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How Great Coaches Differ From Others
By: Edward Baker

            Right when I met John Coffee, I sensed that he was different from other coaches that I encountered. There was no self promotion, no speaking in condescension or complete certainty to me, and of course I never once felt like he wanted to keep me around because he wanted my money. However the trait that stood out to me the most is how he genuinely loved the sport. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some of John’s weightlifting friends that have also been around the sport for decades, and they seem to share the same traits. They all love weightlifting. This love is what made them all great coaches.

            Rather than make a writeup on how I think coaches that came from John’s time differed from coaches today, I asked the lifters of Artie Drechsler, Bob Takano, and Gayle Hatch the question: “What makes your coach different from a typical coach people might encounter right now?” Here are their responses.

Athlete: Rhiannon Reynolds

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Coached By: Artie Drechsler (Author of the Weightlifting Encyclopedia, international level athlete, coach, and official in the sport of weightlifting. Last male from the USA to set a world record in weightlifting recognized by the International Weightlifting Federation.)

            On December 12th, 2015, exactly a week after the American Open,coach and I met after training at the Burger King across the street from the legendary Lost Battalion Hall. He had a pen and a notebook; he bought me a coffee and himself an unsweetened iced tea, and we sat at the back table tucked away from the rest of the crowd.

            I, too, had a notebook and a pen. Inside my notebook I had my goals written for the remainder of December and for the quickly approaching new year. You see, this is our ritual: before and after every meet, and the conclusion of every training cycle, he and I meet after Saturday practice and discuss what we are going to do next. I always sit in quiet anticipation as he reads my list of goals, hoping they align with his because I have the utmost respect for him and his opinion. We are always on the same page; we make a pretty good team. We call it the “mastermind alliance” – if you don’t know what that is, I encourage you to look it up. We evaluate my progress and change anything if necessary. I trust him with everything; I think of him as a father. He always approaches each obstacle as it arises with a rational mind. He does everything in his power to see me succeed; not only in weightlifting, but in every aspect of my life. He thinks of all things as an opportunity to get better; there is always something that can be learned no matter what.

            Sometimes he brings books, newspaper articles, and photographs to training for me. These are always a treat; not only do these gifts mean a lot to me, but they’re always something that I can benefit from greatly. Technique on world record lifts, how to develop the mindset of a champion, you name it – all things you can carefully dissect and apply. He is always innovating ways to make me better; ways to help me achieve my goals in a realistic way. He shares wise advice based on years of experience from his own weightlifting career. He has never once been disappointed in my performance – he’s been my shoulder to cry on for tears of joy and sadness.

            Arthur Drechsler is not only my coach, he is my role model and inspiration. I see and hear the passion in his voice whenever he talks about weightlifting: the places he had been, the people he had met, and the things he had learned. I am truly blessed to know and have the opportunity to learn from him. I would gladly pay any price to have his mentorship, yet he has never asked me for a single dime. Artie helps me because he wants to. There’s nothing in it for him. In his eyes, it is most rewarding to have the ability to share his knowledge and love for the sport. He values those with a good work ethic and character, and doesn’t pursue anyone. Most of all, seeing how much he believes in me has shown me how to believe in myself. Artie is my family, and I look forward to the all the coming years we will spend together in the iron game.

Athlete: Christine Na

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Coached By: Bob Takano (USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, Coach of an Olympian, four national champions, two national record holders, and 27 top ten nationally ranked lifters. Bob has been on the coaching staffs of 17 U.S. National teams to international competitions, five of those being World Championships.)

            One major difference that I learned with newer coaches is that they give TOO many corrections. It almost seems like they always need to say something after every lift, every mistake, and that can be overwhelming to novice lifters and too annoying for experienced lifters. Takano is a man with honesty and says it like it is. No bullshit, not trying to “sell” you. Weightlifting is an AMAZING, ADDICTING sport. if you love it, you will work your ass off and show up to train. Takano lets the beauty of this sport to bring people in, no salesmen here, which is VERY refreshing. He will push you to your potential, but you are the athlete, you’re the one lifting.


          You can tell he truly loves the sport and ALL of his athletes, from novice lifters to olympians. I used to have a coach who would rely too much on my success, like he was using my handwork and dedication to make himself become an established coach…I finally figured out his coaching was not genuine and had to move on. Then I found Takano!

Athlete: Matt Bruce

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Coached By: Gayle Hatch (USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame, 49 USA Weightlifting National Championships. Athletes have competed in 1984, 1988 and 1992 US Olympic Weightlifting Teams and twelve USA World Teams.)

            Most gyms I walk in, your see a common theme when an athlete is going for an all time record. You hear load music and screaming at the person to motivate them. To me, my training was quite the opposite. My coach trainined his athletes in an “ole school” manner. Though the training psychology of my coach may be a dying breed, the point must be noted his great accomplishments. While most coaches in USAW would love to see 1 National Championship Banner hanging from their wall, my coach had over 50. That’s right, 50 National Championships as a team on the Junior, Senior and Master level. He produced many Olympians and World Team members under this training psychology, all which were born and raised in Baton Rouge and Coach Hatch never once recruited an athlete to his gym from another club.

            This training psychology was what most consider a military approach to coaching. Music was never allowed in the gym and if more than 2 people were talking in a group, you would be reprimanded. Everything was “Yes sir”, “No Sir”, and “What’s next”. He wore the same outfit everyday of his coaching career and considered it his “uniform”. To this day no athlete has been allowed to his house nor seen him away from gym hours or competition. He is known in weightlifting as a “Phantom Coach” and allows his athletes to do the talking for him. This style of coaching taught me discipline and I responded to this style very well. While seems to be a dying philosophy, the results speak for themselves. I myself have taken a little of this style, but have incorporated my own style. In the end, use what works best for you, but always remember where you came from.

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