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Coaches Blog

Communication: It's Why We Pay Our Coach

Communication is important for everyone in all spheres of society, but I find it's often overlooked or not effective enough in the coach-athlete relationship. Although AI is becoming more prevalent and attempting to replace human coaches, it will never do so effectively because of one critical aspect: communication. 


As athletes, we pay our coach a good amount of money to oversee our training and modify our plans to maximize results. What we are really paying for, though, is the ability to have an open communication line with someone knowledgeable about sports performance.


The fact is that there are countless people, and even the AI Bot, who can apply the fundamental principles of training to write a good training program. That's not what we are paying our coach to do.  


Why are we paying our coach, then? We are paying our coach to take the feedback that we give them and know how to respond. Let's look at a few comments that may be written and show why the athlete must communicate feedback with the coach and how coaches use this feedback to direct the training plan. 


Example 1"I made the first 2 of the 4 LT intervals, but it was so hot and humid here today that I just couldn't keep my legs going, and they were cooked for the last ones,"


The Coaching Brain: Without this insight the athlete communicated, we would only see that the athlete didn't make the second two intervals (and possibly a few other metrics gathered from the athlete data).


A good coach should dissect the feedback and use their prior knowledge of this athlete to determine how to direct the training plan. First, the athlete made half of the LT intervals, showing that they are at least capable of making the interval at some level. Next, the athlete states, "It was so hot and humid." As coaches, we should know that there is a performance decline, typically about 7-9%, in very hot and humid conditions, mainly when not acclimated to the conditions.


It may be that the athlete could totally make the interval in typical conditions for their location. Thirdly, the athlete states, "I just couldn't keep my legs going, and they were cooked." This could just be a result of the heat, but it may also result from many other factors. The coach may need to investigate further or see if there is a trend of fatigue from prior workouts.


The fatigue could be the result of long stressful days at work and poor sleep, too much training volume or intensity, and poor recovery, or it could be that the athlete is not at a level to execute the workout regardless of the conditions. 


Example 2: "II made all the 300's with 15sec rest. I noticed pain in my right shoulder during recovery as I brought my arm around. The pain did seem to improve as I got further into the set."


The Coaches Brain: Let's dissect this one. First, I made all the 300s with 15sec rest." If the set was meant for short rest, the interval might be too easy for the athlete. An RPE value from the athlete may be beneficial to determine this.


Next, "I noticed pain in my right shoulder as I brought my arm around during recovery." Mechanics in swimming are essential, and dysfunctions in the timing of muscle firing, especially when upwardly rotating the shoulder, are super common during recovery. The athlete may need some drills or muscle recruitment exercises to improve mechanics and avoid an injury.


Lastly, "the pain did seem to improve as I got further into the set." Pain improving with duration is a good sign and tends to lead to thinking that it is due to tissue tightness. From this part of the comment, I would recommend some stretching exercises, especially to open up the chest and the LAT muscles in the back.  


Example 3"Great bike this AM, legs felt very fresh. I have to travel for work this week and will be gone Mon - Wed. Will have pool and running access only."


The Coaches Brain: Let's dissect this one. First, "Great bike this AM, legs felt very fresh." This says the athlete is feeling good and is probably recovering well. Next, " I have to travel for work this week and will be gone Mon - Wed."


Traveling typically never goes as planned and often leads to some fatigue, especially with flying. So, it may be a good idea to just put something easy on Monday and then do a tougher workout on Tuesday morning or Wednesday morning once the body has calmed down from travel.


Lastly, "Will have pool and running access only." This may mean that this week is a run/swim focus week, a recovery week, or a back-loaded bike training week. Without this information, the training program written could literally be null and void. 


Conclusion: 

I hope the examples above and a peek into the coach's brain offers insight into why we pay our coach and why it's critical to provide feedback and comments on workouts and life situations so your coach can do their job effectively. As a coach, it is our job to take this communication, dissect it, and figure out how to modify the upcoming training plan based on the communication we are given from our athletes. 

 

Coach Aaron Scheidies is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and licensed Physical Therapist. A graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Exercise Physiology, Aaron has coached World Champion Paratriathletes as well as Ironman World Championship qualifiers. Aaron is an 11-time World Paratriatlhon Champion and has set the World’s fastest time for anyone with a disability at both the Olympic (1:57:24) and Ironman 70.3 distances. (4:09:54).

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