Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Coaching Lesson Learned

I recently read an interview with Joel Filliol, who is the coach of the successful BAMF group, (Simon Whitfield - Olympic Silver Medalist, Tom Evans - 2 Ironman wins this year, and many more). He talked about being a development coach at the NTC in Victoria, BC. One thing he said which really resonated with me was, "as development coach I was working with a number of other coaches and didn't have the autonomy to make and be accountable for my own decisions."

I really appreciated this, because the way you learn is in the mistakes you make as a coach. (Show me a perfect coach, and I'll show you a coach who doesn't have any clients).

So many coaches don't take responsibility for their decisions with athletes. Because it's a two-person dance, it always seems easy for coaches to say the athlete was responsible for the performance when it wasn't as good as hoped. It's also easy for me to know what I'm doing right, but I think it's more important to know what I'm doing wrong. Most coaches will also never publicly expose their mistakes, so it makes it hard to learn from other coaches on what not to do.

It is the end of the season, and I feel it's important to look back on the season with my athletes, and see where I, the coach, went wrong. Where did I make mistakes? What could I have done better to prepare my athletes. I have sent some of my athletes these year-end reviews, but not all yet. (Be patient if you're reading this, these take some time!) These are becoming invaluable to me, especially for those athletes who gather data via power meters and speed-distance devices for running.

One athlete I finished the season with I was especially disappointed about, because they are the first athlete I've ever had who was not able to compete at their A-priority race. This athlete was doing extremely well, improving to levels which were surpising even me. Then in one big day on the bike, the back tightened up so bad, they were unable to move for a few days. We were about 4 weeks from the start line of IMAZ. It only seemed to get worse, and it became clear the race would not happen.

There were some signs of nagging tension with the back, and perhaps the athlete didn't communicate it well enough to me to make me take notice, but I had a sense something could have been done by me to prevent it. Or even worse, that I contributed largely to the injury.

When I went back and looked at the Performance Management Charts, it became evident that when I spiked the stimulus too much, the athlete did not respond well. I was too aggressive in this athlete's training.

Click on this image, the PMC, with my notes that I sent to the athlete:

This was a great tool for me, in seeing that I got too aggressive, and need to be more aware of the risks I am taking with an athlete's health and season. I've certainly had an excellent track record, as again this was the first athlete not to compete at their A-priority race, but sometimes you need to be reminded.

This is just another advantage of collecting data, not only as an athlete, but as a coach. I'm glad it's helping me "be accountable for my own decisions" as a coach.

Coach Vance

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