Jul 26

The Coach Becomes the Athlete–Role Reversal!

Thanks for Helen Williams for this blog.

About three years ago, I decided to learn how to swim. As a child, I did not have access to a pool and was somewhat fearful of the water. I had taken lessons before but never followed through.

Like most people, as I get older my body does not like exercises that require pounding. I was looking for a challenge, but not something that would make me ache when I woke up the next morning. So when I started working at MIT I knew that with their great aquatics center I really had no excuse not to commit. I enlisted the help of a coach and began weekly lessons. My first coach did a good job teaching me the basics. I worked hard and tried to make my body execute what I intellectually understood was the correct way to swim. But after the first few lessons, I decided to try a new coach. The second coach had an entirely different style. She was positive and encouraging with everything I did. When I was fearful of doing a forward roll to learn flip turns or jumping into the deep water where my feet would not touch the bottom, it was her patience and support that gave me the confidence to try and eventually succeed at both.

When I could barely swim a few yards, my coach told me that I should do a triathlon. “A triathlon? I can’t even swim 25 yards without gasping for air!” I said. “No problem. You will be fine” she said. In my head, I am thinking “this woman has lost her mind.” But my coach saw my potential before I did and she was going to make sure I eventually achieved it. I had not been coached in over 20 years and this entire process made me think about my own coaching style. Was I as positive and encouraging with my players as I should have been? Did I focus on the positive rather than dwelling on the negative? As I watch events like the Olympics and World Cup Soccer, I wonder about the relationship those athletes have with their coaches. I’m sure there has to be a lot of positive reinforcement in order for them to perform to the best of their ability and win medals.

It’s not that we coaches should never correct our players. If we don’t, we do them a great disservice. But I realized from my own experience that it really feels good when someone believes in you (sometimes more than you believe in yourself). Coaches need a healthy balance that works for them and their athletes. Figure out ways to critique a player’s performance while helping them maintain belief in their abilities. I encourage you to find an activity you like and be coached so you can view things from the perspective of your players without focusing on the win/loss aspect of the profession.

In 2013 I finally fulfilled my coach’s prediction and finished my first mini triathlon. And it was all made possible from that small seed of belief she planted.

You can learn more about Helen and her coaching journey at:



@coachlikamother (Twitter)

Jul 24

New Goal Setting Ideas

I came across a great new idea regarding goal setting for athletes while reading Lynn Kidman and Stephanie Hanrahan’s book “The Coaching Process; A Practical Guide to Becoming an Effective Sports Coach 3rd Ed” this week. They have some great ideas about learning objectives which I think can be tied into goal setting so bear with me as I lay this out.

We are all used to the typical goal setting categories:

  • Performance–score 15 points, block 10 shots, run 10.9 in the 100m, etc.
  • Outcome–win a league or conference championship, become a conference all-star or All-American
  • Process–develop better core strength, learn to throw a change-up, learn to relax more during games

Kidman and Hanrahan talk about three learning objectives for each practice based upon the three domains of learning:

  • Performance (different from above)–physical movement skills
  • Cognitive–tactics, strategies and decision making knowledge skills
  • Affective–mental skills, attitudes and values

I love the cognitive and affective learning objectives, and I think they could easily be used as a subset of the above mentioned process goal. In my coaching, process goals are those stepping stones that set the stage for the possibility of achieving performance and outcome goals. Plus process goals are in the hands of the athlete while their competitors will have a stake in whether or not they achieve their performance or outcome goals.


Jul 11

Summer 2014 Reading Recommendations

Finally getting back to blogging about the latest coaching resources of value to coaches. In my defense, there were three whole books for me to read! But seriously, the following are the three I recommend you should check out:

If I was a new coach and seeking a resource to aid me in becoming a well rounded coach, then I would pick up a copy of  Coaching Excellence. This coaching book has the typical sections covering the roles and responsibilities of a coach as well as the plans and methods used to achieve sport goals. But what makes this resource different, in a great way, is its inclusion of practical applications of the sport sciences that enhance the fitness and the technical, tactical and psychological skills of athletes. Highlights of this section include:

  • How to analyze sport technique
  • How to teach sport skills
  • How to evaluate athletes
  • How to develop mental skills

My second recommendation deals with running, an integral part of many sports–for example, some soccer players in the recent World Cup are running well over 5 miles in each game. Anderson’s work, Running Science, provides the latest research-based knowledge in running physiology, biomechanics, psychology and training and other topics. If you are seeking some new ways to improve the running of your athletes, this book may have some new ideas for you.

My third choice is a bit of a stretch, even for me. But my curiosity about biochemical monitoring of athletes was heightened from articles I read about iron levels and runners–seems Alberto Salazar tests his runners’ iron levels on a regular basis. I wanted to know why. When the Virus’ book Biochemical Monitoring of Sport Training became available, I took the opportunity to stretch myself about this part of coaching. Recommended by the publisher for exercise scientists and elite-level coaches, this book has three parts covering:

  • Discussion of why biochemical monitoring of training is necessary and the opportunities it presents
  • Methodological limitations of studies in this subject area
  • How to apply biochemical monitoring methods in sport

Jul 07

Coaching Resource of the Month — July 2014

As an athlete with asthma, I know firsthand how debilitating an attack can be. As a coach, working with athletes who are dealing with asthma is another challenge. The good news is that It can be controlled to allow athletes to stay in the game. The National Institutes for Health provide great information on how coaches can assist their athletes deal with asthma.

If you are interested in learning more about how to coach athletes with asthma, please check out our December 2012 Coaching Resource of the Month for a free online course for coaches regarding asthma.

Jun 26

Back in the Saddle…Again

My apologies to all of our followers and readers. Over the past two months, I have been severely distracted by a number of personal issues including preparing and selling my home, moving to another state, having my daughter graduate from high school, and aiding her in selecting her college. Oh yeah, and finding a new job. For me and my wife!

But now most of that is behind me and it is time to get back to this blog. I have a number of blogs planned for you starting in July that I believe you will find of value. Stay tuned.

Older posts «