An Ideal Vacation

Training, Vacation, Exercise

Do you put your feet up on vacation? Here’s a different idea.

Here’s my idea of the ideal vacation:

Get up a little before dawn and head to the beach in your swimsuit and goggles. As the sun rises, dive in and do a 30-60 minutes open water swim. Spend a few more minutes checking out the local wildlife (a.k.a. cute fish; barracudas should be avoided). Climb back on the beach, shower away the salt, dry yourself a little, then head off to breakfast.

Rest for a few minutes, perhaps updating your Facebook status or just lounging by the pool (no one else there yet at that time). Then get dressed to go cycling. Get on the bike and ride 2-4 hours. Get back and eat some lunch. Rest by the pool for a few minutes, or head to bed for a nap. Don’t fall asleep on a chair in the sun!

Before the afternoon is over, put on running shoes and head out for a run. Nothing fancy; 45 to 90 minutes. Enjoy the scenery and the warmth. Once done, have a nice shower, and go get some dinner.

Lastly for the day, spend a quiet evening relaxing in good company. Hit the pillow around 09:00 or 09:30 at the latest (trust me, you’ll be tired). Sleep well, dreaming of flying (a dream I often get when swimming in the ocean during the day).

Repeat, varying the durations and intensities, for a few days in a row (5-6). Some days are harder and faster, some are long and slow. No need to do all three sports on all days, either. Optional, at the end of the week: after a day of mostly resting, do a triathlon or some other race (could be as little as an Olympic distance, but a half Ironman or even a full is possible).

If you can afford it, spend a few more days relaxing and optimizing your recovery by moving some more, at a lower intensity. But even if you need to pack up and leave the very next day, such a vacation is sure to have re-charged your batteries for a while.

How does that sound? Have you had the chance of doing something like that before?

Swimming, Exercise, Training, Cozumel

Our swim “buddy” in Cozumel. Yes, it is a barracuda. No, it was not “relaxing” to have that near us as we swam.

This past September my wife and I spent 10 days in Cozumel. On the eighth day of our vacation I accompanied her through her first half-iron distance triathlon (without drafting). So we got to enjoy a fabulous 6 days of training in the heat, and a fantastic race (also in the heat).

Whether you are runner, cyclist, swimmer, or an “all of the above” enthusiast, variations on that theme can be a great deal of fun: Training camps, destination races, training vacations, etc. Going away just to train is an ideal way to dramatically increase your fitness level a few weeks before an “A” event, or to kick-start a new season. Or simply to have a different kind of vacation, a more active kind of vacation.

It sounds like the training regimen of a professional athlete, you say? To some extent, it does. It can be a taste of it, but without the pressure of having to perform. The best of both worlds, so to speak.

But the “ideal vacation” I described above does not need to be very intense, or for athletes only. It can be modified in various ways to make room for sightseeing (be it the volcanoes of Hawaii, the ruins of Mexico, the shops and museums of a large city) and the intensity can be adjusted to your own needs. Of course, the rest of the family can tag along, enjoying the other activities of the place while you are out training.

You can obviously do it at home, taking a week off from work to focus on training. We call that a “crash week” in training lingo. Keep in mind the downside of staying at home to take a training vacation: you can all too easily get sucked back into normal home stuff, and lose the focus on the training-resting combination that is what gets your fitness level to go up. Also, at home, you might have to cook, whereas on a training vacation, if you plan it well, someone else does it for you.

I prefer such a training vacation to be in a warm place, with an ocean to swim in and decent roads for riding. Trails for running are a big plus, but not mandatory.

You can find such places on your own, perhaps by organizing it around a marathon or triathlon event you wish to participate in. Probably not one where you want to do a PB, otherwise you’d be in taper mode and training less. But for shorter races, and without being too competitive, you can get both a great week of training and a fun event.

A better alternative is to simply sign up for a training camp.

It’s the kind of thing you can improvise for yourself, for instance by booking a week at an all-inclusive resort in Cozumel and taking your own training program along. However, the packaged deals, including coaching supervision, offer many advantages, and can be obtained for not much more money than going on your own.

If this sounds like something you’d like to do, leave me a message: I’m working with people hosting such a camp in Costa Rica in March, and there’s still room for a few athletes of all levels. It would be my pleasure to be your coach there.

Winter is coming (in the Northern Hemisphere). A training vacation is really ideal for fighting the winter blues. Not to mention getting ready for a new season.

Swimming, Training, Vacation

The author, enjoying a bit of post-swim fish sighting.

Photos credits: Sacha Veillette and Sophie Tremblay-Paquet

Also From the Library of No-brainer Fitness

Books, Reading, Exercise, Brain

Books: So much knowledge, so little time to read!

A brief pause in the flow of coaching- and diet-related posts.

Time to briefly talk about some of the books I read lately. This won’t take long…

Spark – The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain

I had started reading this book by John J. Ratey, MD, and Eric Hagerman, when I wrote my first post on my library. It was very promising, and it kept its promises.

Meanwhile, the news has been filled with related findings and even a few mentions of Dr. Ratey. This book remains well worth the time, even if you are up to date on current health news about the proven and possible benefits of exercising.

In a nutshell, there is strong evidence that vigorous and regular exercise is at least equally as effective as the best medication out there for problems like ADHD, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders, to name just a few. There are hints that with a good exercise regimen, medication can be banished or at least reduced, provided things are done in the right order.

The most important aspect of the book, in my scientific opinion, is that the authors do not simply state such conclusions, but also indicate what the physiological reasons might be according to the most up to date research.

They are also making it clear that of all the possible interventions, by which I mean medication, diet, talk therapies, only physical activity appears to have a mechanism to bring about long-term improvements.

I highly recommend this book. It should be mandatory reading to all doctors, as well as to anyone half-serious about fitness and health.

Reaching Another Level – How Private Coaching Transforms the Lives of Professional Athletes, Weekend Warriors, and the Kids Next Door

This very light book by the founder of CoachUp, Jordan Lancaster Fliegel, is a high benefit-price ratio for coaches and would-be coaches.

Although it is heavy on the professional athlete side of the ledger, and it risks playing into the dangerous notions entertained by many parents of seeing their kids become such athletes, the lessons about the role a good coach can play are very real.

There is little to learn, and little wisdom for coaches with years of experience, but the reading is light, and the examples quite interesting. I do not regret the time spent reading it.

I have yet to make use of CoachUp, but you might want to look it up as well.

SCRUM – The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

Not all of us can live from coaching and writing a health and fitness blog. And although not all of us are involved in the design and development of high tech toys, er, products, there are very interesting lessons to be gleaned from this book about the now-ubiquitous development methodology (or philosophy) dubbed “Agile.”

Jeff Sutherland is one of the original group of people who together gave birth to the Agile Manifesto. Not just happy with writing such a radical declaration, based on his vast experience, he went on to formalize what is often erroneously referred to as the Agile Methodology. The result is the SCRUM Methodology, which is promoted by his company, also called SCRUM.

Now, what was most interesting about this book for the rest of us not involved in software development and product management is that the teachings about how to approach problems and provide solutions is completely general.

Sutherland spends a few chapters, certainly among the most interesting of the book, showing how an Agile way of thinking can be used to solve the world’s problems.

I read the book primarily from the standpoint of a product manager frustrated by organizations paying lip-service to the Agile approach, but I ended up learning about how to solve any problems, and how to get more done in any sphere of life.

Perhaps not a book for everyone, but certainly not a waste of time for healthcare professionals, environmentally-conscious folks, and the rest of the generally curious population.

That’s it for this installment.

Oddly enough, and totally by accident, I just realized that all three authors are living in or around the Boston area; both Scrum Inc. and CoachUp are based in Boston, and Dr. Ratey is at Harvard. One does not need to be in Boston to make it on my reading list: It just happened that way.

Have you read any interesting books lately?

Have you read any of these books, and do you have insights you would like to share?

Photo from the library of Sacha Veillette

What makes a good coach? Part 3

Coaching, Triathlon, Competition, Ironman

Coaching sports like running and triathlon: a league of its own.

Back in March (of 2014), my wife and I attended a triathlon expo at MIT. (It had nothing to do with MIT; it just happened to be held at their sports facilities. MIT has a very nice pool, by the way.)

We were there mostly to buy some equipment and supplies in preparation for the season. But we had a couple of nice surprises once we got there: first, we got to meet one of the original ironman finishers; second, we got to listen to Siri Lindley give a talk about coaching. (Well, she spent a lot of time talking about her career as an elite short-course triathlete, but the part about how she got there, and how she herself was coached, was informative.)

For those of you who don’t know her, Siri is coach to Mirinda Carfrae, the current Ironman World Champion (she’s been the champ three times so far) and championship course record holder among women.

So this post is really about coaching adults in the context of sports like running and triathlon, and, more specifically, the coaching of fairly serious athletes (or “intense” athletes, because if not elite athletes, you have to be intensely into training in order to pay for the services of a coach). Combined with the previous post on my personal experience, and the one about coaching in general, it is the background material I’ll need to conclude the series in Part 4.

Now, I have to admit that I’m no groupie of elite athletes or their coaches. I prefer to do, instead of watching or reading about them. We were not at the event in order to listen to Siri. We just thought: “We’re here, and we have a bit of time, so let’s sit down.”

It was time well spent, nevertheless, not just because it confirmed many of my own conclusions about what makes a good coach, and what makes a good athlete. I’ll list those attributes later, but for now, allow me to give a few key notes from her presentation.

Focusing

Siri only coaches a few athletes. I seem to recall she said 12, but it definitely was something between 10 and 15.

This makes sense at such an elite level as top Ironman competitors, since the pros and elites need specialized coaching, and are willing (or able) to pay for it.

The point, however, is not how much Siri gets paid by her athletes, but what she emphasized: She feels that only with so few athletes can she really provide good coaching.

It stands to reason that the more athletes one has to coach, the less time and attention can be given to each. That’s why joining a club is an excellent way to find a bit of support and coaching advice, but you get less personal attention that way.

For truly personal attention, you need to be one of few athletes being coached. Beware of coaches who work for a team or club and also coach more than a handful of athletes: You may be getting cookie-cutter advice and training programs that masquerades as individualized coaching.

Customization

Because she only coaches a few athletes, Siri is able to customize the training regimen of each so as to maximize the effect of the training. Or is it the other way around?

One thing is certain: She does provide very specific attention to each of her athletes; they each have their own season plan, and training session plans, and every plan in between.

This is key because, although the training principles are the same, and the general physiology is the same for all humans, no two persons react entirely the same to training on a daily basis. This is due in part to small differences in biology and in large part to previous training, current state of being, and psychology. That is normal.

Similarly, Siri does not treat all of her athletes the same, either during training or competition. To my surprise, she admitted acting almost like a cheerleader to some, while to others she is the quiet and wise adviser, and to others she can even be the forceful (not to say harsh) boss telling them to get their acts together.

This is squarely in the psychology realm: We are all different in terms of what we need to get, or keep us, in the correct frame of mind to perform. Elite athletes are no different (and perhaps even more sensitive and insecure at times, because of the added pressure of making a living out of sports).

The key point: no two individuals need exactly the same thing at the same time. So personal attention is mandatory for good coaching.

Knowledge

Siri was a top competitor in Olympic distance triathlon. She got there through some good coaching, but also through a lot of grit and determination.

However, there is no need to have been a top athlete to be a good coach. That’s a truth that’s often hard to believe by those who have never really been coached before. But it is true.

What is less obvious to most wannabe triathletes is that, unlike most top triathletes, even those who later make a living out of coaching, not all great athletes make good coaches. Only a few really pick up the fundamentals of coaching, and understand more than what works for them. Because what works for you is likely not what works for others. And a good coach knows enough to adapt to what each athlete needs.

What should a coach know?

In triathlon, it gets tricky, because of the three sports. A good triathlon coach must know enough about the bio-mechanics of swimming, cycling, and running. That’s in order to be able to work on form, not just intensity, in all the three sports while making sure to prevent injury (as much as humanly possible). Ideally, a good coach is able to bring about the necessary changes to technique and form to optimize performance.

But a good triathlon coach must also know about how those three sports are put together in triathlon, and how the body reacts to going from one to the other, and then on to the other.

That means having some first-hand experience in the sport is a good thing. Perhaps necessary. But being a top competitor is not. It can even be a detriment, as I think it is for fitness instructors and personal coaches, because of the “hey, it worked for me, so it will work for you as well” factor. (Or the “look at me, I was a champion, so I must know what I’m doing” factor. In either case, it is a fallacy.)

Also, understanding the physiology, psychology, and science behind training is mandatory. Too many coaches simply push their athletes to the breaking point, under the old philosophy of “no pain, no gain”. For some athletes, this leads to breakthroughs. For most, it leads to breakdowns. That old notion is now dismissed; there are much better ways to train.

The coach has to know when to push, and when to hold back an athlete. And with pros, elites, and would-be top competitors, the holding back part is often more critical. And difficult.

Planning

Finally, a good coach, much like Siri indicated, must be able to understand where his or her athletes are at, and where they aim to get, and plan a reasonable path from one to the other.

That’s precisely how Siri started working with Mirinda Carfrae, according to the talk she gave back in March. Although Siri had not done iron distance races herself, she was able to understand what physiological changes would be needed, and to chart a course to make them happen. And with an athlete like Mirinda Carfrae, who was hardly new to the sport, that was a pretty tall order.

Which of course begs the question:

What about athletes?

Being a good coach is only part of the equation. The athletes also have to do their share of the work. And with all the training and intensity, that part is of course the hardest.

But there is one aspect in which coaching for running and triathlon, and coaching in general, differ a great deal: Pros and elites (and triathlon freaks) are highly motivated, so they don’t need to be coaxed into doing the workouts. More often than not, they have to be calmed down, and forced to take rest. Not at all like the majority of folks trying to get into better shape in order to be healthy, who have to be convinced off the couch.

So a coach to such athletes does not need to cajole them into showing up at training, or find ways to keep them interested in the sport. But they should also not burn them out, or make them hate training.

On their side of things, athletes who want a running or triathlon coach and are serious about it must do one thing to deserve their coaches: Listen.

By this I mean to fully engage themselves into the process, and follow their coaches’ advice. Not argue, not go looking for second opinions, not say “I know what I need”.

Perhaps that holds true for any kind of athlete, and any kind of sport. But let’s leave that for the next, and final, post on what makes a good coach…

Picture from Pixabay.

What makes a good coach? Part 2

Coaching, Athletes, Sports, Training

Coach: More than a timekeeper.

Last time, I wrote about the best coach I ever had. (If you haven’t read that post, feel free to take a moment now to do it; if you don’t have time, I’m about to provide a short summary.)

If you recall, this person was able to progressively take me (and many others) from beginners to sufficiently skilled players, both as individuals and as a team, to win a regional championship. How?

  • He made showing up at practice a no-brainer (we were actually looking forward to practice, instead of dragging our feet to it);
  • he made learning and developing our skills and physical condition fun through challenges we could achieve with reasonable effort (and some friendly competition);
  • he provided advice and guidance during games, to make sure we could perform our best;
  • he chided when absolutely necessary, and congratulated when applicable.

To elaborate a bit more, in my estimation this coach had the following attributes:

  • He knew the sport inside-out, and was excellent at teaching technique as well as game tactics and strategy.
  • He was a great planner for both individual training sessions and the overall season.
  • He paid attention to individuals’ talents and guided each of us so we would progress as rapidly as possible.
  • He built relationships with his athletes on the basis of mutual respect for our roles and responsibilities.

No doubt he was well served by many years of experience as a coach, but that’s still a tall order.

Yet isn’t it what all coaches do? On the other hand, is it all that one should expect from a coach? It begs the question:

What’s a “coach,” really?

A coach can, and must, be many things. But people generally agree about the following roles that a coach can fulfill:

  1. Teacher / Instructor / Technical Expert
  2. Planner / Scheduler
  3. Motivator ( / Cheerleader / Disciplinarian)
  4. First Aider ( / Medical Advisor)
  5. Basic Nutrition Advisor

I put a few items in parentheses because they represent certain expectations of coaches which I feel are not reasonable, or smart. For instance, unless the coach is a medical professional, the advice provided really should be very limited, and always conclude by telling the athlete to seek the opinion of a healthcare professional of the relevant specialty (or a GP with an interest in physical activity, though any GP should be professional enough to refer instead of just saying “stop”).

As to being a disciplinarian, really, that should fall in another category such as legal and/or sport regulations. The coach is expected to teach the rules of behaviour and sportspersonship, not to enforce them. (However, the coach must abide by such decisions as rendered by referees and disciplinary bodies, and support such decisions. But I digress.)

Finally, let’s hold off on talking about cheerleading for the moment.

Do I believe a coach, a good coach being implied, has to do all of that?

My answer is: It depends.

What most adult “athletes” seem to need

Nowadays, you see a lot of coaches who are primarily fitness instructors, in a very limited sense of showing techniques and guiding through workouts, and motivators, bordering on cheerleaders. Especially in gyms, the kind that one joins in order to lose weight (oh, and get into better shape as well, but primarily to look better).

This is fine for the majority of people who dabble in spurious gym attendance and faddish, er, novel, exercise classes. It might even be exactly what some people need. But it might also explain a great deal about the tendency for people to sign-up for, and then drop, such classes and gyms.

You see, there is a big difference between being able to illustrate how to do something, and being able to teach someone how to do it right, possibly by modifying the movement and gradually bringing about the correct form. That’s teaching, not instructing.

And there is a big difference between cheering someone on while they are exercising, and making exercising so much fun (or at least enjoyable) that they’ll keep coming. That the difference between being a cheerleader, and being a good motivator.

More to the point, coaching should involve personal attention to the needs and progression of the individual. Being instructor to dozens of people at the same time, seeing up to hundreds of fitness enthusiasts each week, is not the same kind of coaching as taking a few individuals through the skills and fitness development they need to complete a triathlon, for instance.

A lot of those instructors and personal coaches come from a relatively recent discovery of the benefits of being more fit, and keep on going by becoming coaches themselves. Their personal experiences (“I went from so many pounds, to looking like this, so you can do it, too!“) speaks to hopefuls, and gets them hooked. Often enough, a group dynamics also forms that further motivates participants, which is what gyms and classes count on.

But that kind of motivation is not, ultimately, what will keep folks showing up at the gym, or get truly fit and healthy. What is needed for that is a real Purpose, not just rapidly fading enthusiasm.

And beware in particular of any coach who offers more than a generic level of nutrition advice. Especially if they start talking about supplements, or some strange cleansing diet. A coach ought to know enough to provide some guidance as to how to eat well, but unless he or she is a nutritionist, it should only go so far.

I am not (really) trying to put anyone down; I’m simply trying to point out that there is a wide range of people having claims on the title “coach,” and that not all of them are the same.

Does that mean only certified coaches should be able to call themselves coaches? (Let’s forget for a moment that there are numerous bogus certifications out there…) Certainly not: You can find excellent coaches that have not bothered to obtain certifications by recognized sports bodies. Especially in sports like running and triathlon.

What matters for adults, who have the life experience to make their own decisions, is that there be a good approach to coaching, one that suits their own needs.

There is, however, one exception to the “certification not required” statement:

What kids need

Childhood is a critical time in the learning of skills and fitness principles.

Unfortunately, too many kids are turned off from sports through old-fashioned (and simply wrong-headed) gym classes. Coaches can play a role there, if the kids are also taking extra-curricular activities like soccer, football, baseball, or hockey, but that’s an uphill battle if gym classes set the wrong tone.

Worse than gym class, however, is when kids are being yelled at by improvised coaches who focus more on performance than on development.

Pretty much every parent wants his or her kids to be healthy and to move, so participation in little leagues is pretty strong. Which means the teams need coaches, and lots of them. Hence the parents are asked to help out.

While it is commendable of parents to want their kids to move (they seem to be applying something they understand intuitively, yet don’t do themselves), putting them into the hands of just about anybody is not a good idea. Adults don’t see team sports the same way as kids do, and so emphasis is often put on competition instead of fun. (And I’m not even talking about parents with dreams of their kids becoming professionals.)

Coaching, Sports, Movement

Coaching kids: not the same as coaching adults.

That is something certified coaches are trained to deal with. That’s why I would much prefer there be fewer teams, with good coaches, than large leagues with yelling parents pretending to be coaching the teams.

Ok, I’ll admit, even some certified coaches are pushing the performance aspect too much, and much too soon. We are all human, it seems. But it is something that coaches are drilled about, and do know better, so a friendly reminder from time to time wouldn’t hurt.

Ultimately though, I feel it is primarily the job of parents to encourage their kids to move and learn to use their bodies. For that, nature has equipped us with a desire to play, to have fun. Organized sports and gym classes can be a part of that, but not at the cost of kids having fun.

The best thing one can do with kids is be a good example by moving as much as possible, and play with them (or let them play and organize their own games, that way they also learn to socialize). If you insist on organized team sports, make sure the coaches are certified and have the right approach to your kids’ age group and development level…

What a really good coach does

I’ve laid the foundation, put in place a few caveats, and even talked about kids. Together with the first post, you should start to get the picture of what a good coach’s actions and behaviour should be.

Next time, I’ll focus on what makes a good coach for adults interested in getting fit, and/or picking up a fun sport like triathlon.

Stay tuned.

Photos from Pixabay.

What makes a good coach? Part 1

Coaching, Team, Sports

Coaching, at its most influential.

I could go on for hours on the topic of coaching, and over time I will. At the very least, I hope it will be interesting. So I’ve planned a series of posts on the topic.

For starters, I’d like to share a bit of a story: Mine. (Yeah, I know, boooring. Bear with me, it has some insights you might find valuable.)

This is the story of how I got started as an “athlete”. Or, more to the point, how I became an athlete without really realizing it.

And it’s all because of a coach.

Beginnings

As a young child, I did like most of the kids in my neck of the Canadian woods: I played hockey. Although I was reasonably good, especially as a goalie, I only lasted 2 seasons.

Somehow, at 5-6 years of age, I had to endure the politics of sports managed by grown-ups. So, no, the story does not feature that coach.

In retrospect, hockey wasn’t my thing, even though I continued to play for fun, on ice and on snow-covered streets, throughout my childhood. But officially, I retired from hockey at 6, and spent the next few years mostly reading books.

Until the end of grade 9, I was considered pretty much hopeless as far as sports went. Last to be picked at dodge ball, unable to swim to save my life, not able to score hoops at mini-basketball, no running endurance, etc. You know the type.

New Beginnings

All of that changed at the end of grade 9, when I showed up at a volleyball camp.

Coaching, Training, Sports, Volleyball

Beginnings are key. But there can be many beginnings…

You see, volleyball season was over, but the coach was setting up this camp in order to get kids interested for the next season. Through games and challenges, he got us to build some basic skills as well as have quite a bit of fun.

One thing you need to understand already about this coach is that he cared about the long-term development of his teams, and the athletes thereof.

I recall that it was pretty difficult. But the challenges were achievable. And then you’d move on to the next level.

It was enough fun that when the next school semester started in September of my grade 10, I signed-up for volleyball. Me, almost the least athletic nerd around.

At volleyball practice, however, it was all about rising to the challenges put before us by the coach. And having fun. Very progressively, he developed us into volleyball players. He knew what he was doing; so much so, in fact, that we didn’t have to do any more than show up at practice and do what he told us to do.

In relatively short order, without really noticing it, I became one of the best players from a technical standpoint. I could not do much about my height, but I also compensated reasonable well by being fast and jumping higher than almost everyone else. And everyone around me was progressing, too. Some faster than others; yet everyone was gaining skills and fitness.

Learning

If you are paying attention, you now also know that this coach was tailoring the training to the skill levels of his athletes, and making sure they could progress according to their own abilities. We, the would-be athletes, did not have to do any extra training, or even think about it: all we had to do was show up and do as we were told.

Our coach did not need to motivate us to learn, or to show up for practice. We wanted to. Because he made it fun to be there, fun to learn.

We had reasonable success in the local league that year, even though our large pool of players was split into two evenly matched teams, so that the entire league could have a full complement of 5 teams.

When the next season came along, we moved on to the inter-city league. Now we were “big boys”, in grade 11, playing against guys that were older and much stronger (at first) than us.

But it did not last.

Through more playful challenges and gradual development of play tactics, for which by now we were getting ready, I moved from “the small guy on the team” to starting setter, challenging and, by mid-season, beating, the other setter who was a year older than me.

The team, that year, went on to finish second in the inter-city league, and win the regional civil championship to earn a spot for the provincial championship.

How did we do it?

Performing

Our coach adapted tactics to the team we had; the unique blend of athletes we were, and the situations we were in. He had the right encouragement at the right time. He pushed us when it was time (we started serious physical conditioning only that year, for instance), and told us to let go when it wasn’t time to push.

When he was upset, we paid attention. When he was pleased, he was able to make us all feel good.

He was a friend, and a bit of cheerleader at times, but not all that often. For the most part, he knew his stuff, and he was extremely well prepared to guide us through planned training sessions that had both physical and technical development goals.

No idle play, ever. No wasted time. Every drill had a purpose. Even the 4 on 4, 3 on 3, 2 on 2, and 1 on 1 games we played were challenges to build personal skills and team cohesion. And by then it was fun to challenge each-other that way.

Are you getting the picture I’m trying to paint?

Coaching, Team, Volleyball, Training

To reach high levels of performance, a coach is the way to go.

Coaching

As a side-story, by the beginning of grade 11 our coach had asked for help from us “athletes” to develop younger kids for future seasons. Some of us helped out, first by using or copying training sessions our coach would prepare, and later by applying the same principles and directing our sessions ourselves. That’s how I learned how to build a training session: by absorbing it, not by reading about it.

He encouraged us to learn as much as possible, but did not push. Not everybody got involved.

By the time I turned 16 and moved on to grade 12, my last year of high school, I was a certified coach and I had the responsibility of two local teams (about 20 kids, some barely two years younger than me). Oh, and I was the star setter of my admittedly small region.

Many of us from that team, built by that coach, went on to play varsity at the college and university levels. Some of the athletes I coached also did, but that’s more because they were later on coached by “my” coach as well…

We never found a better coach, no matter how far or “high” we went in our sporting careers.

Since that time coaching has been second-nature to me. You could say I learned well; I think I had an amazing example to follow.

And it’s been hard for other coaches to live up to that. But that’s an entirely other story.

One thing is certain: Learning to be a coach and coaching “the right way” has helped me through school (whether I tutored friends, or as a TA in grad school) as well as professionally (when it was time to train partners and resellers on new features, speak publicly, or simply give a presentation to colleagues). By witnessing, later on analyzing, and ultimately integrating how my coach was doing it, I was able to do the same in various settings.

The End (of the Beginning)

And that was the story. Next time, the lessons.

Pictures from Pixabay