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When is a Coach not a Coach? | Coaching Adults

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Posted in: All other topics on coaching adults

When is a Coach not a Coach?

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  • DazReevell

    When he / she coaches remotely, or so I was told this week.


    I work with adult endurance athletes (runners) and provide coaching services and support for many athletes spread throughout two counties. Add to that, my work means that I am often away during the week resulting in around 95% of my coaching being done remotely, through a mixture of an online coaching portal, telephone calls, emails, texts and messaging apps. I had an interesting conversation this week with a personal trainer where I was told that, because my work is done remotely I am actually just providing a plan and not coaching.

    Whilst I can understand that giving an athlete a generic 12 week programme can be viewed as not really coaching the athlete, the PT was well aware that I don't just dish out generic plans to athletes, I spend many hours each week digesting the previous weeks training from each athlete, planning the next weeks training based upon the output from their training sessions, communications I have with them, their current fatigue levels, adaptation to the training stimulus and short / mid / long-term goals etc.

    I am struggling to understand how that is not coaching. Maybe I am missing the point? If writing up macro / meso / micro cycles, providing weekly bespoke training sessions to athletes, adjusting based on feedback / goals etc. and working with the athletes to help them become the best they can is not coaching then, what is?


    Answers on a postcard.

  • Coach_Chris

    I was speaking to a friend recently who's gone back to University to take a Masters degree and he was saying that one of his teachers lives in Canada.  Using technology he is able to teach and tutor his students from overseas.  Does this mean that he is not really a teacher?  I don't think so.  He just uses the technology available to provide a service that he is trained to do, from a different place.

    I too consider myself to be a coach and while my physical coaching time has reduced I'm still 'coaching' my athletes on the other side of the world and I've just signed two women's road racing teams, also in a different country.  Using technology such as:

    • GPS enabled devices that link to ANT+ sensors i.e. heart rate, cadence, power
    • TrainingPeaks online software to prescribe training plans that are delivered by email each day
    • Creating structured workouts that can be loaded into Zwift to allow riders to cycle in a virtual space and target power figures, cadence, heart rate etc.
    • Virtual racing on Zwift, Training Roads etc
    • Communications technology such as Skype, WhatsApp, Slack
    • Video footage and data analysis tools

    Do we really need to be in the same country, even the same room to be a coach.  I really don't think so, not anymore.  It can be useful but as long as you're helping your athlete to reach their potential and achieve their goals, why do you need to be in the same room?

  • DazReevell

    Indeed the remote athletes I coach all use Strava which is linked into Final Surge. I get to see vital stats about pace, cadence, HR and the usual running metrics. To add to that I usually have a couple of conversations a week with each athlete. This can be in the form of telephone chats, messenger, text, email and / or Skype.

    I tend to work on a week by week basis, review the previous weeks metrics, looking at training load, adaptation to stimulus, physical and mental fatigue, where we are in the macro / meso cycle etc. before putting together next weeks plans. This is quite time consuming however, is very effective. All the athletes I coach have gone on to improve hugely by following this methodology.

    This is certainly much more in-depth than just standing around with a whistle and stop watch, shouting split times at athletes.

  • batty

    I think this is one of those times where you just had chatted with the ill-informed person!

    Coaching is, as we all know, a multifaceted discipline where the end goal is to help our athlete(s) excel/improve/perform/etc.  How we do that is purely down to using our knowledge and expertise to select the best tool in which to achieve this, which supports the argument that coaching is just as much an art as it is a science!

    If you were not able to coach successfully through means other than face to face, there could be an argument that your not very good at your job.  Likewise, in those situations where we are required to refer an athlete, we are still acting as a coach in doing so.

    Keep up the great service you are providing to your athletes, especially as it is working for both your athletes and you.

  • DazReevell

    I think that there is a little more to this than I first realised. The PT in question is lining up to offer some 'coaching' sessions to the club I where I coach. This is a business to him, so I suspect there will be a charge somewhere down the line to either the club or the athletes. I am a volunteer coach and give my coaching for free. I offered to collaborate with him to deliver sessions for the benefit of the club and the athletes. I guess that the idea of doing it for free made him a little defensive as I suspect he wanted to monetise the sessions, this is when he turned round and said that what I do isn't coaching and rejected my offer to collaborate.

    On the plus side, I am currently mapping out a series of free monthly "Coached Endurance Sessions" for the club and athletes. The first one is scheduled for the first Saturday in March and if successful, will continue throughout Spring, Summer and into Autumn.

  • tramp

    The PT is just wrong.

    The key point here is `The athlete chooses the coach`

    And expand on that a bit.  The athlete chooses the coach, the style of coaching, the session location.   And then there are constraints like geography, timing, work commitments, cost. When can you meet up and where.   It's a match up between supply and demand.

    Your athletes like what you do. They feel you help.  They are choosing you as an online capable coach. And you are the best option they have.  If they didn't like what you do, they would give up the sport or find another coach.

    By being a remote coach, you are creatively creating more opportunities for coached participation.

    And you must have some data to work out whether they are meeting their goals or not. 

    Do you get positive feedback from your athletes?  Do you track your athlete turnover rates?  If you are paid, do people renew?

    I'm a very in session coach.  Trampolining.  But my coaching doesn't stop when I walk out of the door. I'm thinking about routines, planning session.  My athletes ring and txt with questions.  They go to other sessions, try things out with other coaches and ask me for feedback.  I sometimes think of things, and suggest they might like to ask the other coach in the other session whether they would be happy to have a go.

    I  think `athlete chooses the coach`  applies to many sports.  But also to work places.  Substitute the word 'coach' for `supportive colleague/manager`. People have people they like to work with.

    I've also seen a club where they swapped the coach in a session to a `better` coach.  Lots of drop outs.    Same where athletes just moved between sessions because `It would be better for them`    A subject for a whole different writing.

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