Curt and I have been settling into a great flow with our Valor Triathlon Project Athletes. Having him come on board has been nothing short of amazing. I am lucky. Our athletes are lucky. I think that together we are able to provide a unique, dynamic service for those we get to coach.
We discuss every single athlete all of the time. It’s been really great to bounce ideas off one another, share ideas and create workloads together. Curt does most of the planning of the physical workload. He creates the annual training plan, he has designed some really amazing sessions, and before we plot out weeks, we talk about how that would play into each of our athletes’ lives. I am someone who takes feedback and criticism quite well (ask ANYONE I work with), and fortunately, so does Curt. It helps that we also know how to give that criticism. It’s all in the delivery and when you are receiving it…. if you can remove your ego from the equation….. it helps you grow.
I can tell myself I am awesome all day long. What helps me learn and grow is learning where I can learn and grow from. Feedback, is a gift.
I have been segwaying a bit more into the mental aspect of training. It’s something I have always had a passion for, since my high school and college swim days. Anyone can plan a physical workload, the magic comes in learning who your athletes are, what their struggles are, how to help them grow and how to help them develop the right mentality to achieve their goals.
Focusing on the mental side of training doesn’t mean becoming your athletes’ therapist. Long ago I fell into that trap. It’s not the trap of listening, it’s the trap of trying to fix someone else’s life. It’s draining and frankly, who am I to tell you how to live your life.
I am not the expert on your life. I don’t have a 5 step process to fix what’s wrong. What I do is offer insight. Another point of view. As it comes to athletics I constantly educate myself on ways to help athletes turn their mental game into their strongest assets.
Interestingly…. I am in my second year of Grad school. I am working on my Masters of Nursing Education. A big focus of the coursework is understanding students’ learning styles. We teach nurses. If you know anything about a nursing program it’s very different than any other sort of program. It’s not definitions. It’s not regurgitation. It’s an entirely different way of thinking. It’s learning how to be the calm in the middle of the storm. It’s learning how to decipher, based on your situation, the best action for your patient, even though all the answers are right.
A lot of my coursework has been and continues to be the psychology of learning. Understanding how to read between the lines. If a student is struggling understanding why they are. Anxiety impeding test performance? Not really and truly believing that you can?
The similarities between athletes and students is incredible.
If you think about it, we are all students of our sport. My job in the coaching arena is to understand what makes you tick, what drives you, what you are doing this for. When it comes to race day I create a race plan for our athletes that sometimes focuses on numbers, but I like to focus on the mental side. Anyone can execute numbers. The mental game is what gets you on the podium. Just watch what happens in Kona in a few weeks.
It’s an area I am passionately studying. I have found insights from all over the place. Some of the books that have guided me: Burn your goals, By a fraction of a second, Relentless, The Vision of a Champion, Developing resilience to name a few.
I have a 45 minute commute to the college each day and I have filled that space with podcasts and audiobooks. Rich Roll’s podcast is a good one, Michael Gervais is my new favorite and the Science of Running offers some great training thoughts.
I stand back and just observe. I observe what I read and hear. I observe our athletes. I read every training log, even the “stretch and roll” ones. There is value in even that feedback. I listen to how they talk to themselves. I am developing some tools to help them see where they can strengthen their self talk, their mental game.
The onus is not on me to fix anything or to develop THE plan with our athletes’ mental game. It’s on them. I want THEM to take the nuggets, and apply them. I like to offer insights such as “Okay…. you’ve listed the negative, how can we use that to guide the race?” And so often they have an ah ha moment. It’s nothing I did. It’s just guiding them into a different line of thought.
I am not always successful. There are some cases of pre race anxieties that are beyond my expertise to crack. That I think go deeper than just being about performance. Those are the ones that hurt me. On one hand I would KILL for pre race butterflies like that…. because I thrive on them. On the other hand it hurts me to my heart to see someone who I know has deep potential, have this emotional blockade in front of them. And I can’t kick it down.
To quote Sean Hutchinson, former Olympic swimming coach:
“I care about helping people do things they didn’t think they could do.”
“[People] are so much more capable than what they live their lives as”
I truly believe those two things. I think we all are capable of so much more, but our ego or insecurities get in our way. When I see students and athletes get out of their own way, I see magic happen. I see that for myself as well.
It’s been an exciting few months of growth since Curt has come on board. It’s brought a whole new level to our marriage, being business partners. We have to communicate explicitly clearly. We have to keep our egos in our pockets. We have to properly provide one another feedback that will help us grow as a team of coaches, that will help our team of athletes and that will keep the two of us strong. I am proud of that. I am really proud of that. We’ve kept that as our priority.
As we continue to evolve we will get the model down. It’s evolving, it’s in a flow state and it will never be rigid. But it’s been awesome, that’s for sure.