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Keeping Your Gym Environment Strong
Matt Foreman  |  Olympic Weightlifting  |  August 27 2012

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Keeping Your Gym Environment Strong, Matt Foreman,
When you’re a coach, one of your responsibilities is protecting your gym’s mojo.

What the heck am I talking about? Let me explain. First, we have to understand what “mojo” is. The mojo in your gym is a collective feeling of teamwork, enthusiasm, positive energy, and work ethic. Some gyms have incredibly strong mojo. You can see it when you’ve trained in one of these places for a little while. You look around and notice things.

Everybody is training hard, locked in on their jobs and not screwing around.

The whole crowd seems to get along really well. They cheer for each other when somebody is going after a big lift. There’s an obvious camaraderie in the place.

If any of the lifters dislike each other, you can’t see it.

It’s obvious that the coach is in charge, and the lifters like it that way.

People know what they’re supposed to be doing without having to be bottle-fed every five minutes. The workouts are structured and organized.

Athletes have obviously been taught correctly. The technique is all sharp, similar, speedy, and consistent.

You hear occasional wisecracks. People bust each other’s chops and nobody gets bent out of shape about it. This shows that they all trust each other.

Nobody talks when they’ve got their hands on a bar.

“Mojo” is stuff like this, know what I mean? When you visit different gyms, you can almost rate their mojo on a scale of one to ten. Some places are tens, big time. It makes a pretty stiff impression on you when you go there. They’re like animal factories. If you don’t train there regularly, you wish you did. If you do train there regularly, you’ve got a little bit of an attitude because you know how much ass you kick. That’s a good thing.

Other places might rate lower, seven or eight or something like that. The mojo in these places is still quality, but it’s just not as powerful as the others. You can see it as clearly as you can see the difference between a panther and a house cat.

Places with really low mojo are rare. They don’t stay operational for very long because they’re basically just a collection of losers. These people get out of the sport quickly, which is why you don’t bump into them very often. You might occasionally see a place with a mojo rating of one or two, you just happen to visit it during the short window of time before it collapses. When you’re there, it’s a lame experience that puts your toes to sleep.

Now, here’s where the job of the coach becomes important. If you’re a coach and you’ve got a really strong mojo going in your program, you have to guard it. This means you can’t let some dysfunctional personalities come into your place and screw things up. I’m talking about prima donna athletes, drama starters, whiners, attention whores, tantrum throwers, developmental sexual predators, lazy turds, etc. The world is a complex place and we all know these people are living among us. Occasionally, they decide they want to be weightlifters. When they join your gym, you’ve got a job to do.

The job is very simple, actually. You make it clear to this person that they’re either going to shape up or ship out. They have to understand that they’re not going to walk into your program and start causing problems that will wreck your mojo. They have two options:

A) They can make changes in their attitude that will allow them to fit in with the crowd and contribute to strengthening the mojo.
B) They can pack up their stuff and get the hell out.

That’s it, end of conversation. Now, I believe it’s the responsibility of the coach to try as hard as possible to make option A happen. If these people have trouble working with others, you can teach them to straighten up just like you teach snatch technique. It’ll require some patience, understanding that their quirks aren’t going to change with the snap of your magic fingers. You’ll probably have to reprimand them at some point. You might even have to raise your voice and be harsh about it.

The most important thing is having all of your athletes aware that you’re not going to let this odd duck frick up their gym experience. People who have been with you for a long time deserve your loyalty, and that might mean you have to pull the plug and kick troublemakers out of the program if they absolutely, positively won’t reform their ways. It’s a fine line to walk because you want to help people, to guide them along and make their attitudes more positive. But you can’t keep tolerating them if they refuse to change and your gym mojo is dropping into the toilet. There’s a little parable that describes these situations, and it goes like this:

“Imagine you have a turd in your hand. It’s gross and it stinks. It’s a turd. But for some reason, you want to try to help this turd. You want to fix it, transform it into something special. So you paint it red, spray some perfume on it, put a bow on it, the whole nine yards. You really work your butt off to spruce this thing up. When you’re done with all that stuff, do you know what you have in your hand? A turd you wasted your whole day on.”

Aaahhh, the challenges of coaching. If you’re good at what you do and you love your people, you’ve probably got sensational mojo in your program. It’s your job to defend it. Unfortunately, this could require some discipline and, possibly, termination from time to time. It won’t come up often because the vast majority of your lifters will be awesome, the ones who make your whole life better through their daily contributions. They’re your peeps, so you have to take care of them. Keeping the gym mojo high is how you do that.



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Matt Foreman is the football and track & field coach at Mountain View High School in Phoenix, AZ. A competitive weightliter for twenty years, Foreman is a four-time National Championship bronze medalist, two-time American Open silver medalist, three-time American Open bronze medalist, two-time National Collegiate Champion, 2004 US Olympic Trials competitor, 2000 World University Championship Team USA competitor, and Arizona and Washington state record-holder. He was also First Team All-Region high school football player, lettered in high school wrestling and track, a high school national powerlifting champion, and a Scottish Highland Games competitor. Foreman has coached multiple regional, state, and national champions in track & field, powerlifting, and weightlifting, and was an assistant coach on 5A Arizona state runner-up football and track teams.
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1 Comments
Brian Huberty 1 | 2012-10-07
This is a great article for gym owners and coaches. But it's also good for small unit leaders, managers and more. "Mojo" is tough to define, like pornography - you know it when you see it. Bad mojo tends to creep, and if you're passive, you allow it to fester. Thanks for the insight. As more gyms pop up every day, I hope they're sweating the small stuff and paying attention to the little details.
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