If you watch this video about the new Ironman University Coaching Program you will see my athlete Teri Jones interviewed 2 minutes in. Ironman did not point out that I was Teri’s coach and I am fine with that, but I want to talk a little about what Teri brings up when she is speaking.
As a coach, you must have belief in your athletes. Each athlete is different and the type of belief you must have in each athlete varies, but the belief must be there. Not all athletes are easy to believe in because they do not believe in themselves. This is where the “real” coaching kicks in. Yes, a coach can learn workouts, periodization, technique, etc., but where a coach shows his/her true value is in coaching the athlete to mentally understand what the athlete is capable of. Once the athlete has realized and attained this capability, the coach’s job is to push the boundaries further and once again push the athlete’s mental reach further beyond what they thought was attainable. This is a continuous process and it never stops.
In Teri’s case, upon our first conversation, she informed me she “was not a runner” and was “never an athlete.” I took her comments into consideration and made a note of where she was in her physical and mental state. I knew, from the tone in Teri’s voice, that she wanted to achieve big things but was hesitant and feared failure. We had to start with baby steps and a lot of phone conversations regarding how to complete certain workouts and why/how she could complete certain aspects of her training. Teri had some doubt in herself. As her coach and friend I never had a doubt. I had total belief in Teri and her ability to grow as an athlete mentally and physically. Yes, I had to be fully engaged in her routine and know exactly how she was feeling daily, but because of this engagement I could prescribe the correct training and adapt to Teri’s needs.
There are so many ways an individual can get certified to become a multisport coach currently and all of these programs have great benefit in training the coach to technically be a coach. What I am afraid of is that these programs are not teaching the personal aspect of being a coach. Teri is just one example of how a coach needs to mentally adapt to each athlete. Most of the time this mental coaching is much larger than the physical coaching.
A coach must not only be an authority figure who possesses knowledge on how to best succeed at the specific sport, but he/she must also be a mentor, friend, therapist, and life coach who can show a path to the athlete that gives the athlete confidence that the ability to achieve is there. This opens the athlete’s eyes to a plethora of possibility.
I am so proud of all of my athletes. They push their limits mentally and physically day in and day out. It is not a given that all “certified” coaches will posses the ability to believe in their athletes. It is a tough skill to understand and convey to athletes. I learned this throughout all of my years as an ice hockey player. The coaches I had who believed in us and pushed us beyond what we thought was possible were my best coaches and lead to the most successful results. The coaches who were technically sound but had no ability to relate to the athletes and cultivate belief in ourselves were not well liked and the results were less than optimal.
I hope athletes do not just see the Ironman logo on a certain coach and say, “Ironman! Must be a great coach!” Athletes’s must do their homework. Speak to other athlete’s who are coached by a certain coach. Look into the coach’s experience and background. Athlete’s commit so much to training. The coach is the guide for that training. The athlete must be in the best hands possible.
Go to www.RedPerformanceMultisport.com for more information on our Red Performance Multisport Certified Coaches or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org