The role of a coach

The weekend before lockdown was announced I completed a year long course; ‘High Performing Coaching Pathway’ with British Triathlon.  The course was like no other coaching course I had every done and enabled me to question the holistic role of a sports coach and cemented my belief about the importance of the coach-athlete relationship and empowering athletes.

As a 1-2-1 face to face and virtual coach, as well as a group triathlon and run coach, lockdown forced a number of changes to the way of coaching, but also threw up a number of opportunities.

One of my first cringe, head scratching moments was when members of the running group sent in their solo 5k times approx. one month after doing a timed 5K on a club night.  A large number of the runners were sending in times slower.  I knew that on a club night they had the benefit of being pushed by others, plus a coach to be accountable to – but I wasn’t sure if the runners were being kind to themselves or whether solo running  would demotivate them.  There are numerous reasons why the times may have been slower, but without seeing these runners in our usual face to face setting, I felt I was unable to reassure them, provide possible explanations and perhaps that I had abandoned them slightly. So, roll on June and the virtual team challenge.  Again, runs were solo, but this time, each runner was part of a team.  The positive response to this team challenge was unbelievable.  For a virtual event based on an individual sport, the teamwork was phenomenal.  Numerous Whatsapp messages, banter between team captains, mutual respect, support and a big improvement in run performance and fitness.

As coach,  I never once mentioned posture or gave precise directions into what should be included in a warm up; there were no tips on foot placement, cadence or arm swing.  Yet more than 50% of the group of runners set new PBs when completing the ‘blind’ 5k at the end of the month.  This is not an exact science and the aim was to get as close to the individual target time as possible.  For some this was a ‘good paced run,’ whereas for others there was a requirement to really push themselves. The results are very positive and for both runner and coach – very encouraging. 

Why did this progression occur and how much of an influence did the team have compared to the coach?

The role of the coach is incredibly multi-faceted and I refer to my earlier point about the importance of the coach-athlete relationship and the ability of the coach to empower the athlete.  For each athlete the methods to achieve these two aims will be very different.  Are you working towards your potential?  Are you working at your potential capacity?  Could working with a coach help you find that bit extra.  You may think having a coach is an expense-but it’s a a lot more cost effective than most bits of kit! Having an effective and empowering relationship with a coach can provide you with the performance to match and indeed surpass any expensive piece of kit. Why not consider spending those extra pennies on training more efficiently and effectively with the guidance from a coach to see where your achievements can take you?   

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