraid to be relentless.

Fern:
Yeah. And again, there's tactics for that. And you say this all the time, right. Which is like you can say almost anything. Anybody. Just depends on how you say it. Right. So like. That's a real scenario in coaching. So ask don't tell. Right. Is is a is a real is a real shift in how that cue or whatever it is is delivered. Rewarding good improvement means that they're gonna be open to the next time I come back and do that. And then coaching everybody removes this idea that they're being singled out. And that's how. That that's what gives me the right to be relentless with this person who does actually need it.

Ackerman:
Absolutely. I think that's you know, those are some tips that people can take back. And, you know, if you're gonna take it back right now, just throw some kids out to people, balance that relentlessness with praise. You know, don't be the coach. It's only ever telling people what they're doing wrong. Check in on people, you know, read them if they're, you know, looking down, if they're seeming grumpy. OK. Maybe back off a little bit. But. But don't lose sight that the goal is to get people to move better. Like necessarily my favorite blasted quote, don't let your eyes. They used to shitty move. You can't have that first anger box. It's just, well, so-and-so squad signed so-and-so does this. If they do that, it's your fault. Get them to move better.

Fern:
Yeah. And the the reason relentlessness is so top is and this is why I recommend people videotape themselves. It's it's not the athlete's fault. It's my fault. The delivery was not there to get the change that I wanted. Because if somebody can walk in right behind me and get them to move better, that's a problem. That's not an athlete problem.

Ackerman:
Yes. That's. That's a good way to look at it. Hey, if it's a better coach walked in with this person, be moving better. Cool. Then do it yourself.

Fern:
Then do that bit better with the headset.

Ackerman:
Coming soon to a e commerce store near you. All right. Well, there it is being relentless. We can certainly talk more about that. But great. Introduction to the idea of being relentless, and that's one of the hardest things to do as a Crossfit, coach. But it's going to pay off if you can, if you can learn how to implement it into your style. So right turn.

Fern:
Good stuff.

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