Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Athlete:Coach Relationships

Another excellent resource for coaches & athletes. This podcast is one that everyone should listen to. It's 25 minutes long but well worth the time. In fact, it might be the best podcast that I have listened to in over a year.

For information on his lifestyle or coaching books, go here. (They are also available on amazon & kindle).

I have to give credit where credit is due. Most of the articles, videos & podcasts that I post come from my Coach. If you want to get the latest research, follow her on Twitter here. She sends these articles to us in our weekly athlete email, and she posts them to Twitter for ALL THE WORLD to read.

Over the years, I have used various forms of coaching: some with minimal coach contact and some with a lot of contact; some with completely personalized training and some that were more of  asking questions on forums. Outside of my own personal experience, I also know coaches from 5 masters swim coaches that I work with to the running coaches to personal trainers and the list goes on and on.

The differences in styles has always been fascinating to me.

I suspect most people are not going to listen to the podcast. I am going to pick out the things that really stood out to me. As an athlete, I want to know where my strengths and shortcomings are, so I can work through and with them.

Training "should be athlete directed, athlete centered".
Athletes must have a choice and feel ownership in the process & need to control the process.

This concept really goes against the old school thinking. In fact, Dr. Sugarman states that when a coach says, "Because I am the expert, you will do this...." it is provoking rather than evoking an athlete. Coaches need to understand that they are not experts in the lives of their athletes. They are merely visitors in the lives of their athletes.

I think we can all agree, from the perspective of an athlete, that the coach/athlete relationship is one of mutual respect. This is not a hierarchical relationship based on compliance.

"Athletes must have choice & feel ownership in the process". Don't set goals for athletes. The athletes must choose their own path.

This point hit me hard because I have heard many athletes say, "Coach set this goal for me" or "Coach wants me to do this". What about what YOU want to do? After all, that's why we are here. If YOU don't own the goal, you won't work for it. I don't function well having goals forced upon me. I will not have someone else set a goal for me. This was a big issue for me for awhile. I had people in my life who always stressed "placing". I couldn't shake it. I allowed it to disrupt my races. I couldn't focus on the task at hand because I was focused on "what happens if I don't place".  Placing has never been & is not currently my goal. Placing means nothing to me if it doesn't come with some feeling of satisfaction about how a race went. Did I execute correctly? THAT is what is important to me.

However, I do want advice. That's why I pay a coach. When I ask Coach a question about goals or "what's next", I work best when the coach then gives me options. They look at me. They look at my competitors and they say, "Here are the 2 or 3 things I think would work best for you based on what I see from you and from other athletes who have been in your situation. What do you want to do?"

Then, the choice is mine with input from a source that I trust. I am in control of my training. According to Dr. Sugarland, that is precisely what defines a good coach.

"Good Coaches ask, they don't tell."
"Good Coaches evoke, they don't provoke."

The #1 Coaching addiction is dependency. Coaches want athletes to depend on them.
This part is a little more complex. Although "dependency" has negative connotations, it's not a negative aspect as long as the focus is on the athlete.

"When you develop an athlete, they draw upon themselves, their skills. They speak with their own voice, not your coaching."

It seems like a double edge sword, doesn't it?

When an athlete gets to (what Dr. Sugarland calls) the Prepotent moment, the moment comes down to the athlete and their own skills.They aren't thinking about what their coach will say. It is the athlete "being the best athlete." At that point, coaching doesn't matter.

YET, it is the coaching that empowered the athlete to find the confidence to do exactly that.

This is the part that I struggle with the most. Most of the time, I find "my zone". I do my best as an athlete without thinking about what my coach will say. But, I'm not 100% yet. There are times that I still struggle. It shows that this is a long term process that needs to take place.

You can call it "the zone". You can call it "being in the moment". Choose whatever phrase makes you happy, but ultimately, it is that moment in your thinking and being when you will be your best.


This entire podcast perfectly summed up what I want from a coach, "Empower me with the tools I need. Then get the hell out of my way."