I was contacted today by a guy I coached several years ago. We worked together for maybe 2 years and in that time he'd improved a lot and set new PRs at 70.3 and Ironman distances and qualified to 70.3 World Champs (it was in Vegas at the time). For whatever reason, he felt like he wanted to experience a new way of going about training, so we parted ways (amicably). I'm typically bummed when an athlete makes a choice to leave, especially when we have had success together (which is ~90% of the time!), but at the same time, I totally understand that "grass is greener" thinking and wondering how things might be different under a different kind of program or coaching... I've changed coaches for those same reasons so who am I to judge an athletes decision to do that?
That said, I find it to be a huge compliment when athletes go check out some other grass but then have a realization that what they had on TeamBSC was really the coach/athlete relationship that made them happiest. This isn't the first time this has happened- I've currently got two other athletes who left in favor of hiring a coach who was local to them, only to come back a year or two later saying that their new coach didn't pay attention like I do. It's validating when I hear these things... That we do something right at TeamBSC. I don't often brag about my coaching business here on this blog, but indulge me for a minute. Or stop reading. Your choice! :)
I feel like over the years I have grown as a coach. I have had some good examples/mentors- specifically Jen Harrison and Lucho. Those two were my first coaches and I can say without hesitation that they both paid close attention and communicated as often as I would have wanted. I was spoiled by that and assumed that's how all coaches are? (Spoiler alert! They're not!) So when I started coaching I modeled myself after them... I write good programs that make sense, I pay attention, and I respond to emails/texts promptly. I think that since my athletes know that I'm watching every day, they're more likely to pay attention to their own training and log in with details that I want to know. They know I read everything they write about every workout, and their weekly programs reflect their personal strengths and weaknesses and goals and schedule.
In my mind, those things above are the BASICS of what every coach should do. What I've found in recent years (from my own experience with the coach search as well as stories I hear from new athletes who come to me unsatisfied with their current coaching situations) is that even these basics aren't often being employed. I've seen programming that is super basic/generic and obviously isn't written for a specific athlete. I'll go out on a limb and say many (most?) coaches these days don't watch on a daily basis but rather check in to TP once/week and read over what the athlete has done. The problem I see with this is that if an athlete knows his/her coach is only checking in once/week, he/she isn't really motivated to log notes every day, right? And I know when I only log once/week I tend to forget details about sessions that might be sort of important. So I really like to give athletes a reason/motivation to log in daily b/c I think THEY pay closer attention to their training when they do this, and that's really a key part of improvement and progress. Plus, when they log in with lots of details, I'm more likely to respond with some sort of comment that's meant to help teach or reinforce something I was hoping they would learn from the session. So the more we communicate, the more the athletes learn, which helps them make decisions going forward about how to go about managing themselves and their training.
The last piece of the puzzle (as I see it) is that a good coach has to genuinely care about his/her athletes. I think most care at least a little, but if a coach has another full time job and is just coaching on the side, he/she probably isn't going to have time to really give athletes the time and attention they're paying for. I think a key piece to my coaching success is that I do it on a full time basis. Which means that when I'm not writing programs or looking over files/notes, I'm furthering my own education by reading articles and journals and listening to webcasts and podcasts and stuff like that. I do this *mostly* b/c I am personally passionate about the sport... so I want to learn because I find it genuinely fascinating. Then I apply the training strategies to my athletes and I watch carefully to see how they are physically (and mentally/emotionally) responding and then we tweak as we go. I take the success of my athletes personally. At the same time, since we communicate so much, we develop genuine relationships which turns out to be a shockingly important piece of the puzzle when you're talking about an individual sport like triathlon.
Anyway. That's it. That's the secret magic formula to coach/athlete success (as I see it!). It doesn't seem like rocket science and yet even though there are a billion triathlon coaches out there right now, it's surprisingly hard to find the right match. Every time an athlete I have coached in the past looks back on our time together as the best of their years as a triathlete, it makes me smile. And I love it when they come back after having experienced something different because it just validates the thing we have going on over here. It's good stuff. I would say I feel lucky to have this situation but I don't think it's really luck. I think I've worked hard to create this unique thing that has become TeamBSC and its a place where athletes can come and know that they are genuinely cared about while they go about shocking themselves about what they are capable of on a race course.
This is possibly one of my most favorite pictures of all time. It's Liz right after she finished Ironman Louisville on Sunday... She surprised the hell out of herself- leading her AG out of the water in 55min then riding a solid neg split 5:42 then running an evenly paced 3:46. She said she cried for the whole last mile because she just couldn't believe she had done that. I remember telling Liz a year ago that Ironman was her thing... I'm not sure she believed me but maybe she believes me now. :) Regardless, this picture still makes me tear up and I think Yep. This is why I coach.