20 Things I’ve Learned From Being an Endurance Coach…

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After coaching pretty much full-time (and then some!) for the last decade, I’ve learned a lot of things about life, sport, and people through coaching endurance athletes. I am grateful for these life lessons:

  1. Coaching, like life, is about relationships.
  2. Every athlete is enjoyable to work with, no matter what the level, age or goals of that individual are.
  3. Everyone has their own unique goals and outlook on sport and how it plays in with their life… get to know each person and match your coaching style to their personality and uniqueness.
  4. Just like fitness changes over time, so do athlete goals…sometimes due to outside circumstances. Figure out when it’s time to push, and when it’s time to back off.
  5. I love people (although a lot of that comes from my faith too).
  6. Most people have a  “no pain, no gain” and a “suck it up” mentality, and although that might help reach goals in the short-term, it can compromise goals, in the long-term. Try to chip away at that thinking.
  7. Many people take sport way too darn seriously and let it wreck their personal lives. Don’t be afraid to chat about this. Personal lives matter.
  8. There are “numbers”-people and then there are not. Both can be FANTASTIC athletes.
  9. The price to unlearn something is oftentimes greater than the price to learn.
  10. Many people who say they aren’t competitive, really are. And many just love drama and to stir the pot, particularly in tight sub-communities. Avoid all of that as much as possible. Especially at the local grocery store.
  11. Run mechanics (well mechanics, in general) are often overlooked as the culprit to injury.
  12. People get down-right ornery and depressed when injury takes them out of play. Sympathize and provide hope. Been there.
  13. You are only as good as your last race result. At least in your own mind… This holds true for pros and age-groupers (where there are a lot more mental similarities than people think!)
  14. Best form of communication and social media varies with age. Get on your athletes’ system if you really want to coach well:
    • Over 65 years, email or even regular mail, maybe Facebook.
    • 28-65 years, email and Facebook.
    • 18-28 years, texting and Twitter. Ugh.
    • Under 18, texting and Instagram. Double-ugh. Snapchat (no comment).
  15. Fast kids can handle just as much physical training as fast adults, but they are kids… and need to be coached mentally entirely differently. Keep it fun, period.
  16. The coach is often the fall-guy when a bad race happens. That’s alright… sometimes it is my fault, sometimes it’s not. This is how you grow as a coach. Apologize if you messed something up.
  17. You can always improve as a coach. Constantly learn and grow but don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something.
  18. People either love to swim or hate to swim. Same for running, which still baffles me.
  19. Nothing brings a community of athletes together stronger than watching someone unfairly suffer from a bike crash. And it’s sad that it’s the tragic times that remind us what is really important in life. Faith, family and friends. Then sport.
  20. Above all else, care for your “athletes” as people first. That’s ultimately good coaching. And good friendship.

Tip number 21 which should actually be tip #1… Put your family ahead of your coaching, work and athletes. As a coach, stay balanced yourself, or else you become worthless to your athletes.

One thought on “20 Things I’ve Learned From Being an Endurance Coach…

  1. Good post. I have never been a coach but I have mentored a lot of people which came very close to coaching. I have found that role has required me to keep doing my best because some are watching me – as the scripture says, “seeing we have this great cloud of witnesses—” I have found it the same with my faith; being a “coach” calls me higher.

    Liked by 1 person

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