Thoughts on Coaching

October 14, 2011

Triathlon Coaching is a big business these days. When I began back in 2004 it was relatively new. Sure there were coaches but not nearly the plethora and the depth of coaches available today. I got into triathlon coaching… because I have always loved teaching. I love getting inside an athletes head and trying to figure out how to elevate them from the inside out.

Through my life I have always been in the role of a coach in some fashion.  I have been a swim coach, personal trainer, I taught spinning and step aerobics, I teach yoga…….. I love it. I love watching the transformation of an athlete. Now I am only 10% of their equation but I am a powerful 10%, every coach is. The physiology stuff is the easy stuff, configuring the plan is not hard…… it has to be fit to them ….. and it of course is safe….. but what’s more important is knowing your athlete inside and out.

I get asked a lot of questions about triathlon coaching. How to go about it, how to build the business, how to connect with athletes.

To me the most important thing is that you care. 

Truth be told there are a lot of reasons why people get into coaching. Unfortunately I do see many who are looking for ways to earn revenue so they can pursue their own interests. With that being said….. no one goes into business to not make money. But the ones I speak of are the ones who copy and paste workouts for their entire athlete stable. A few years ago I interviewed a prospective coach who told me that planning workouts for his 15 athletes took him 30 minutes on a Saturday morning. Didn’t go with that one.

True- there are only so many ways to write an aerobic run. It’s not always about the workout you write but how it fits into the grand scheme of the week, the month, the cycle, the season. Everything has a purpose and it takes much longer than 30 minutes once a week…. if you do it conscientiously.

I have always been told I care too much about the athletes I coach, which I honestly find offensive. When people come to you with their hopes and dreams, when they are willing to pay you more than a car payment, you’d better care. You are dealing with people’s lives. Athletes share things with you, very personal things. You are not just dealing with someone who wants to do an Ironman. You are working with a parent, sibling, spouse, a friend. Someone who might have a clean bill of health or someone who has been literally pinned back together. In working with an athlete all of that matters. All of it.

If someone is struggling getting workouts in…. I want to figure out why and I want to help them fit them in with their life. You don’t have a good pool? Where do you live? In 5 minutes I will have your local pool and Masters team information and schedule to you.

Traveling? I will find you the place to train if you need a gym.

Need me to call you weekly to make sure you are on track? I call that my weekly kick in the ass. I won’t call you and say “Hey! Did you get your swim in today?” I will likely ask you a thought-provoking question, such as….. tell me why you chose the Ironman. Tell me something you learned this week with these swim drills.

If we can connect a deeper meaning to all of it, then you are more likely to get er done. Yelling at you because you didn’t …. never works.

But if it means a chat, let’s do it.

If one of my flaws is caring too much….. good. I take my athletes’ programs personally. They pay me hard-earned money and place a lot of trust in me. I’d better take it personally.

So remember: always care.

Develop thew ability to stand back and asess.

One of my favorite things about being a coach is having the ability to stand back and watch. I love to assess. I love to put the pieces together and watch that improvement happen. It might be a swim stroke, bike execution, nailing nutrition. More often than not it’s the space between athletes’ ears that sees the most growth.

Come to me a horrible swimmer. Sweet. Let’s video. Let’s compare. Let’s do these drills, work at it, chip away….. and then watch the result unfold. I am fascinated, intrigued and obsessed with how all of it comes together. I like being there and watching it all happen. I hate watching Ironman from afar. Hate it. I can tell you right now when I am in Kona 2012 I will be 100% coaching. That excites me more than any time I have ever qualified for that race. Put me on the sidelines and let the work we do shine through you.

Never stop learning.

If you are going to be passionate about something be passionate about learning.”

I made it through one semester of Grad school. I hated it. Absolutely hated it. I thought since I was a nurse I should be a Nurse practitioner. The program was not for me. I wasn’t interested in researching or being published because I had to write a certain way. I was interested in teaching. I was interested in my sport. I was interested in coaching. I write the way I write. I can’t be told how to write.

I sat in that class and realized that being an NP was just not for me. It taught me that I need to go with my gut and go with coaching, like really go with it. And it’s working out.

I am headed to Philly next week to attend a USAT Level I clinic. I have already done Level I. However it’s the one that fit my schedule this year, and there are several presenters I am drooling to hear. Bobby McGee. YES, THE BOBBY MCGEE! I would pay just about anything to hear this man present on running and on mental skills. Hey, that’s exactly what he’s presenting on.

Now that I am out from under the insanity of owning a small business, the taxes the insurance……. and with QT2 it’s like the doors have been thrown open and I am coaching. Jesse told me that they were going to supe me up, and they are. Right now I have the tools to be the best coach I have ever been.

I am heading to several conferences for different things this season, I want to learn everything I possibly can. Am I the greatest coach there is…. hell no. There are far better ones. But I will never be the one who stops learning.

There is always something new to learn. Never forget that.

Know your why.

Have you ever heard of Simon Sinek? He’s the author of a terrific book called “Start with why”. The premise of the book is this: If you understand your why….. then your how will not only fall into place but what you produce will be amazing and something people want. Watch the video here for a very good explanation.

Why are you a coach? I don’t think there is a wrong reason. I just think you need to have one. And believe in it. And live it.

I coach because I love it. I love taking what I have learned and applying it. I love to work with people and find out what sustains them from the inside out. I love helping a struggling athlete find their motivation. You know the one….. the one who everyone thinks cant. I love helping them find that they can.

I love standing at that finish line and watching their faces. I love reviewing a season and saying…. holy moley look at what YOU DID!

It’s awesome.

Next week I will sit in a conference with 30 coaching hopefuls. I am lucky that I am the established coach, it allows me a sense of not needing to worry about the start-up…… but just to be able to sit back and listen. I love immersing myself in something for a few days and just soaking it all in. I can’t wait to see what is brought to the table as future coaches and presenters.

As I continue on this journey of coaching it’s like everything is brand new again, and it will be the prefect shot in the arm.

Thinking of getting in to coaching? Go for it. I believe the more the better. I love sitting down for a cup of coffee with fellow coaches in the area and just shooting the sh*t about coaching. Up for a cup of Timmy ho’s and a chat about power? Give me a call!


One comment

  1. Mary- we have traded a couple of emails in the past– i sure wish we lived closer so we could go for a cup of coffee. I love your passion and the excitement you bring to coaching and sport.

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