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  • Writer's pictureHugh Lawrence

Wheat from the chaff and other foreign phrases

At a recent weightlifting session, I pointed out to one lifter that the clean and jerk component of a competition “sorted the wheat from the chaff”. Blank look! Yet again it reminded me of how we older (mature) coaches will use phrases from our own upbringing to describe a situation or behaviour. Time and again, those phrases are not used by or outside the experience of young athletes. So it's fortunate that I picked the blank look and did not assume she knew what I meant. Ï then gave her a choice, “men from the boys”, “girls from the women”, or “weak from the strong”! – “Got it!”she said, but the moment had passed.😕

BTW, “wheat from the chaff”- it’s a centuries old farming practice, after the wheat harvest, of sorting out grain (for making flour) from the useless husk of the grain. But you already knew that.😊

Other similar phrases that ‘fell on stony ground’ (well that’s another), have been that a particular aspect of the game 'is your Achilles heel’; ‘Bob’s your uncle’(or Bob’s your father’s brother!); and in basketball, the ‘foul line’, charity stripe’; ‘down to the wire’ (sorry US readers) some of my young athletes had no idea. And ‘a road to Damascus experience’[don’t ask me how that came up at training - but I had to explain it].

So to we coaches who use a lot metaphors, idioms, phrases and so on from our childhood - your athletes may nod as you say it , but do not assume they know what you are talking about. I’ve been a basketball coach and the game is full of jargon and idioms. Those players would never “run the lanes, come in on the 45, hit the foul line, crash the boards and then get out of there on D like a ‘rat up a drainpipe”.👈

(photo source: YouTube

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