Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Coaching Changes

I watched the Beijing Olympics, and as a coach who has met and study Clyde Hart, and his coaching styles and beliefs, I couldn't agree more with Wariner and his decision to go back to Clyde Hart. I have a lot of respect for Hart, and love to stop and read his work, and listen to him speak. His coaching style is intelligent, hands on, and his past successes gain the confidence of his athletes.


Wariner does an about face

When Jeremy Wariner was beaten by LaShawn Merritt in the 400m at the Olympic Trials, he was asked asked by members of the media if he thought his decision to leave Clyde Hart, the coach who guided him through his college career at Baylor and to Olympic gold in Athens, for Michael Ford affected his training and performance.

Wariner bristled at the question.

When Wariner was beaten soundly by Merritt again in the Beijing Olympic final, NBC’s Bob Neumeier asked Wariner again if the coaching change contributed to a lackluster showing. Wariner’s responded angrily, saying, “No, I’m not talking about it. It had nothing to do with it. That’s enough.”

He then walked away from the interview (watch video).

But Wariner has apparently now come to the same conclusion that anyone on Earth could have told him last season : If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

During his press conference at the adidas Track Classic on Saturday night (watch video), Wariner revealed that he has decided to resume training with Hart this year in the hope of regaining his standing as the world’s premier quarter-miler.

“I had been thinking about it for a little while, and felt it was the right thing to do,” Wariner said of going back to Hart. “Coach Hart is a great fit for me. Coach Ford is a tremendous coach. The experience is what made me want to go back to Coach Hart.”

There are sometimes risks in taking on athletes, especially after such a successful career, and now one might even think Coach Ford is not qualified, but there are so many factors to performance, including maturity, a right amount of confidence, and desire, that sometimes athletes don't truly understand until they've left a great situation.

This year has seen many high profile triathletes leave their coaches, and we will see what happens. There is a risk for the new coaches, because if it doesn't work out, they don't look good. In fact, it becomes a very public, poor showing of them if things do not go well.

And then you have the other end of the spectrum, where an athlete feels they have reached a plateau, and need to move on to a new coach to create the next breakthrough. There is nothing wrong with making this choice, especially when they are not at the peak of the sporting world, (like Wariner was), and are seeking new motivation, new structure and even new goals.


New coach for Ritz

Beijing Olympic marathoner Dathan Ritzenhein has made a coaching change.

On Sunday, Ritzenhein’s former coach Brad Hudson posted a release on his Facebook page confirming that the two are parting company.

“Coach Brad Hudson and athlete Dathan Ritzenhein have parted ways after 4 quality years together,” the post read. “Dathan’s success under Brad included the top American performance in the 2008 Olympic Marathon, two National Titles in Cross Country, as well as personal bests in the 2 mile, 3K, 5K, 10k, Half Marathon, and Marathon. It was a pleasure to coach Dathan, we’ve been through a lot together. I have enjoyed getting to know him and his family. I wish him continued success in his running career.”

Those are two good examples of when it's time to make a coaching change, and when it perhaps isn't. If you're thinking about changing coaches, consider both of these examples, and see which one applies to you, so you can make the right decision for yourself.

Coach Vance

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