This is part 2 of my post on the guidelines I’ve followed for coaching athletes towards Kona qualification (part 1 here). So, here goes part 2!
4) Pay attention, and be honest. You should be paying attention to every single workout that an athlete does. You can use whatever system you want, but every single workout than an athlete does should register in your brain, and produce some sort of conscious reaction. It doesn’t have to be complicated, because it can be as simple as “Yup, that went as expected. Let’s keep going.” Or maybe something in the workout reminds you of a larger issue, and you ended up having a massively long conversation, spurred by a single workout. But paying attention to the mundane, every single time, is the only way you’re going to pick up on the little things that an athlete doesn’t want to tell you (or it doesn’t occur to them to tell you). And sometimes, those little things can make a huge difference. It’s your job to be able to pick up on those things, and react appropriately. Every workout, and workout submission, is a chance for you to get a read on how an athlete is doing. Take advantage of it.
The role of the feedback is to tell the athlete what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. If you just congratulate an athlete on every session, then you’re feeding their ego in training, but ultimately, you’re doing them a disservice. If you lead them to believe that they’re awesome all the time, and walk on water, then race day is going to be a very rude, and crushing, awakening, when the pace of the swim pack asks them a question that they may not have the answer to. Now, this doesn’t mean you should always be “negative”, either, because that will just lead to the opposite. They’ll resent the sport, grow to hate training, and show up to race day expecting to lose. So just remember – give them a high five when it’s earned, negative feedback when it’s deserved, and a pat on the back when they need it.
Along those lines – Be timely with your feedback. The most effective time for feedback is ASAP after a workout/question/etc… when it’s fresh in the athlete’s mind. As such, I am available 24/7 to my athletes via text/email (not always via phone, for obvious reasons). Remember – you work for them, and if they ask a question, it’s your job to answer it as quickly as is reasonably possible. My athletes are constantly floating around in the back of my mind, no matter what I’m doing. As I like to say, “I’m never at work, but I’m always at work.”
5) Have credibility, and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”. One of the underlying, basic, needs, of any coach is to have credible knowledge of just about anything related to triathlon. This includes, but is not limited to: physiology, race tactics, race pacing, daily nutrition, race nutrition, bike gear, swim gear, run gear, run technique, bike technique, swim technique, “damage control” on race day, season planning, mental techniques, etc… The list could go on, and on. You should be fluent in just about everything related to triathlon, but if you’re not, do not BS your athletes! Just say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”, and then learn about the topic that they need help with. Remember, your job is to help the athlete go fast, not to talk out of your ass. And if you need to suppress your ego by saying “I don’t know”, and spend time looking up an answer, then that’s the best possible thing you can do for that athlete. Honesty is the ultimate way to build credibility.
6) Do not get attached to any central “dogma” about training. This is possibly the biggest error I see coaches making, and it’s very popular among the “message board crowds”. There’a always some trend, “YOU HAVE TO DO LONG WORKOUTS AT LOW INTENSITY. EVERYTHING ELSE IS A WASTE OF TIME”, or “YOU HAVE TO DO HIGH INTENSITY INTERVALS! EVERYTHING ELSE IS GARBAGE MILES!”, or “YOU HAVE TO RACE AT X% OF YOUR MAX 20-MINUTE POWER!” and any time I see someone saying that everyone needs to train/race a certain way, I generally want to run headfirst into a brick wall, just to make the dumb words leave my brain.
There are two central tenets to training/racing, and they are –
a) There is no ‘race day magic.’ An athlete will perform on race day exactly as you have prepared them to perform in training
b) Identify an athlete’s particular deficiencies for a certain race, and address those deficiencies until they become strengths.
Your job is to make an athlete fast, not to cling on to some generalized dogma, or attempt to prove that your previously held ideas are “the right way”. The only “right way” in coaching is doing whatever it takes to maximize an athlete’s race day performance, and long-term progress.
There’s a ton more I could write on this but I don’t quite feel like writing a book right now, haha! After all, coaching & racing pay the bills, not blogging! So… time to turn my attention back to my own training, and my athlete’s training. Wheeee!!! Thx for reading.
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