I’ve been reflecting on a Triathlon England workshop for Head Coaches that Sam (our Head Coach at Sussex TriStars) and I attended last weekend at Surrey University’s amazing Sports Park in Guildford. We both came away buzzing with ideas and renewed resolve (not that we were flagging before).
In this respect, the Head Coaches’ workshop was quite timely for me. After I'd set out a view of the Club's coaching priorities for the year and my own New Year's Resolutions, a coach and friend in our Club said to me “how can you say you want us to be an outstanding centre of coaching if we don’t have track sessions?” There’s also been internal debate about how many swims a week we provide. Does the number or type of a club’s sessions and where they are held define excellence? Or for that matter is being a really good coach about the quality of each specific session prescribed in training plans?
For sure providing duff sessions and training plans won’t get any of us very far. And its a no brainer to go for the best possible training locations, although the best isn't always available. But listening to the experience of other Clubs and the very wide spread of practices brought me back to thinking through the basics of good coaching and put some flesh on the bones of my vision for the Club and for my own coaching. So here goes.
In my view there are three, key interrelated aspects that I want my own coaching to achieve and which I think are also core to outstanding Club coaching:
- care and respect: first and foremost I think an excellent coaching environment is defined by the care and attention given by coaches to those who come, whatever sessions are provided. This is what Sports Psychologist Michael Gervais calls the compassion, respect and high regard we hold for those who come our way that is at the heart of the art of coaching (as in a video clip in my Art of Sports Psychology post)
- structure and planning: I’m a strong believer in setting out overall phased plans to reach peak performance in the race season. Whilst some may debate about the mix and timing, for me an excellent coaching environment is one in which the team of coaches have a sense of working to a common purpose. The golden rule, which applies even more so to individuals’ training, is for coaches and athletes to know how each and every session fits in – and let results come from consistency rather than thinking it is down to any one type of session
- deepen expertise: a third element I’ve been looking to put in place in the Club and also for my own coaching is to deepen our expertise in key areas. At the Club we are doing this through supporting those coaches who want to specialise in particular areas, such as through British Cycling or England Athletics. At the same time though, I’m hoping we can make better links with some of the local clubs that focus just on single sports – I don’t believe we have to reinvent every wheel that others have crafted. The key test to my thinking is to ask what value we can add as coaches and be ready to acknowledge when others more expert than ourselves have more to add.
Each of these requires a level of detailed, practical action to make the right things happen: good practice shared, an alertness to what Michael Gervais calls “coachable moments”, plans to be actually drawn up and shared rather than residing in the heads of lead coaches, areas where we can improve on identified and the means put in place to do so. Even available run tracks and pools to be found and booked!
Big thanks to Paula George and everyone at England Triathlon behind the Head Coaches’ workshop and to all the coaches Sam and I met and spent the day with – really good to be able to tap in to your experiences and share ideas.