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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Art of Coaching - "Pulling a John"

I am admitting that a part I really like about being involved in triathlon's is the helping aspect of it. I enjoy asking for input from others I have met through the racing, through involvement in Team in Training, and through Daily Mile, and I especially enjoy the planning of workouts and figuring out training schedules. This is probably due to my analytically wired nature. I love crunching numbers after a workout, uploading from my watch to Training Peaks and looking at Heart Rate's and Cadence compared to position on the course, and other factors. It is fun for me.

I think I am a very coachable person because of this ... partly because of my love of numbers, but I think it is also because of my background in football in high school and ten years in the military. You learn, by participating in these things, to trust the people appointed over you and listen to what they have to say, because they have "been there and done that". If my coach in football says to me that I am not squaring my shoulders and driving through the tackle, then I make the adjustments on the next cycle and try to correct it ... because they are the ones watching me and seeing what I am doing from an outside perspective. If my run coach is telling me that my foot strike is rolling outward, then I try to pay attention to that fact and correct it if I can. I am a bit of a sponge when it comes to these areas, because I know I am not an expert and they are ... so I listen ...

Coaches are not always right though. If one tells me to do something that I know doesn't feel right I back off ... but I follow up with them about it. I will tell them "I tried that but the pain in my shin got worse so we need to try something else". I can be as hard headed as the next person, to a point. Much like the saying about teachers, it goes about coaches as well - "Those that cannot DO, COACH". If you look at the NFL, the majority of coaches who have done very well (Shula, Noll, Landry, Parcells, Walsh, Belichick, etc.) were not great players (Shula and Landry both played on same team - the New York Giants - and both were marginal players). They understood the game well but their physical abilities were not enough. The opposite is usually true .... the very good players who tried to be head coaches (Starr, Singeltary) usually have failed. There's a reason Marino, Elway, Aikman, etc. have never tried coaching. They don't have the patience. There are three coaches in the NBA right now that have NEVER played the game, in high school, college or the Pro's, but are very good coaches.

So, I am NOT the fastest triathlete in the world by far, but I read, and I listen, and I know what it takes to be one I feel. I think I would be a very good coach while at the same time being a marginal triathlete. I think I have a very good handle on what it takes to train, and what mileage people need to be at for specific goals. I enjoy doing it. I don't think I could ever make a living at it, but sharing the knowledge is fun for me ....

And that's where the problem comes in ....

I have little patience with those that are not coachable. I liken the frustration I feel to being a doctor and telling someone what they need to do to get well and then they go and do what they want anyway. People that smoke are in this category ... they know it kills you ... they've seen people die in front of them due to smoking ... yet they smoke anyway. How does this thought process work?? My little brother is this type. He is the son of my step-father and my mother, 5 years my junior. He was very close to his father ... more like a friendship then a father-son relationship, especially as they grew older. They were very much alike and very different then me, my sister and my other brother, who all had a different father (killed on duty as a Savannah police officer when I was three, sister was two and brother was 6 months). They were rednecks, loved cars, NASCAR, hunting, fishing, etc. All that type of stuff. Last September my step-father started coughing up blood and having trouble urinating, but didn't seek help until November or so. By that time it was too late. He had bladder cancer and it had spread too far. He passed away in January at the age of 64. Way too young. He was a lifetime smoker, 3-4 packs a day. You would THINK that having to watch your best friend die in pain would deter you from following the same path .... but no. My brother still smokes. I say to him all the time "why would you want your son to watch you wither away like you had to watch Dad? Do you care so little about what he will have to see?". Does nothing. Has no effect. Uncoachable.

That was a bit of a digression, but the point is the same I think. Some people are more acceptable to listening to others and basing their actions accordingly. Others are more hard-headed and listen but do what they want anyway. So how do you coach these types? Do you wash your hands of them and accept that they aren't going to listen? Or do you just give them the plan and if they follow it, they follow it, and if not, oh well .... you've done your part. That's not in my make-up I guess. I tend to call them on it, ask them why they insist on not following the plan.

As an end-point, let me say that I am FAR from perfect in this. I have my moments. A few weeks ago I was supposed to run for 2 miles on Monday and 3 on Tuesday (beginning of a marathon training plan through TNT) but due to my triathlon plan I couldn't do the run on Monday, so I combined them on Tuesday and ran 5. My TNT Coach called me on it immediately (because I am so diligent about reporting my training miles online so she saw it). She was right ... and I no more "Pull a John" as she called it. :)

At least I have something named for me now :)