I was accused last night of plotting evil workouts by one of my swimmers. Not to name names (Maxine) but I do believe this was the image she was likening me to — this kid of mustache twirling villain. And you know what, I’m OK with that. And while I don’t want to seem evil per se, the reason for her comments are exactly what I want.
I’ve been talking recently about the kind of coach I am and I came to the realization that I am a ‘lead from behind’ kind of coach. That’s not to say I don’t ever lead from the front but what I do best (in my opinion) is support my athletes so that it is their steps that come first. I provide the guidance and they take the lead. I think this is crucial in endurance sports for several reasons but the most important reason is because out on the race course, you rely solely on your own abilities and your own mind. If I am the one leading you through and encouraging your every step without you fully believing in yourself as much as I believe in you, then as a coach, I have failed you. I can’t run the race for you and I can’t even run beside you to keep reminding you how capable you are.
But what I can do is push you during training in ways that perhaps you weren’t ready to believe were possible. I can help you see and experience for yourself that ‘yes, you absolutely can’. And how do I do that? I push. Sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. Sometimes overtly, but usually pretty subtly, I push.
Last week, Maxine came to swim practice and tells me she thinks she can do a 1000M workout. I give her 1400, She completes 1200.
Last night, I gave Maxine a 1300M workout and she does it all with 5 minutes to spare.
Was it an easy workout? No.
Was it a hard workout that I knew she could do? Yes.
And now she knows she can do it too.
I take pride in finding that balance with each athlete, be it swimmer, runner, cyclist or triathlete. So many times athletes who come to me with a modest assessment of their abilities know deep down that they have more in them. Most of what I do is not magic, it’s just that I am able to ask for more than you might ask of yourself. Maybe I just believe it before my athletes do.
Tell me where you want to go and I’m on board. But don’t be surprised if I ask for more than you thought you can give. I wont’ be surprised if you call me evil as you complete that workout that you thought was a little too hard. And we can both secretly smile with the satisfaction that comes from a job well done.