Importance of a coach within a group

Posted in TRIATHLON on Sunday, 01 September 2013.

Importance of a coach within a group

Being a member of a team is crucial in order to develop and mature as an athlete. To achieve this development you need someone to guide you (a coach) through the different processes of the sport and the team. A coach is needed whether you are doing a team sport or an individual sport.

During the last few months the group I am training with is getting bigger and bigger day by day. I am not a psychologist nor a specialist in coaching but after interacting with my coach for the last 3 years, I have decided to pay a tribute and explain the importance a coach plays within a team or to an  individual.

I have been coached by a handful of coaches in three major sports (swimming, Triathlon, water-polo). All the coaches I have trained with played a huge role in my maturity both in and out of sports. I am concentrating on my current coach Christos Christou since he has the difficult job of training me at present (mature athlete) and a big group of amateur athletes in Triathlon. I put down difficult job since it has been known that I am not one of the most patient or easy going people/athletes around.

He has a unique way of introducing you to his coaching programs, I was lucky because he recruited me up or picked me up after feeling sorry for me for what I ended up doing in triathlon (basically scrapping last in an Olympic race). We have a long history since we were rivals in the past ( I was a junior triathlete and Christos was senior) and after stopping the sport for 7 years he decided to help me to get back in shape and race competitively.

The first time Christos introduces you to the team, he takes you for a long run and tries to give you the ground foundations (rules) of the team and how things work and operate within the team. This is vital since he is clear of what your obligations are as an athlete and what to expect from him and the rest of the team. This way he avoids any major conflicts during racing or training.

When getting in the team you get into a so called probation period (guest star as he calls it), during this period he looks for consistency in training/racing and for accommodation to the team climate. He observes the temperament of the athlete and how he reacts to different events during this period. As he gets to now the athlete he adjusts his approach to each athlete differently. In my cases he knows that to convince me to change something in what I am doing he either has to challenge me or get into a long discussion or argument before getting me to accept the change.

In youngsters of the team he tries to emphasize their importance in the team and give them short term goals to achieve (e.g: run a faster pace during a session) to get their self-esteem high and give them incentives to work harder.

Good teaching (coaching):
– Critically reflective
– Focuses on helping athletes to learn
– Cultivates awareness of how athletes experience own
– Places learners at heart of coaching process
– Athlete learning as basis of coaching practice
Christos has the unique characteristic of being both an athlete and a coach at the same time, this characteristic makes him more aware of the issues raised during training and is experiencing simultaneously the results of his own coaching. He can detect mistakes done during training and reflect on things that need to change. This is a major gift for a coach since he can take action immediately and correct mistakes done either in sport related aspects (change of training programs, time schedules etc.) or human related aspects (athlete misbehavior, decreased self-esteem, etc.).

During training he is a part of the team (athlete) therefore he acts like an athlete and not as a coach. Therefore he expects athletes to respect that and not interfere in training for any reason except if its necessary. Athletes not focused in training, get a heads up from the coach, in case they do not conform to the heads up they get out of the team. He is very honest with everybody and if he fills that an athlete of the team compromises the environment within the team then he gets him straight out of the team or the team spirit forces a non-compromised athlete out of it.

He has the unique ability to get into the psychology of each athlete and work with him during training to get him/her to achieve his/her goals.

After a race he will analyze the race with each athlete and find the prons and cons of the race, he always emphasizes the pros since he wants to create a ground base on the self-esteem of the athlete to work on the cons.

Usually athletes praise performance from the result or time they achieve. On the contrary Christos praises an athlete from his/her performance, he rewards a good performance and criticizes a bad one. This is vital for a coach since he educates athletes to focus on their performance (factor that they can control and affect) rather than their position in a race (factor they cannot control). This gets the athlete not to stress from factors they cannot control but focus on things they can control to get better.

Also he takes it personally if an athlete is not satisfied with what his/her results in a race. He considers himself responsible if one of his athletes does not perform to their full potential and reflects for long time in order to discover what went wrong. He always takes responsibility about one of his athletes and does not stay unattached from a situation.

Since we are not professional athletes, he customizes programs to feet in all the athletes busy schedule (training usually early morning before training). He will also give alternative forms of training or programs to athletes that have issues either of injury or personal (new born baby :)). This makes the athlete feel important in the team and makes him/her try harder to keep training hard and performing harder.

Goal setting is another important factor in an athletes training and racing program. He is always setting goals for the team either short term (achieving time targets during training sessions) or long term ones (picking up and racing in specific triathlon races). During pre-season or post-season Christos keeps his athletes interest by selecting different races or events that his athletes need to participate in order to keep their interest high. During pre-season athletes participate in different half marathon races or short term courses (5-10km) to set the foundations of their physical ability to prepare for the upcoming triathlon season. Post-season goals include events such as bay to bay swim or 150km cycling rides to keep interest and physique high.

>One of the great values of the coach is that he works as an inspiration for the team. Christos is in his middle forties, he has two children and has the time to train more hours than any of the members of the team and be amongst the top in the sport (triathlon) even at this age. This makes us get inspired by him, stop complaining about everyday problems and train hard every day to look up to him.  

All these values make him a great Coach, Athlete and Person.




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