WHAT EVERY ARTICLE SHOULD HAVE
When I was coaching at Denison, one of the things that I love to do, and I really didn’t think I had time for, was writing articles. I did my best to submit as many as I could with the time I had. I really liked the process of organizing my thoughts onto paper to share with coaches. It wasn’t so I could make a name for myself. I really had all intentions of helping other coaches in similar situations. As a coach, I had made a lot of mistakes and felt that I could prevent others from making the same.
Now, I have never been a great writer. I get away with half decent content based on the subject matter that I am writing about. Most of my topics were either technical, instructional, or philosophical in nature. I have stayed away from argumentative topics and tried to help coaches as much as possible with basic, informational, problem-solving articles.
After coming to elitefts, I really had to work on the process and the product when it came to writing articles. Some of my biggest influences with writing were obviously Dave, the Angry Coach Bob Ihlenfeldt, and Steve Colescott. I never really had the talent, the creativity, or the clout to write like Dave or Bob. I tried to model my writing with the coaches that I connected with the best from a style standpoint. I really identified with Jim Wendler as he was as straightforward as you could get it when he came to writing. You never felt like he was trying to sell you anything but you would believe just about everything he said. Not saying we wasn’t a good writer, just that my style was closer to his based on my experience.
So, this brings me to a conversation I had with our associate editor Jordan Houser. If you haven’t got a chance to read any of Jordan’s articles they are as about as good as I have read here on the site. He doesn’t try to hard to impress people, leaves emotion out of his writing, and has intention with everything he writes. Neither of us have very big egos but we noticed a disturbing trend in the fitness industry.
It seems that most of the articles we been reading lack a few key components that make them valuable. Lately, most of the articles we had been reading where reactive in nature. The list articles seem to be getting out of hand. There’s only so many times I can hear about the 17 ways that my squat sucks. And yes, I get it, there will be a weekly article about how much someone hates/loves CrossFit. I don’t know how many times I can hear the same argument by different authors reacting to other articles. It’s the same fucking raw vs gear type bullshit every week.
But, is it really the opinion or the information the authore is providing that really bugs people? Or is the way it is presented? When you read it article ask yourself if you think that it is either just a rant that the author wants to use his platform for, or is it an unorganized jumble of opinion without purpose?
The three basic components that every article needs, that most seem lacking, which specifically writing in the strength training industry. In a nut shell, every article should have a rationale,credentials, and an applicable take-home message.
3 questions should be answered with every article:
Why is this topic important (why should I care)?
Who are you to tell me (your qualifications)?
What can I get from this (teach me)?
Articles should be part narrative and should start with an intro. Specifically an intro to a conflict, a problem, a situation that is pertinent to your audience. This problem that you are intrudcing the audience to should ingnite a personal connection. Your reader should say…
Yes, my warm-up may be incomplete
You know, you’re right, we don’t do enough change of direction drills
I didn’t realize we could use non-linear periodization schemes in season
As a writer, we all must get the reader interested in the topic. Convince them that your topic is important and they should be concerned.
Now there have been a slew of articles that have been written on topics that the author knows nothing about. There was who exercises science program suck from someone who has never taught in a college setting. There was the article about how all College S&C coaches suck and the author has never been a strength coach. Those were both by the same guy and not to criticize him solely because this happens a lot.
You CAN write about subjects you are as experienced in. You just need to explain to the audience why you are qualified to write about it. The key is HOW you write about it. The context and the depth of how you present the material.
The fist step is the explain your connection to the topic. This may just be just a personal interest you feel passionate about. You don’t have to be an expert, just stick with your qualifications. The more knowledge and experience you have, the more critical you can be. I think we have went a little overboard with only the strongest people can write about strength. I am not saying you have to learn how to cook from a skinny chef, but you also don’t need to bench press 800lbs in order to teach someone how to bench press.
I can certainly write about nutrition. I just can’t write about it in the way that Scott Stevenson, Ben Hartman, or Justin Harris can. Not my scope of practice. I could, however, give some practical strategies for coaches in helping athletes make better food decisions in a college setting. I would just need to explain why.
Sometimes it is difficult not sounding arrogant or pleading to the audience to trust your guru-ship. Honesty and humility go a long way in just getting the reader to put their guard down, open their minds, and trust you.
Ok, so you have stated a dilemma, a possible falsehood, or an issue that is worth exploring deeper. You’ve got the reader to trust you enough to listen to your opinion based on you knowledge, experience, and passion for the subject. Now it is time to give the reader something to take with them. They are gong to finish the article with a new understanding of a topic, a different way of looking at a topic, or reinforcing what they already knew about a topic.
Believe it or not, this is actually where some authors are lacking. This is the influences of social media and articles sometimes turn into rants. Authors have strong opinions about a subject. They are so passionate about how someone else feels about that topic that they want to « clear the air » and make sure everyone knows the truth. At this point, the entire article is spent explaining why the subject is so important and why you should listen to the author. When you spend too much time explaining why everyone else is wrong, you forget to explain why you are right. May not be reciprocal.
Bottom line is, there is rarely right or wrong when it comes to this industry. It usually comes down to right and wrong depending on who you ask and what the situation is.
When it comes to presenting your information. Here are a few tips.
1. Play Devils advocate. Avoid saying things like this is the best way or only way. It may have been the best way you knew how in your situation. Again, honesty and humility.
2. Cover the 5 Ws. The who, what, when, where, why, and how. should be present in all articles. This is basic info that leaving out will question your comprehension.
3. Use real-world examples. Reader connect more when things actually happened and aren’t just theoretical.
4. Give credit. It is one thing to name drop but give credit to the people who you first heard the info from.
I hope this helps a little. Getting through the clickbait and spending time reading articles that will actually help your athletes or coaches is harder to come by. Information is everywhere and the more tools we have to sift through the bullshit, the better off we will all be.