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Over the past 7 months I have been working with two 14 year old athletes within athletics one of which was already with a club and came to me due to not seeing any progression in 2 years and the other came for advice and help from a school cross country after spotting me on the local track. Not knowing either of these athletes I met with each one of them asked what events they was wishing to pursue and why. I decided after the speaking and getting to know the individuals I advised I would like to take them back to basics and concentrate on agility, balance, coordination and strength just to see how much work they required.
Over 3 months I worked with the athletes working on their ABC's designing a plan for each individual athlete working on squats, lunges, and other body weighted exercises once I saw an improvement over 3 months I then started to add small amounts of weights performing the same exercises using a weighted bar, again over 2 months I started to see a massive improvement in their strength, posture and positive attitudes. By the 5 month I started to add small amount of weights nothing massive but enough to see improvements. Over the last couple of months I have noticed a massive improvements in body, mind, health and in competition results. Both athletes have worked hard. Parents, family and friends have commented on the achievements and how much stronger they both look. Both athletes have competed in many competitions and have seen positive results with PB's in their events to winning events and even coming 2nd in school athletics competition in the county. Two happy athletes however when one of the athletes came to my training session he advised me another coach is pushing him to perform harder and get his PB down during training sessions, this has had a knock on effect on the athletes confidence and feeling he's not doing well. I advised the athlete that he needs to look at what he has achieved over the last 7 months having come to myself in a very poor condition I also advised that when I was an athlete I was given the advice to use your training days for training, perfecting, practising the event and getting the movements correct and use competitions days to get PBs, win competitions and try your best.
I'm aware that some coach's are still pushing young developing athletes to the point where they are giving up due to confidence, not getting PBs and becoming injured due to over training and being pushed to the limit. I have seen athletes from the age of 9 having to keep up with athletes 5 years their age. I ask WHY? can we just not let our athletes develop in their own time? why are coaches pushing athletes at a young age to perform at a rate where they are unable to cope and give up at an early age. Again this comes down to are you coaching for yourself or athlete?
I'm one of those coaches that likes to take things from the bottom and work my way up, to see progression and positive results over time. I feel there is so much more pressure for our young athletes mentally and physically in clubs, schools and from parents to achieve high.
That's so great that you took the time to sit with each of the athletes and ask them about their goals and what they wanted to work towards. You put interest in them and they put trust in you and let you take them back to basics. Everybody benefits.
To answer your question, I have had a little experience with athletes feeling pressure to go in different directions from adults working with them. When I was involved with TeamGym national teams development for British Gymnastics we were putting individual gymnasts together from different clubs across the country for the first time and trying to nurture blended teams. Gymnasts were working with a team of national coaches at the centralised training dates several times throughout a year and also with their personal coaches. Sometimes the national coaches and the gymnasts' own personal coaches had different priorities for the gymnasts. The national coaches were trying to influence the skill selection and physical preparation that would be done back at home and that wouldn't always align with what the personal coaches had planned.
How difficult for the gymnasts knowing what their national coaches want to see worked and know there was a difference compared to what their club coach had planned for them. We worked with personal coaches as much as possible but sometimes there is always going to be an element of "I know best."
I levelled with the gymnasts, acknowledged any gaps and tried to give them as much information as possible so they could make informed choices about their own training. I would never undermine the personal coaches - these were the coaches who had helped get the gymnasts to this level and would continue to support them as they continued at club level as well as national level. I would support as much of what they were saying as possible and simply offer the gaps in alignment between their plans and our requests as something that needed some further thought and discussion back home. The older the gymnasts were, the more they were able to understand the situation. Nobody was wrong. There were just different tactics and opinions being used by different coaches. I wanted the gymnasts to be able to take ownership of their training as much as possible and they can do that when they're in possession of the facts. They can often have a say in how their training is conducted and how they should move forward. Our job is to support them.
Thank you so much for your reply and sorry for the late reply. Since this post, my this athlete has since come back to me and advise me of what the other coach has advised him to do. Whilst on our early morning training session I always take the time to ask athletes how their week at school has gone and how life is this so I'm aware of any changes or issues that arise. The same athlete advised me that the other coach had advised him to stop coming to my training sessions altogether as I will not get him anywhere and I will not get his times down, I was absolutely disgusted at the other coaches actions. I advised the athlete that it was his choice in what he decides to do and that I will support him this his decision. The athlete then advised me that he really didn't want to leave me and that he was happy with our training sessions. The reason he attends was that my sessions are enjoyable, different and they are not constantly running around the track and there are only a small number of athletes and I plan according to their lifestyle and don't put pressure on them. I was a very unhappy coach and really wanted to talk with the coach and ask why he feels this way, I have only ever met this coach once and told me that my athlete was safe with him and that he's doesn't over train athletes. I have decided to not let this bother me and let the athlete decided what he wants to do, at the end of the day it what the athlete is happy with and for me, I would rather the athlete be happy and make their own choices.
Although I'm a little annoyed with the other coach I' just going to let it go, am I doing the right thing I ask myself!!!
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