Athlete VS Coach
By Hugo Munoz (Kangaroo Track Club)
The other day I got a phone call from an athlete asking for my help and telling me: “My coach doesn’t know about high jump, and is trying to mess me up”.
Before I start this article I would like to say that my intention is not to point fingers or to throw anyone under the bus. The intention of this article is to help athletes see an opportunity where they may think there is a big problem.
Let’s imagine that the only problem is the limited amount of knowledge of the coach which it was the case on the particular phone call that I got the other day.
No one knows everything.
Whether your coach is a rookie or this is his 30th season, in one way or another (personally or professionally) he/she is learning with you. In order to coach an athlete there are a lot of factors that have to be taken in consideration - not only talking about training theory, but also the technical aspects of your particular event and understanding that everybody is different.
On this topic I would like to share a personal experience, when I was training with my coach, who helped me reach my personal best of 7’6 1⁄2 in 1995 (2.30mts). I started to train with him because he had a number of good high jumpers before me (7 footers at the time of the western roll) and I thought that “he knew everything”. So one day I was walking the track with him and we were talking about the usual high jump, technique, competitions, training, and how he was proud of me for breaking the national high jump record etc..... At the end of the conversation, he said “Hugo, this is good also for me, because with you I am also learning” and I said “What?! , What do you mean?!, I thought you knew what you were doing?!” , and his answer was “No one knows everything.... ;)”
Communication is key, help your coach help you.
Your coach is not only your mentor, but your partner in battle (competition). Your coach wants you to succeed as much as you want to succeed, and that is why they are out there with you. Believe me when I tell you that I haven’t met anyone that became a track coach for the money, because they do not get paid much and in many cases they volunteer their time.
Always talk to your coach. When jumping you may feel like you are doing a movement the right way, but the outcome is totally different (very common when you are doing technique work). Let them know how you are feeling about your training whether it is about workout or technique. Your feedback is very important.
As an athlete you can feel what you are doing, but you cannot see what you are doing, and that is where your coach comes in to play big time. Help your coach help you.
When you come to practice, come prepared to train physically and mentally. Your mind must be in tune with your body to be able to control your movement. Listen to your coach, and remember you are the athlete and you are the one that will have to make the technical corrections happen. There is not a magic word that will make you do things for you. Your coach can show you the path... but cannot walk the path for you...
What do you think coach?
Ask your coaches opinion on the things you’ve learned and helped you improve, and continue your own learning by reading, watching videos or going to camps. There is nothing more rewarding as a coach than coaching an athlete that is genuinely interested in learning more about their event/sport and wants to succeed.
Learn the event WITH your coach.
Becoming a student of the event/sport is one of the best ways to improve and get better. There are some great books and instructional videos out there and despite that training theory and technique is always relative to the particular athlete (meaning that not everything applies to everyone) every athlete is different in one way or another. Learning more about your event/sport will help you learn more about yourself and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. As you keep learning more, keep an open mind and an open line of communication with your coach, and discuss what you are learning with him/her. Like that you are both learning as a team (you and your coach) and can decide what it can be applicable for you or not, and why.
If you happen to be lucky enough that you’ve had an opportunity to go to a clinic or camp where you learned a lot about your event/sport, from one of the top coaches out there, and at the camp you learned some things that “clicked” with you and worked better for you, try to be respectful and sensitive in the way you approach what you learned to your coach and teammates when you go back home. Remember that your coach may be an accomplished person in the event/sport, or in life, or both.
Your coach wants you to succeed. If you approach them with something that you learned, and is working for you, and see the improvement... I find it hard to believe that your coach is not going to encourage what you are doing, but even more... your coach may want you to share with him/her what you know, or what you did so they can learn from your experience.... This is a good thing!
Chemistry, a big part of an athlete and a coach relationship
Chemistry between a coach and an athlete is key in order to be successful. As an athlete, I had the opportunity to train with number of coaches, and I will say that all of them knew their stuff in one way or another, some more, some less, but they knew. The difference from one to another was chemistry and compatibility that I had with them. Some of them were able to only to motivate, inspire, and help me believe in myself. Others could explain things in a way that I was able to create a clear picture in my head so I was able to get my body to do things that I couldn't do before. The fact that I “clicked” or not with a coach didn’t mean that he was not a good coach, it meant that I had or did not have a good chemistry with a particular coach. There is a coach for every athlete and an athlete for every coach.
A coach-athlete relationship is like most relationships, it has highs and lows but with good communication, respect, and willingness to work together will pull you forward. Do not waste time and energy by arguing and challenging your coach, save your energy for the real challenge, competition time.
I do not know anyone that went in to coaching in order to bring an athlete down, the coach will be evaluated on how well you did during the season, remember that you success is their success.
Believe it or not, your coach goes through the same emotional things that you go through every day, they are human just like you. They believe in you against all odds, as a coach you have to. Your coach will raise his arms with you when you do well and with the same arms your coach is going to pick you up when you fall. Every time we as coaches see one of our athletes improving or having a great performance in a competition we feel their joy, happiness, and excitement. When we are lucky enough to see the classic “I can’t believe it” expression in your face at the moment of your celebration we find the reason of why we coach, because nothing will makes us happier than to see you, our athlete succeed.