Coaches

A quick update from me as I think about the coach. Yesterday I watched a movie on Netflix called, Red Army (2014). This documentary was all about the Russian hockey team that dominated the game in the 70s and 80s. I highly recommended this movie to all coaches and hockey fans. As I am both it was a good Saturday morning. However, back to the point for a good chunk of the movie they talked about the coaching change from the creative, open, transformational style of Anatoli Tarasov and then into the more closed and transactional style of Vicktor Tikhonov. Now while I don’t propose to be an expert and am limited to what I saw from the movie (possible bias) what I can say is that these two coaches appeared to be polar opposites and the relationships that developed with their athletes/players developed from their styles. The legacy of positive knowledge, wisdom, and development that Tarasov created with a team that was regarded as the best in the world continued objectively with performance on the ice but failed to have the same lasting legacy as the team was lead by Tikhonov but appeared to fail in many regards.

The cover image for Red Army

The cover image for Red Army

I link this to a more scholastic approach to the coach. Recently Coach NB and the Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic in Fredericton had a one day conference titled “Coaching to Podium”. The key note for the day was Chantal Vallee. Chantal is the head coach of the University of Windsor women’s basketball team and in the past 5 years the team has won 5 consecutive CIS titles. She built the team up from a bottom dweller. Her two presentations on the day were very impressive and my few pages of notes are filled with coaching gems. Recently I have been reading more into Chantal’s work and was able to track down her masters thesis from the University of McGill (2002) titled, Building a Successful Program: Perspectives of Expert Canadian Female Coaches of Team Sports (just copy into google and I am sure you’ll find it). This was a great read and am very glad to have taken the time to read it and not just because I am back school and pursuing my own graduate degree.

Head Coach University of Windsor women's basketball, Chantal Vallee

Head Coach University of Windsor women’s basketball, Chantal Vallee

The thing that became clear in Chantal’s paper and speeches were that the role of the coach is a big one. During her speech she talked about how coaching is one of the only professions where anyone and everyone will comment and tell you how to do your job. It’s true too. Think of another profession and ask yourself if you have ever told someone who does X how to do their job. Now ask yourself to think of another sport, a famous game, etc. If you are a NFL fan think no further than the last play of this past years Super Bowl. I am fairly certain you made a comment or know many who commented to say “that was a stupid call. If I was the coach I would have done….”. I know I have never ever thought about telling a surgeon how to do their job….”idiot you should have cut the left ventricle first and not the right”…sounds pretty dumb doesn’t it because aside from my anatomy courses in university my experiences with an open chest is non-existent.

From her paper one of the subjects of her research commented on how coaches and professional coaches (full time employment) are expected to be experts in countless domains that go far beyond coaching (X’s and O’s) but into fundraising, media relations, grand applications, financial planning and budgeting, and the list goes on and on. While the NCCP coaches education is right in focusing on the most important elements that a coach needs to know it is right stress that a number of tasks are left to coaches who usually must jump in and figure it out as they go. I can only speak for myself but this has been a very big portion of my on the job education and while I have definitely failed more than a few times at tasks that I was thrown into I would like to say that I have done a good job of learning on the fly. I joke that a great presentation or topic for a conference would be “10 things that the NCCP never taught me” and through either a coach or a panel the coaches talk about some of their experiences highlighting the importance that these topics have but aren’t discussed.

Now coaches are tasked with a dozens and hundreds of subjects that they have to be informed of and have some skill in. Some are able to develop relationships with individuals and teams who help and assist. Others in smaller communities are tasked with doing more and some just don’t want the help. Sometimes no matter how many times you ask for help and want to delegate people won’t step up. So what does a coach do? Do they let the team and athletes miss out or do they roll up their sleeves and get the job done. Sure maybe a year or years later someone will step up and the support will increase but ask most coaches and most will tell you that they just do what they need to do. Personally I try to keep and open mind and take help when I can get it but I also know that if something needs doing I can always count on myself to give it an honest effort.

But I will leave it there. I was also lucky to be recognized during Coaches Week here in New Brunswick as the Coach NB Sport Coach Champion award winner. I was nominated by my athletes and was humbled to be selected as the winner. While it is never the goal to win awards as a coach I can say that it is nice, fuels the motivation, and lets me know that I am doing good work. There are days when I hate coaching and the profession that I am in (seriously who doesn’t have days when they hate their job) but thankfully those are few and far between and for 98% of the year I absolutely love what I do. We joke around at track about what would happen if I won the lottery. The short answer is pretty much the same in regards to my personal athlete coaching. That is fun and what I like. Maybe I would go for a round of golf or two a year but I suck at golf and would much rather be around the track 🙂

Receiving my award :)

Receiving my award 🙂

A week in Santa Barbara

Simplicity. Basics. Fundamentals. These things have popped up on my coaching radar time and time again over the past year. In the past 12 months I have been around North America taking notes, studying, talking, coaching, and learning. Through out them all has been an interwoven thread of simplicity and the sophistication that comes from that. Point blank…..coaching and athlete success is all about simplicity. It is not about making things exciting, new, different, or one of a kind. Rather it is about being able to understand and do the simple things exceptionally well.

Ashton, myself, and Brianne

Ashton, myself, and Brianne

This past week I got the chance to witness simplicity at its finest through the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centres Combined Events Mentorship Program which had us watch two of the greatest athletes in the world, Brianne Theisen Eaton and Ashton Eaton train in Santa Barbara. World medals, commonwealth gold, and Canadian records for Brianne and Olympic gold, world records, world titles and countless other accolades for Ashton. But this wasn’t just the athletes on display as the week also included about 12 hours of contact time with Coach Harry Marra. Now full disclosure is that this week was extra special as I was many years ago in the same training group as Brianne when she and the rest of the Humboldt crew drove to Saskatoon (my home) for practice. Then when I retired from my own athletic pursuits in 2006 and started coaching full-time I got to help her out a few times as I was assistant coach to the group led by Todd Johnston. So when she took me for a tour of Santa Barbara and pointed out the breath taking views, celebrity homes, and a bachelor tv show location we were able to catch up, chat about the past, future, and reflect about our starting points back with the Saskatoon Track and Field Club. I have been extremely impressed by her for years and continue to be very proud of her. But back to coaching and this amazing week.

Brianne recieving some feedback after a rep over the hurdles

Brianne receiving feedback after a rep over the hurdles

Some take aways and a few key notes from the program:

The program that these three work in (Harry, Brianne, and Ashton) is extremely unique.

The focus and intensity of their practices was impressive. No moment was off limits for improvement. Simple shadows would be on the schedule. However the focus, intensity, and significance that all placed on the drills was huge. Technical development, physical and mental connections, and overall event mastery were on display all the time.

The interaction between coach and athlete and even athlete-athlete-coach was also very unique. The dialogue was back and fourth. It was supportive. It was flowing in all directions. I have heard Dan Pfaff talk about elite athletes needing PhDs in their events and hearing the conversations between Harry, Brianne, and Ashton makes me believe that these two are definitely well on their way…that is if they don’t have it already which they probably do.

Homework, debriefs, and self reflection where motor patterns are further developed are also an integral part of the program. On occasion these debriefs are simple emails, short and to the point, while at other times stretching a page or two incorporating technical cues, feelings, thoughts about the past, goals and ideas for the future. A great display of athlete ownership and personal responsibility.

Ashton working on the shot with Coach Marra keeping a close view.

Ashton working on the shot with Coach Marra keeping a close view.

I didn’t see anything new and I didn’t expect to, however I did see a few different applications of exercises and routines. For example I knew that medicine ball routines were a frequent warm up modality for Brianne and Ashton but never really understood how it fit in. But after being able to see it first hand I can definitely see the benefits. Will it be implemented into my program immediately? Doubtful, but will I give it more thought and look further into the process and implement it when it really makes sense? Definitely!

You can’t be afraid to develop and train for goals. You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there for all the world to see. While it is true that if you don’t put yourself out there you won’t be a failure the ability to then achieve success would be severely impacted.

I love getting together with my coaching colleagues. Sean Baynton from the CACC was the organizer of this event, Les Gramantik was our Canadian mentor coach and then the following were fellow apprentices: Simon Louise-Seize who coaches out of Laval (also my roommate for the week), Kurt Downes from Windsor, Ming Pu Wu who used to coach in China, then Montreal Lake Saskatchewan, and now Winnipeg, Nick Stoffberg from Edmonton, and Gar Leyshon from London.

2015 Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre group (Back - Kurt Downes, Nick Stoffberg, Jason Reindl, Sean Baynton, Gar Leyshon; Front - Ashton Eaton, Harry Marra, Les Gramantik, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Simon Louis-Seize, Ming Pu-Wu)

2015 Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre group (Back – Kurt Downes, Nick Stoffberg, Jason Reindl, Sean Baynton, Gar Leyshon; Front – Ashton Eaton, Harry Marra, Les Gramantik, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Simon Louis-Seize, Ming Pu Wu)

Chats on the way to the track, at the track, during the awesome lunches at Westmount College, at the beach, the hotel, over dinner and wine sessions (it is wine country after all) were all productive and insightful. There were also tons of laughs and great stories over tapas and wine. No matter the topic or who was speaking at the time there was something to be gained. A note to be made. A tidbit to be rememberd. A previous idea or application of knowledge that could be built upon. The cross pollination between us all in terms of experiences, ideas, background, education, etc makes us all able to contribute. The brainstorming and idea generation was huge and just getting together with these guys was an awesome coaching education experience.

The combined events are awesome. I have had a huge respect for the event and the athletes who choose to accept the challenge that comes with it. As an athlete I trained with many decathletes and heptathletes and as a coach I quite enjoy the variety that comes with it. I also competed or practiced in all the events at one point in time (thanks Saskatchewan Legion Camp) so I do get it. But the number of events that Brianne and Ashton covered in a day was an eye opener. This wasn’t just touching on the event to say you did it. This was a deliberate focused practice. While the time in minutes may have been short it was still purposeful and effective. In my vocabulary I would refer to it as micro-dosing. This concept although not foreign to me was displayed in a new format and made immediate sense.

Building off of this micro-dosing was the continuous display of motor learning. Coach Marra is a true master coach. His experiences pass over 5 decades and his understanding of all the individual events is something that I aspire to one day achieve.  He embraced teaching opportunities but also let the athletes work through it alone at times. He connected events, movements, and how the body interprets it all. But this leads me to the thought that expert coaches help bring about continuous displays of expert level athletic performance. What I mean by this is that it is far easier to have a flash in the pan. To get an athlete to have a great year. But to do this safely and in a manner at which the athlete can be at the top of their game for multiple years and cycles in a much more difficult situation.

Coach Harry Marra

Coach Harry Marra

Egos. Harry is a great coach and Brianne and Ashton are two amazing athletes but they all know they aren’t perfect. They know they aren’t maxed out. So what do they do? They seek out help and listen when opportunities present themselves. The week prior to us being down the group utilized the skills of coaching legend Tom Tellez. Also the interactions between Les, Brianne, and Ashton were embraced by Harry. At times coaches can be very possessive and almost psychotic about the interactions the athletes that they work with have with other coaches. Now I am not naive to think that everyone is as fundamentally respectful and as honest as Les was in this situation but I doubt that this group would shy away from listening and learning if it presented itself. In the end while everyone has an ego I was able to see humility, honestly, and a desire by the coach to turn over all stones and search for ways to help the athletes that he works with.

Les providing some insight during the training session.

Les providing some insight during the training session.

There are many roads to Rome. Commonalities exists at all times but individual differences in the athlete, the coach, the group, and between them all are apparent. Equipment, facilities, weather must also be noted but the path to success is dynamic. It is always flowing and changing. Know and truly embrace science, fundamentals, and the basics. Master those and proceed from there.

IMG_3945

The Saskatchewan Group – Sean, Jason, Brianne, Ming

 

 

So that is my breakdown, recap, debrief, and period of reflection for the trip.  An awesome week that has left me feeling energized and motivated.  Coaching is tough and at times it is draining.  I am human.  I have good days and bad days but after this week I am riding a definite high.  Plus the increased vitamin D from the sun and lack of snow were also huge benefits.

One of the blessings about flying across the continent is that you get a lot of time to yourself. This time for me on the way back home to Saint John has been the perfect time to jot all of this information down on the notes page of my phone. But after all of this learning and reflection I can say that I am excited to get back to my group but not the snow. To coach, teach, learn, and grow with an amazing group of young men and women. I love my job and am always blessed to be able to be such a big part of their lives. The honour and trust that comes from being a coach is very special and I thank everyone who has been apart of this journey with me.

Goal: To rake the perfect pit!

Goal: To rake the perfect pit!

Lessons missed but learned over time

When I took my first coaching course way back in 2002 the curriculum was like anything introductory, a broad overview. It provided all the tidbits of information necessary. Now, full disclaimer this posting is not a critique on anyone or anything that I have learned. I am very proud and grateful of the coached education system in Canada and the coaches whom I have had the chance to learn from. And while nothing is perfect I do feel that the Canadian system is a leader in coach’s education globally. While each sport has their strengths and weaknesses and all sports in Canada have had a lovely time in dealing with changes in the coaching education system from numbered levels to names to changes in those names. It has been a fun and on many occasions confusing experience but I do believe in the foundation and direction of it all.

Here is a list of all of my formal education courses that I have taken over the last thirteen years. Noting that this list does not include clinics, camps, and more holistic experiences but if you want to see all that send me a message.

September 2002        NCCP Theory 1

March 2003                Technical 1 – Track and Field (Kevin Cumming)

September 2003        Certification 1 – Track and Field

September 2003       Technical 2 – Track and Field (Distance – Doug Lamont)

March 2004                Run, Jump, Throw Instructor Course

November 2004        NCCP Theory 2

April 2005                  Technical 1 – Gymnastics (Doug Hillis)

April 2005                  Technical 1 – Volleyball (Leslie Irie)

November 2005         NCCP Level 3 – Theory

February 2006            Run, Jump, Throw – Instructor (Trained)

April 2006                    Technical 2 – Sprints & Hurdles (Glenn Bruce)

April 2006                    Technical 3 – Distance (Claude Berube)

May 2006                     BSc. Kinesiology (Exercise and Sport) – University of Saskatchewan

August 2006                 Level 3 Technical – Sprints and Hurdles (Derek Evely, Kevin Tyler, & Mike Murray)

February 2008             Planning and Periodization Specialist – Bompa Certification System

May 2008                      Certification 3 – Sprints & Hurdles

October 2008                Charter member of Coaches of Canada – Chartered Professional Coach (ChPC)

December 2008           Club Coach (Level 2 Technical) – (Terry Mountjoy) Jumps                                     “Trained”

November 2012           Competition Development Course – Jumps (Les Gramantik)                                    “Trained”

March 2013                  Fundamental Movement Skills – Learning Facilitator

July 2013                      Competition Development – Endurance Certified

December 2013            IAAF Level V Sprints & Hurdles Diploma Program – Candidate (Submitted August 2014)

May 2014                       Run, Jump, Throw – Instructor (Certified)

Through this time period not only have I changed but also the world. Yes, I am young and only going to be thirty-one years old this year so my perception obviously is that the world has changed. But I only need to use the Internet as my example. During this time period the amount of information online is greater than anything I could have ever imagined. From a coaching perspective I can watch workouts on just about any athlete from anywhere in the world through YouTube or FaceBook. I can listen to audio podcasts from hundreds of coaches giving their viewpoints on things. I can search journal articles in seconds to read about the latest studies that was carried out.  I can read workouts from athletes done in the 70’s one second and then compare that to a video of yesterday’s workouts..maybe Workout Wednesday on FloTrack . This amount of information is sometimes extremely overwhelming and it can be hard to know exactly what is correct. This is why having some key beliefs and philosophies are important as well as a basic scientific understanding of your sport/event area but that is not where I intend to go today.

At this point I am going to touch on my list of four things that were and have been missed in the educational experiences and this has nothing to do with the courses but rather the level as a coach that I am now starting to coach at. These are things that for myself have grown in importance. So without further a do…

Flexibility

We can’t control and manipulate everything. Sickness happens. School, family, life. They all happen. We plan, organize, and try to manipulate the body to adapt and improve. But at the same time we must be flexible to change. I tell my athletes if the plan is so specific that it doesn’t account for small changes the impact of this is going to lead to significant stress, if not psychological issues, to both the coach and athlete.

Snowmageddon 2015

Snowmageddon 2015

Lately, the major concern for Atlantic Canada in terms of why flexibility is important is in regards to weather. In Saint John we have already seen upwards of 180cm of snow, which resulted in a state of emergency being declared, and now being told to expect another 50cm this Sunday. Why is this important?  Well when the city shuts down so to does practice. So what do you do? For myself it comes down to a state of mind. Be positive and confident that you can take a day off from the track.  Think of it as extra rest that is needed. From there focus on what you can do. Maybe a strength circuit, maybe some Mach drills in the basement, some pre-hab drills, rolling, stretching, and visualization. Can we get the heart rate up? Yes. Can we get some tissue work in? Yes. Can we sprint? No, but should we sit around and moan about it or be positive and embrace what we can do. Be positive. Be optimistic and be flexible when it is needed.

Data Part 1 – Objective Numbers/Tracking/Comparison

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. This business adage holds very true to coaches also. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), KSIs (Key Success Indicators), gap analysis, competition data and norms, practice data and norms, testing, workouts, health, sleep, diet, RPE (Rate of Perceieved Exertion), volume, intensity, contacts, weights. This list can go on and on and I am the first to admit that it can be very daunting. However, the more data, the more numbers, the more objective information that you have as a coach the easier your role as a coach can be at times.

When I started coaching I did my best to track volume and contacts and I will say I did a pretty good job of this. But what I didn’t do was relate this to intensity. All volume was equal and all volume that was planned for was the goal. Definitely something that I don’t preach any more. Volume and intensity are themselves highly variable. Some friends and I have a Facebook chat where we are known to talk random crap but more frequently on coaching matters. On this subject of tracking load the following was noted….”2x150m @ 14.9s is a shitload more load than 4x150m @ 17.5s.” But as a coach who works with athletes across all events this can be a daunting task. How do you calculate a load on 6 short long jump approaches? 6 full approaches? How about triple? What about the combined events athlete? The thrower? HRV can work and is supported by many but it also costs money, compliance can be an issue, and for some individuals it isn’t the best. But in the end even though we look for norms, causation, and some sort of rationalization with what we do it is always an experiment of 1 (N=1). Because no matter how similar athletes are they are individuals and no two are exactly the same. However, all information is not equal. Is it repeatable? Is it scientific in nature? Why are you tracking it? How are you tracking it? Stop watch, free lap system, laser timing system, opto-jump? Are you using video? Are you objectively comparing or subjectively? And while I am not a pro and have developed and refined my systems over the years they are still in their infancy and being improved, slowly. I have been fortunate to get a freelap timing system. I bought a video camera years ago that allows for some decent slow motion video clips and am making a very active effort to video much than previously.   Proably one of the most important though is that I am very lucky and fortunate as a full time professional coach to have time.  Do I do a perfect job? Not even close. But am I slowly learning and getting better? I like to think so.

Data Part 2 – Excel/Numbers (whatever program you use)

This one is short and sweet. Get good at using an online system/software. I used to use excel then went to numbers as I have grown more used to my Mac but am now coming back to excel using YouTube videos to add in some power and skill in using it with hopefully some courses in the near future. I did learn quite a bit in university so am not a total noob but am not as proficient as I need to be. So slowly but surely I am improving. It takes time. It is tedious at times but it is extremely valuable. I keep a results file where I track results of athletes that I work with – not all but a good majority. And as one of my females is graduating grade twelve this year a few post-secondary institutions are recruiting her. So a few clicks of the track pad and all of her results since 2012 when I started working with her are emailed to them, which is a great thing to be able to do. Throw in funding and grant applications, meetings, and reporting on athletes the ability to access objective data is huge. Numbers speak far louder than approximations and subjective words plus if you do need to provide numbers it will save hours of trying to find them when it comes.

Knowledge and Humbleness

This last one is again straightforward. Get comfortable in doubting yourself…to a point. What is he/she doing? What does this study mean? What does that study mean? How does it fit together? Should I do that? Should I change? Should I adapt the plan? I believe that all of these are part of the learning process. The process of gaining and seeking knowledge and improving yourself as a coach. But this has to come with balance. There is too much information out there. So what do you do? Do you attack a specific area? Do you go with a shot gun approach and go all over the place? Do you change on a whim? What is your litmus test? What is your process for implementing change? What are your rules?

Don’t get me wrong. My athletes constantly tell me how confident I am. At times this is true but what they don’t see is when I sit in the office refining their plans for the next phase. Comparing that to their annual plan that I laid out months before and continually change, minimally. Reflecting on the last phase or two. Seeing how they all come together. Comparing this plan to notes I have made about other programs, ideas, suggestions to employ in the future. When I was in Florida in 2013 for IAAF Sprints and Hurdles Academy course John Smith spoke on this topic. Now, I paraphrase but he stated that he isn’t a smart man and when he sees or hears of something new he must find the answer for that topic in regards to how it fits. Fits in relation to him, his athletes, his program, his beliefs, and experiences. Further stating that there are things that he saw decades ago that he is still not smart enough to understand so he hasn’t implemented it.   What did I take from this and make apart of my coaching and life philosophy. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know why coaches do everything that they do but when I see something I write it down/make a mental note. I try to study it. I research it. I think about it. At times I too am not smart enough to understand a topic and leave it on the back burner until one day I might. Other times I get the answer rather quickly and I see that my program is missing that component and would benefit from it. Other times I find out that the item in question is not for me, not for my athletes, for my program at the present time. Do I forget about that item forever? No, because it may be something that I need in the future so I put it in the file cabinet to be accessed in time. I know that there are a number of correct answers. There are a number of incorrect answers but there is exponentially more found in the middle where it just depends on who, what, when, where, why, how. In the end….I am smart enough to know that I am not that smart!

So with all that in mind I thank you for reading this post. I hope you have learned something yourself or possibly even learned something about me. I know that as I continue to write and post I learn about myself and enjoy this process.

UNB crew at McGill Team Challenge 2015

UNB crew at McGill Team Challenge 2015

McGill 2015

McGill 2015

Knowledge and Professional Development

The past several weeks have been extremely busy but honestly when isn’t my life and that is not a complaint.  I love the daily craziness and randomness that each day can bring.  One of the joys is that things are never the same.  My days are never the same.  Sure elements may be similar, exercises and athletes maybe close to the same but changes have happened. I am certainly not the same person, the same coach, the same set of eyes. My viewpoint has changed.  Maybe not radically but change is constant. The same goes with the athletes.  Sure they probably haven’t changed a huge amount but the movement pattern in that one legged squat may have gotten a little smoother and a little more controlled.  Their posture may have improved.  To someone who doesn’t work with individuals in this manner on a daily basis I am certain that they wouldn’t see a difference.  They wouldn’t notice that the right arm in the shoulder press was extending easier than last week or that the athlete did a full 10 reps compared to only 8 the previous week. Or how about the negatives.  That slight limp. The way the athlete is guarding their right side.  That bruise on their knee cap.  Those shoes that are far beyond their life expectancy.  An unfilled water bottle. The pale look of the skin tone and dark bags under the eyes. Everything is an indicator and change is constant for good and for bad.

I have spent a large portion of the past ten years consumed with knowledge, education, and learning.  Trying to change myself for the better as a coaching professional.  Towards the end of my Kinesiology degree I was certain that I wanted to pursue a career in sport specifically in coach. If only I could go back and explain to myself what life would be like.  Would I have given myself an epic high five? Or would I have absorbed the information and  transferred colleges into business?  Who knows but at this point I have been committed to my path.  Even when I was in Korea teaching English I was still focused on gaining knowledge on coaching, pedagogy, athletics, sport, and the development of athletes.  A pause from the day to day track side coaching but a huge experience gain in areas of communication, teaching, body language, leadership, and a lot of life experience that was the most valuable thing I could have ever asked for.

Combine a formal education, a few years learning how to teach, and a whole lot of common path coaching development and you start to see the pictures.  Attending 19 coaching certification/education events, 16 conferences, 5 HP warm weather training camps, more than 20 national championships, a world championship in 2011, and countless other clinics and situations where I was able to learn (which is all the time) and you get a clearer picture. All of these events, experiences, or shall I say opportunities have impacted by view point, my bias, my background.  Now, I know that all of these experiences are merely a drop in the ocean compared to a lot of individuals but it is a start.  It is my start.  I remind myself daily that I am still young.  Still developing.  Still learning the art of coaching – the artistic application of science to improve the performance level of individuals in sport.  Lots of hours and dollars spent to sit in meeting rooms, classrooms, and hotel convention rooms writing notes, listening, internalizing, reflecting, conversing, discussing, arguing, and analysing.  Lots of dollars and hours on books and videos.  Everyone and everything becoming a part of who I am as a coach.  Every opportunity looked as a way to build my tool box.  Every experience making me, hopefully, just a little more knowledgable on the depth of subjects required to be a coach.  Side bar – Honestly, how many topics are there for a coach to be proficient or at least have some knowledge in…100 maybe even a 1000? At some point you would probably just be breaking up areas into more and more specifics but the fact of the matter is that knowledge required to be a coach is not on the small scale.

So here I am asking the question to myself, “what is next?”  What should I do, study, read, listen to to improve my skills.  Lately, I have been reading.  Choke, Essentialism, Developing Sport Expertise, Anatomy for Runners, Caffeine for Sports Performance are the most recent titles that I have been able to read.  Earlier this year titles included Leadership, It’s Your Ship, Start with Why, and well the list could go on for quite a while. It definitely comes in spurts and the subject matter varies also.  Coaching, leadership, nutrition, technical, strength, the titles are all over the place in an attempt to build my knowledge across other domains and so far it is working or at least I am happy with it all.   Journals are still read, podcasts are still listened to, YouTube videos are still watched, and conferences are still going to be attended (next one is the CACC Speed & Power Conference in Toronto November 14-16).

But is this the best strategy? Am I pursuing and developing myself in an effective manner?  Is this the best use of resources (time and money)?  I guess only time will tell and maybe I should go back to the first question/statement on change.  Am I changing? Yes.  Do I think it is in the right direction? Absolutely.  Then that is all that matters.  All knowledge is good knowledge. The question then becomes am I smart enough to use that knowledge in the best way possible? And I certainly hope so.  So maybe it is best not to over think this and continue to take things as they come.  If something sounds like it will of benefit to me as a coach and help the athletes that I have the pleasure of working with then isn’t that all that matters.

Random Thoughts on Coaching Education…

So I find myself again wishing that I was more up to date with postings but I’ll just blame it on a busy coaching schedule.  This season continues to fly by and now we are in the final 3 weeks of the season. The majority of the gang will be finishing up at the Atlantic Championships and then after that the only ones left will be those heading to the National Youth Championships in Langley, BC.

One of the more interesting things to take place this summer was a coaching camp that I hosted in Saint John from July 21-23rd.  Now earlier in the year through ANB I got the green light to start a mentorship program.  The  primary goal was to provide some applied learning opportunities for some local coaches.  Each month I provided them with a shot reading and then asked the coaches to perform a small homework assignment.  The whole goal of the program has been to keep it short, informative, useful, and applicable.  I was able to join each of the three apprentice coaches and take part in one of their practices but then also got to have them in Saint John to join my group for a few days of practices as well as have the normal classroom sessions.  We also got lots of chats in over meals so needless to say I got my fair share of talking in over the short period.

This led into the coaching camp where no topic was off bounds.  There were no secrets, no agendas.  Only education, sharing, and making it known that their are no secrets.  I have been in Saint John for two and a half years now and am very proud of what my group has become but the biggest thing to remember is that they are a group of highly motivated young adults who work extremely hard so that they can achieve their goals.  Through some planning and the right advice at the right time the end results are something that makes me a very proud coach.  The ladies asked questions and I answered honestly.  Sometimes this meant I had answers but other times it resulted in an “it depends” or “I don’t know”.  I am very young.  I know this.  My experiences are not as deep as those who are older than me.  I won’t apologize for that either because I feel like a professional and that I have a specific skill set that is equateable to any professional.  And it is because I am a professional that I know that I am not perfect.  That I don’t have all the answers but I will continue to search for new answers and replace the knowledge that I do have with new answers and even replace incorrect ones.

But I must say that getting the chance to share what I have learned so far in my young career with these three coaches was a great experience.  All three ladies come from unique situations, with unique demands, coach a variety of events and ages, and all of that adds up to an individual situation that no one can replicate.  We all coach and we all have similar situations but nothing is ever truly the same.  We talk about individualization in coaching our athletes but what we need to remember is that our coaching is also highly individualized.  So it is up to the individual to build programs or models or systems or whatever word you want to use to describe how you coach that are suitable and a reflection of your reality.

To explain I have been asked if I run short to long or long to short program.  Well given the Canadian winter and an indoor gym where the circumference is about 155m but do have a 50m spike able strip so I say that I run the UNBSJ program.  Is it ideal? Is it what the text books write about?  Heck no! But do we use it as an excuse for failure.  Not at all.  We lace up our shoes, wake up early in the morning, and get in quality, focused work.  We push our bodies in a systematic fashion and strive to be better than the day before.

This is my take on coaching.  I am lucky to call coaching my profession.  For it to be both my full time job but also my passion.  Sometimes this bond can be difficult and it times it is but it is also something that I do not take for granted.  If anything I respect what I do that much more.  I respect my role and want to make sure that I can impact my athletes and volunteer coaches as much as possible.  I get to travel across the country and even continent for competitions and conferences.  Hopefully soon I get to change it to globally but thats another blog topic.  Through this continental travel and experiences that I gain I am very lucky to hear from experts who have been at this profession longer than I have been alive.  It is then up to me to shed light when given the opportunity for those in my community and I try my best.  This year I was able to spend time with legends named Smith, Seagrave, Pfaff, Behm, McMillan and have made friends and had discussions with like minded coaches who are also trying to get better so they can have a greater impact on their athletes and their communities.  But it is no word of a lie when I say that I learn something from everyone be it an expert coach with 50 years experience and numerous Olympic medals or the volunteer who coaches twice a week.  It is this openness and respect for education that I believe will continue to make me a successful coach.

Does this mean I implement everything I hear, see, or read about? No, that would be ridiculous and there is not enough time to fit it all.  So I think, I reflect, I ponder, I try to figure out the who, what, why, where, when, and how it could work and then maybe just maybe will I try to make it all work.

But for today I will just continue to do what I do.  Back at the track tomorrow and keep on grinding.

Cheers to all in their pursuit of knowledge and their coaching endeavours.

Trying out the bands :)

Trying out the bands 🙂

Saint John fog on the last day.

Saint John fog on the last day.