Dane Miller, owner of Garage Strength in Pennsylvania, coaches some of the most successful young weightlifters in the United States today. Miller’s athletes have claimed national and international weightlifting medals and include members of USA Weightlifting’s Junior National Team. Five of Miller’s athletes were on Team USA’s 20-person team at the 2017 Junior World Championships in Tokyo. Miller’s athletes have stunning resumes, including:
- Hailey Reichardt: Bronze medal winner at the 2016 Youth World Weightlifting Championships and silver medalist at the 2017 Junior Pan American Championships
- Jordan Wissinger: 2017 Junior Pan American Championship, silver medal in snatch, bronze medals in clean and jerk and total
- Jacob Horst: 2016 Senior National Weightlifting Champion
- Juliana Rotto: 5th place at the 2016 American Open, 5th place at 2016 Junior National Championship
- Kate Wehr: member of Team USA’s 2017 Youth Pan American Squad
If a coach has a single successful athlete, he is a lucky coach. If a coach has an entire team of successful athletes, he is doing something right.
What is the secret to Miller’s phenomenal success?
First consider a few things . . .
- Coach Miller was never a competitive weightlifter himself. Miller was a skilled collegiate shot putter and lifted weights as part of his training, but he did not enter the world of competitive weightlifting until one of his athletes expressed interest in competing in the sport.
- Garage Strength is located in one of the poorest areas of the U.S. With 41.3 percent of its residents living below the poverty line, Reading, Pa., is the poorest U.S. city with a population of 65,000 or more. So, Miller’s athletes do not come from privileged backgrounds.
- Miller only began training competitive weightlifters five years ago. In 2012, one of Miller’s athletes expressed interest in lifting weights competitively. Miller jumped in with both feet and helped this athlete achieve success, securing a spot on an international team within only 1 year.
Given Miller’s disadvantages, how has he been so successful in developing his athletes?
- Miller only trains athletes that are “all in.” Miller was a champion thrower himself, and he wants to train athletes that are serious about success. To ensure that he and his athletes are working toward the same goals, Miller has frequent conversations with them. If athletes are unsure about what they want, Miller encourages them to take some time off to think about it. Once an athlete commits, Miller expects them to work hard to achieve their goals.
- Miller respects the goals of his athletes. Miller trains weightlifters, throwers, and wrestlers. He wants to train hardworking athletes with big dreams. However, Miller does not try to convert all of his athletes into weightlifters. Instead, Miller listens to his athletes and provides them with the best training to reach their goals. Even if an athlete has the potential to become a great weightlifter, if the athlete has no passion for the sport, Miller knows it is better for the athlete to pursue another sport.
- Miller provides his athletes with the tools they need to succeed. Miller knows that athletic success involves more than training. He educates his athletes on all matters related to their sport. He teaches them about recovery, mobility, and good nutrition. When Miller can’t find a good tool for his athletes, he creates one. In fact, Miller created Earth Fed Muscle, a line of nutritional supplements, for his own athletes. Miller noticed that many protein powders on the market contained ingredients that could flag his athletes during drug tests. He wanted a pure product that he could trust. So he made one.
- Miller is a mentor for his athletes. According to Miller: “It’s not just about lifting; it’s about what you’re going to do or be after you’re done. I want to make champions, but I also want to make people who will positively impact society in other ways.” Miller recounts mistakes he made in his own career and wishes that he had someone to guide him during his difficult years. Miller tries to be that mentor for his athletes.
How can you apply some of Miller’s methods to your athletes?
- Talk to your athletes. Instead of telling your athletes what they should be achieving, ask them what they want to achieve. You might be surprised by their answers. And you’ll definitely create more motivated athletes when the athletes feel like they are pursuing their goals and not yours.
- Treat each athlete as an individual. It takes more work to deliver individualized programming and education. However, your athletes will perform better when they have tools that are tailored to them.
- Constantly search for the best resources for your athletes. Remember that success is more than just time spent in the gym. Research the best recovery methods, nutrition, and mobility exercises for your athletes. If you don’t have expertise on a topic, find someone who does.
- Be the coach you wish you had. Think of the attributes of the best coaches—the coaches you wish you had—and strive to be like them.