It’s really sad, but we just don’t see many female coaches in track and field. So when people find out that my mother is my coach, they’re amazed not only at our relationship dynamic (mother-daughter, coach-athlete) but also at her being a woman.
One thing that bothers me is when other coaches put down female coaches and discourage athletes, especially male athletes, from training under a woman. They often will argue that a woman doesn’t know how to train a male because she is a woman. But they leave out the fact that they’re training females, so if their theory is correct, they don’t know what they’re doing!
Let me first say there is little to no difference between a male and female athlete. The main difference, if any, IS the coaching. So here is my take on a below average coach, an average coach, and a great coach:
Below Average Coach
I see below average coaches as having a love for the sport such that they need to be involved with it. Does it mean that their involvement should be in coaching? No. Therefore, they kind of stick to what they’ve seen or heard about training athletes, and not really doing their own extensive research. Also – how they handle their profession: most likely this type of coach doesn’t consider what he or she does a professional business in itself, and is simply happy that athletes are training under him or her without receiving payment.
An average or good coach has experience and education within the sport that comes from actually being an athlete or taking courses to become and coach. I see two problems with this type of coach:
- If you are an past athlete, you have the tendency to think that what worked for you will work for every athlete, which is not true. There will be some successes with athletes-turned-coaches, but I believe there will be more let-downs.
- Secondly, classes that are taken to learn the coaching skill are very general in information, and the higher the level in the sport, the more you deal with athletes for whom “general” information just won’t cut it.
I don’t have a problem with proving your knowledge in the sport through tests and courses; I just think it should be something complementary to and not the basis of your coaching abilities.
A great coach is someone that is naturally gifted in coaching. As in any career path in life, for someone to be great, there must first be a natural talent. Though it’s difficult to single out exactly what makes a great coach, you can see it through the coach’s athletes. A great coach can take almost any athlete and make them 100% better than they were prior to working with them, and can take a great athlete and make them 200% better than they were before.
Some coaches get a lot of credit for training an athlete that ran well before coming to them and just maintaining, not improving, their marks. Results are the best way to judge a coach, as well as consistency. More than one athlete should be running well under a great coach. A great coach has his or her own theory, a theory that is not based off of not just what they’ve seen other “great coaches” do with their great athletes, but that has been honed and crafted as their own.
Great coaches consider themselves to be professionals and run their program like a business. I think every athlete should ask their coach what their theory is on being the best in their respective event. What are the key elements and factors? Because this is your profession for an extended time as well, and you don’t want to waste time moving from coach to coach, and never truly trusting any of them. Look toward the coach because that is who you are dealing with and that is who you must be able to trust.
While we’re at it, on TRUST:
Some people may think that I moved back across the country to California to be coached by my mom out of convenience – I had twin baby boys to take care of, and I didn’t have a family support system in South Carolina. My mom hadn’t coached me since junior high. So I understand why people may draw that conclusion.
The truth is, I knew she could coach me to be the best in the world again. I knew she believed in me regardless of what my body and soul had gone through. My only reservation was going back to her workouts! It was like being on vacation for years and having to face the real world again. I worked hard as a kid when my mom was our coach. I pushed myself to the edge on a regular basis. I dreaded going back to that daily rigor, but I knew at the end of it, her program was what I needed.
I’ve always said that I could succeed under almost any coach. I know how to do my part and put my full trust in the person and make them feel like my goals are in their hands, so that they don’t worry that I’m going to question them or try to tell them how to do their job. I think that’s part of your job as an athlete, especially if you’ve committed to treating your athletic career like a professional business.
I have the talent, no matter what. And I have the work ethic, no matter what. So I could succeed under an average coach, or even a below average coach to be honest. But it took a GREAT coach to bring me back after having twins to win first a silver and then a gold at the World Championships, to set an American Record, and to follow it up the next year with Olympic Silver.
It’s easy to TRUST when everything is going right. The challenge comes when it’s NOT. This is where the great athlete and coach are separated from the average ones. The 2014 season has been a struggle for me so far. My workouts are telling us that I’m fitter than ever, and yet my results on the track are making it seem like a lie. But I have to trust. The workouts CAN’T lie. And Lord knows I’m experienced in defeating adversity.
I’m holding onto these four things in my heart, believing they will lead me out of this storm: