40 Under 40 Perspective: People Over Performance

I have been fortunate enough to be in the field of athletics for the past seven years. It has created an avenue for me to pursue a full-time career, perform meaningful work, and help impact student-athletes and people regularly. I can honestly say that I wake up every morning in disbelief that I get to do this for a living.

There is no other job I would rather have. I will also be the first one to tell you that I have made many mistakes as a coach along the way, and I plan on making a multitude more as the years go on. Failures have made me the coach that I am today, and if you don’t embrace the reality of failure, you will ultimately become stagnant as a coach. 

Photo: Nenad Stojkovic / Creative Commons

Early in my days of coaching (and I still am in these early days), I wanted to learn everything I could about the science of strength and conditioning. Biomechanics, Krebs Cycle, Henneman Size Principle, Action Potentials — you name it — I wanted to memorize it all.  And that’s a good thing, right? I mean, physical preparation coaches should know the ins and outs of performance. Science drives our field and should be a 100 percent guide or programming for our athletes. But as I continued my conquest of becoming a great strength coach, I realized there was a huge piece of the puzzle that I wasn’t paying attention to — building the total person, in addition to building the total athlete. 

A lot of it stemmed from me seeing disparity with certain athletes I was working with, even when I thought I was giving them programs with good methodology and precision, with the right sets, the right load, the right intensity, the proper accessory exercises. But for some of them, I would see great improvement and translation to their sport, while others just didn’t get better. There was an easy answer: the people that were the most consistent, disciplined, and attention to detail got better, while the less disciplined didn’t see the same success.

I am going to say something that some people might not understand: Creating Better People as a Coach is More Important than Creating Better Athletes.

This does not mean as a coach you shouldn’t try to become an expert in your field. That is not what I am saying at all. One of my mentors always would say that if you look a year down the road and your programming hasn’t changed, you’re doing something wrong. We should always, as coaches, strive to get better. But as I look at the setting that I am in now, where I am responsible for more than a couple hundred athletes that come through my weight-room on a weekly basis, my programs don’t work if I am not addressing standards and expectations of life. We constantly battle with decisions to let things slide or enforce a standard. Always remember that creating a standard for your program protects your athletes. It might cause friction and discomfort, but when done with love, it leads them to ultimate success, not just athletically, but in life. 

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What is your standard? Are you making your athletes meet it every day? What are your non-negotiables? Are you being clear with your message and do your athletes understand the why behind it?

Despite high standards and expectations, do your athletes know you love them?

I would encourage you to wrestle with these questions every day because I do. And every time I think about them, it inspires me to become a better coach, re-evaluate my methods, and execute a better plan.

Nick Mascioli is the director of athletic performance at Second Baptist School (TX) and was Coach & Athletic Director’s 40 Under 40 honoree for the month of August.