Over the next few weeks, I will be posting entries where I share how coaches and athletes can “unhitch” themselves from mainstream coaching assumptions and paradigms. Breakthrough performances elude many age groupers, in my experience, because athletes and coaches get distracted by too much information from too many places (and most of the time those places are companies trying to sell you services or products). From equipment choices to utilization of data, I will offer my take on things that may not seem glamorous or technologically advanced, but that make real differences for age group athletes of any ability.
Listen, most coaches do not coach. They program. To be fair, many of these programmers are quite good and get fantastic results with certain athletes. However, these programmers are data-driven, WKO+ mining, Vo2 Max measuring, and fitness fad ‘gurus’ whose success is determined by how well an athlete meets their programming, not how well the programming meets their athlete.
Coaching, in my opinion, should be a relational experience where everything is athlete-centered. Each session should accomplish something more than just improving an athlete’s fitness. Yes, fitness improvements are part of the equation, but the fittest athlete with the weakest mental constitution will never prevail on the race course or ever achieve their best.
Coaches need to ask what does each individual athlete need programming wise (daily, weekly, monthly, annually). What does the structure of each workout need to be like to encourage emotional and physical resilience? What does the athlete need to hear – or not hear – from the coach- and when!?
Brett Sutton once wrote, “a great coach once told me – ‘the difference between a good coach and a great coach is knowing what to say, but knowing when not to say it’”. It is great if you can explain the Krebs cycle to your athletes, but no one gives a shit at mile 22 on an Ironman marathon. All your athlete cares about is how much pain they can endure at that point and whether or not they have the confidence and fitness to finish the way they have been trained to.
An athlete’s “dream” performance is not the result of the fanciest bike or the most advanced laboratory testing. Excellence is the result of consistent training, creative and client-centered training programming, the dynamics between a coach and athlete, and perhaps most importantly, the presence of soul in any performance. High performance coaching is a harmonious blend of art, intuition, and science. A great coach is a flametender, entrusted to keep their athletes competitive fires alive in any condition, through all seasons.
With that, please enjoy the entries and I welcome comments, questions, and conversation.