I’ve had this on my mind recently – in terms of two questions I was asked, one recently taking me back in a circular fashion to another, I was asked a few months ago. Both have this principle (coaching – why?) central to underpinning the question asked and so I thought it was a good place to put my thoughts into words, this helping me explore and further test what I believe.
The first question was asked by an old friend, over dinner: “Why would you want to get coached in running – surely this is something that you, like me would be more interested in exploring yourself?” and the second was three weeks ago, at the new running / breath session I’ve started for Serpentine: “What motivates you to do this?” In the moment I answered both as genuinely and honestly as possible. Having had the time to think about the question (which I think is a great question and a really important one to answer) I think the following – in no particular order of importance:
Coaching – why
- For myself, for me to learn, for me to understand what works and what doesn’t. I’m deeply curious about how people learn / work / move / breathe and how different things work in different ways.
- To offer people insights that they either: a) haven’t got the perspective to see themselves, as they are too subjective and need an honest appraisal of what to change to help improve and b) to offer knowledge / technical insight that they haven’t been exposed to, experienced or learnt themselves. A really good example of both of these is watching & filming someone breathe or run. Showing someone that footage (doing either independently or looking at both together) allows them to watch something that they never would normally see. Couple this with technical input as to why / and how something is working the way it is and offering suggestions as to how to change helps people move forwards
- Offer value in helping someone move in a direction that they want to – which is linked into the point above. One of my bugbears around running coaching, is the lack of actual coaching involved in a session. I’ve had the experience (more than once) of being at a session, where the coach holding the session will run through a warm up, explain what the session is purely in terms of reps / sets, and then as the session progresses offer encouragement (in terms of nice running, or any other vague and meaningless praise), do the cool down and at no point actually coach. This isn’t coaching, this is babysitting. There is always value for the athlete in turning up (as I would enjoy the social bond with the other runners and you get to run) – but it does beg the question what the coach is doing there? How is the coach offering any value and actually coaching? This something that really informs the coaching I decided to do on a Thursday.
- The challenge in solving problems – which is heavily linked for me in the never ending learning journey I mentioned in point 1. I’ve recently finished Gary Ward’s excellent Biomechanics of the lower limb course, which has helped build on my burgeoning knowledge of movement. I’ll need to re-do the course, as I learn a lot better when absorbing information a second time, but coaching pushes me in a direction where I learn and want to learn to be able to offer people the best solutions I possibly can. To do that I need to read, listen and learn then apply.
- To help and watch people improve. The first experience I had of this was pacing a 10 mile race. The gratitude and joy I was shown, for helping people hit a time they wanted was staggering, wonderful and incredibly humbling. Coaching breathing practices to people or children, watching them use them and seeing their physical being change is incredibly rewarding. Sharing what I know always increases my own knowledge – this not only feels good but gets stored away somewhere, deep in my mind to hopefully come to the surface when a similar situation arises.
I’ve no doubt that there are other reasons that I’ll think of – but as a starting point this feels like a good list and something to work on.