An athlete and coach should work as a team. Two-way communication and trust are key to any successful team and this is no exception.
Most people will start to seek out a coach once they start setting some specific goals in the sport and realizing they need help to achieve those goals. Even the best athletes in the world still have a coach who they communicate with.
However, when a rider is first starting out and learning about this crazy sport you must have complete trust in your coach and try to listen and learn from their expertise. The coach must also be able to have trust in you as the athlete to follow their program 100%.
The first thing to do with a coach after every season and intermittently throughout is to sit down and talk about your short term and long-term goals. Talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Is your primary goal to maintain or improve your strengths or is it to improve your weaknesses? What worked well for you in the past?
It is your responsibility as an athlete to communicate your lifestyle, sicknesses, injuries, stress, vacations and any event, which will make you tired or alter your training. You cannot expect your coach to be a mind reader. For example, stress somehow seems to be what most people forget to mention, even though we all know it can have huge impact on us. On the other hand your coach needs to be mindful of your schedule and a big week of training should not be scheduled during a busy time for you such as final exams.
You must understand the basic point of your training in order to follow through with it. It is the athletes’ responsibility to be involved with their training because this helps you trust the program, and understand the effects of the training so that frustration doesn’t occur. The early years of working with a new coach will also require more time and patience to grow. Learn how your coach works and ask as many questions needed so that you understand what your training will entail. You must understand that if you’ve agreed to work on something specific that it will take time to see improvement. I’ve seen too many athletes give up after only a few short weeks of trying something new to conclude it didn’t work. As much as we would all like our coaches to be magicians, they aren’t, and improvement requires dedication to the training and hard work.
By Erinne Willock
(Erinne was one of Canada’s top road cyclists, joining the National Team in 1999. She podiumed at many national and international races and cycled for Canada in the 2008 Beijing Olympics)