Weekend number four just gone and the last big tutored input on my Level 3 coaching course up at Loughborough.  We had excellent, thought provoking presentations on Sports & Exercise Psychology and deep insights into elite performance from a top paratriathlete and a GB leading Performance Director.

The Sports and Exercise Psychology session in particular opened up a number of themes I am beginning to develop in my coaching, taking them much further and giving lots of avenues to explore.  Noe Orozco is a Sports and Exercise Psychologist, among other things working with the GB Paratriathlon team.

Noe majored on how we can train ourselves to shift our focus at key points and develop “effective thinking”.  So for example at the start of a big race we may quite necessarily be taking in a wide range of external cues that affect our state of readiness: the whole field of competitors, swim course all laid out before us, the noise and commotion.  At the right time, though, to be effective we have to shift and narrow our focus, such as the line to the first swim buoy.  Internally we can also shift our focus from the wider scanning of how we are feeling overall as we take everything in, to narrow down to one specific such as getting the breathing under control and readying ourselves for the task immediately ahead.

We also explored confidence as rooted in the internal dialogue we have with ourselves.  Self-talking is all about responding to the events and stresses around, rather than allowing ourselves simply to react.  From here one can plan ahead and prepare the inner dialogue for specific moments such as the warm up and preparation, the swim or transitions - thinking ahead to what will help technique, motivation, relaxation, strategy and focus.  So for example for the run I might rehearse what I will be telling myself about holding the right form and technique as I start running, reminding myself as motivation of all the training I’ve put in, then telling myself to settle into a rhythm and so on.

Phil Hogg in action

Phil Hogg in action

This kind of attention to every detail that can affect how we train and race was a recurring theme in the other talks too, from elite paratriathlete Phil Hogg and former Lead Coach for British Cycling at the Beijing and London Olympics and now Performance Director for the GB Para Swim team Chris Furber (twitter: @chrisfurber)

Chris opened by talking about what he termed arena skills: knowing and practising what the athlete we are coaching needs to see and to hear.  He also went through some of the guiding principles in planning – again with a big emphasis on breaking down all the detail that needs to come together to achieve a particular goal.  This is the legendary British Cycling and Team Sky accumulation of marginal gains philosophy.

And Phil again touched on the meticulous attention to detail that all adds to achieving the bigger end goal.  Interestingly this also included a big emphasis on recovery as an integral part of the high volume and intense training he is putting in, aiming to qualify for Rio.

Over these last four months on the course I have learnt so much.  I feel I am beginning to develop my coaching in new and exciting areas as well as deepening my understanding of all the elements that make up swim, bike, run and triathlon coaching.  One of the videos that Noe shared with us, here, from internationally renowned Sports Psychologist Michael Gervais talking about confidence and the art of coaching, particularly resonated.  Watch this space for more on the distinctive line of coaching I will be developing that pursues this approach.

Big, big thanks to the tutors Simon Ward, Chris Roberts, Rob Moore and all of the excellent speakers and guests who have shared so openly their expertise.  And thanks too to all the other course members who have openly shared their experiences and ideas and been terrific company and support as we have gone along together.

Next steps: the big assignments!

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