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By T:Zero Coach - Monique Ralph
In the world of endurance training and racing, we as athletes rely on many relationships to support, guide and assist us on our path. We have supporter type relationships with our partners, friends, family and kids who pump up our tyres when they need inflating. We have relationships with our work colleagues who, even though they ask how the weekend was, are not really interested in hearing the ins and outs of the 5 hours ride (cue the glazing of eyes look). Some of us have curious relationships with our gadgets and technology and spend hours pondering the session and the number that have been crunched. Perhaps the most critical relationship we have, however, is with our coach!
At T:Zero the coaches believe wholeheartedly in the concept of ‘athlete centred coaching’ where the coach’s decisions and actions are executed with the athlete in mind. This means all coaches employ a style of coaching that adapts to the athletes needs, while creating a supportive environment that empowers the athlete. T:Zero is determined to promote the athletes learning through ownership of their training, developing awareness of the session goals and taking responsibility of their training to reach their goals and potential! This is why each athlete has their own unique training program that is carefully designed around their needs, abilities and goals as opposed to producing a cookie cutter program that does not support the T:Zero philosophies and ultimately does a great disservice to the athlete.
Ironman University has developed the notion of the 3 C’s of coaching, those being compatibility, communication and commitment. These 3 C’s are critical to the success of the relationship and are worth exploring deeper.
Compatibility is critical and is largely based on cooperation and effective interaction between the coach and athlete. Research supports the notion that an athlete’s self-confidence is increased when the coach and the athlete have similar values, beliefs and approaches to training. This is why new athletes are carefully matched to T:Zero coaches to ensure there is a strong linkage in values and direction in the first instance. When you have compatibility between a coach and athlete there is a shared learning experience where the coach learns what the athlete needs and what they want from the coach and the athlete learns the science behind the training and ultimately about their own performances.
Coaches must learn how to coach athletes and conversely athletes have to learn how to be coached and the secret to success in this relationship is through effective communication. Communication is key in any relationship and must be constantly developed. Initially the coach and athlete quickly establish their roles, expectations and standards which allows for the athlete to understand why the program is so and how it will benefit them in the long term. The best way to communicate is in person and when this can’t be achieved there are the alternative platforms of texting, calling, messengering, snap chatting, what’s app, zoom and instragramming (did I miss any???). The coach constantly seeks feedback from the athlete in terms of how they are feeling, what is going on in their lives, how the session went, what was good, what could be worked on and how they are travelling physically, mentally and emotionally. This feedback can be communicated and interrupted via Training Peaks comments, but sometimes it is what is not said that provides the cue to call the athlete. Equally, the athlete wants to know how they are going, if they are getting better/faster, if they will smash their PB or even finish the race. There are competing needs in the communication process and it is imperative that both the coach and athletes needs are addressed for a successful journey.
The final C is commitment. Both parties have to be committed to making the relationship strong, positive and enjoyable. The coach must ensure they convey their strong commitment to helping the athlete towards their goals and it is via this intention of commitment that the athlete will be able to identify their own goals and dreams for their endurance career. The athlete has to be committed to doing the hard work and sticking to the program in terms of training, nutrition and recovery to see the results. At the end of the day a well constructed training plan will not miraculously convert into real results without a lot of hard work, determination, sweat and tears from both the coach and athlete.
It is also worth noting that there has to be a high level of trust in this relationship. Trust that the coach is preparing you for the event of your life and has your best interests at heart and in reverse the coach has to trust that the athlete will do the little things like sleeping, stretching, reducing stress and not becoming obsessive over missing sessions (I am the worst offender for that!! Guilty as charged!!).
As you can see, the relationship between the coach and their athlete is a very necessary and critical component of endurance training. If this relationship is strong and solid communication exists, this will translate seamlessly into positive results for the athlete, thus making the athlete happy and working positively towards the attainment their goals and living their potential and making the coach proud to have played a central role in the athlete’s success!