The relationship between coach and athlete is both complex and simple and both play out at every interaction that occurs both on and off the track.
An athlete can often shift their thinking about their coach on any given day due to a multiple of variables; however I am going to stick to just one variable for the sake of simplicity, and to highlight the importance of a coach in an athlete’s career.
Coaching in my opinion is a very mis-used term. In my experience coming back to master’s track at a very late age I have yet to meet anyone who isn’t an “expert”. That being said coaching starts from a base level of science, research, education, demonstration and practice, and for most coaches that’s about where it ends. Personally I’m not impressed by how much anyone has learnt from a book unless they can demonstrate practical application. A classic example is watching a track coach trying to correct the mechanics of a sprinter with little or no understanding of the impact it is having on the actual athletes natural mechanic causing the athlete to run slower….
Anyway back to my story and my single variable. The variable is this. If an athlete completes a particular session or repeats the session several times and then runs PB’s or very good times should the session be repeated even if it is out of sync with training schedules, training philosophy or the coach’s views?
The answer is yes and no. The placebo effect is well documented and complety valid under certain circumstances, and when it comes to 400m running I believe it is a valuable coaching technique.
My attachment to a certain session is as follows:
Hills is a core session for our squad and the 2×4, 145m session is the one that gives me the confidence to run a good 400m. Whether it is the best session to prepare me to race is open to debate, however as an athlete it puts me in the right head space to run my first 200m in the correct split and then attack the 3rd hundred and not be fearful of failing in the final 100.
Now the coach has the following dilemma in preparing me for a 400m race.
Does the coach:
- Follow the athlete’s advice completely
- Ignore the athlete’s feedback and follow his own coaching philosophy
- Adapt training to take into account both the athletes input and the coach’s training methodology.
So what’s the answer? Well this is where you get really annoyed……The actual answer is all of the above and none of the above.
Any mug can train someone however very few can coach the best performances out of individuals, and that is the skill that in my opinion is almost unteachable.
My current coach is able to assess where my current level is from an athletic point of view, and also my head space is in regards to competing and training. Quite simply, he see’s things others don’t, including me. Basically he knows when to push and when to relax his point of view, and in the above example he has allowed me to keep this session with some modifications pre competition.
My point while appearing complex is really quite simple. Coaching while based in science is an art. The ability to watch an athlete and make the necessary changes to achieve their best performances is what makes an average coach a great one, and I have been very fortunate since returning to this sport in 2010 to have found one.
Current Best Performances:
100m 11.86 State Championships 2014
200m 23.46 Treloar Shield 2014
400m 52.82 Oceania 2014