This week I’ve decided to cover a topic I don’t think I’ve ever discussed in any depth here before: coaching. *Note that the following contains my perspective on the role with a little help from the recent research on the subject.
The importance of a good coach and their respective attributes is a frequent topic in my professional, athletic, and personal life (which is perhaps most important). I have been very fortunate to have run with Bill Dwyer since late 2008 and recently gaining some advice from Tim Floyd for swimming. Both awesome guys; very knowledgeable and have somewhat different styles (as different sports obviously call for difference in approaches). And it is working for me so far. I think I’ll continue to become a more physically and mentally tough athlete by experiencing multiple perspectives.
On the running side, I now have a few years experience and now know what kind of coach I work best with-open, innovative, and somebody I can collaborate with. In the water, however, I need that guidance, direction and being told “no” from time to time when I ask for more rest in between intervals. No pun intended, but I’m trying to be a “sponge” with what limited time I have in the water and learn as much as I can. I was once that ‘sponge’ when I received my first running schedule leading up to the 2009 Houston Marahon….
Last week I wrote out my first official running schedule forsomebody else. I’ve given out lots of advice on training, recovery, and even provided some thumbnails to get them going, but nothing more formal than a google spreadsheet. As busy as I am with my own training, planning the next step in my practice, and everything else in between; a new role arose as a coach. I have decided to start coaching a handful of individuals-nothing big, but the opportunity presented itself and I agreed. In a way it is flattering to be seen in that light. Oddly enough, I feel relatively confident likely resulting from my experience competing and working with others one to one on a daily basis.
So back to the notion of what makes a good coach: besides the obvious training and education-I will reference an article in theJournal of Sport Psychology in Action- in addition to my experience consulting with coaches and my own (biased) opinion- here is a sample of some positive attributes of good coaches:
- Possesses leadership qualities. Perhaps the most obvious trait-a good coach can utilize both transformational (i.e. ability to motivate and inspire) and task/skill-focused leadership. Even better ones know when and where to use exercise these facets.
- Fosters autonomy. Guides the athlete, but empowers them to think for themselves.
- Knows his or her athletes. As a sport psychology consultant, I am always advocating for coaches to be as athlete-centered as possible. Depending on the size of the team or group, this aspect varies, but coaches who are most in tuned with who their working with and know their tendencies elicit the most consistent success.
- Communicates clearly. Progress comes faster from those who best explain clearly the objectives at hand.
- Educates the athlete. I find it highly valuable when I know the purpose of the workout I’m doing. For head cases like me, knowing the purpose of why I’m running x:xx pace helps me keep things in perspective.
- Knows when to push and when to dial an athlete back-and sticks to it (see communication).
- Brings out the best in their athletes. This is one of the biggest intangibles, but I can think of a handful I have worked with who fit that mold.
I know that being coached has helped me tremendously in not only running times that I once thought were unattainable, but taught me and encouraged me along the way. Now I’m learning how to also coach myself some running; which comes with both experience and being educated by those who know the ins and outs of the sport. Hopefully I can emulate some of these qualities I preach when I do private run coaching. Time will tell.
Let’s hear from the class: what are your experiences coaching, being coached, or what do you look for in a good coach?
Stay the course.
Source: Watson, J., Cannole, I., & Kadushin, P. (2011). Developing young athletes: A sport psychology based approach to coaching youth sports. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 2, 113-122.