Many athletes who participate in competitive sports have a desire to be the best they can be and become a champion. These athletes pursue this goal as a full-time job. It may have started out as a hobby, but as they progress in their sport, the desires become extreme and the efforts are endless – and who helps these athletes follow and pursue their dreams and goals? The Coach!! In his discussion, I will share my thoughts on the role of the coach in their pursuit to create a successful athlete.
Most coaches participated in their sport as an athlete when they were younger which gives them valuable experience in the development of skill training. However, just like the athlete, the coaches need to continue to educate themselves on training tools and technique. As the athlete progresses in the sport and begins to work on high level skills, the coach and athlete are learning together. For example, if a coach has never had an athlete reach the higher levels of sport, the coach would not be familiar with how to introduce and train the skills required of that level. In this case, the coach would need to attend seminars, coaches clinics, and conferences where they can learn the skills needed to progress the athlete. It is this scenario that many students will leave a gym and seek out a program that has success at higher levels.
When coaches see talent in a young athletes, they will often place them in a special program that helps in accelerating their development. These athletes usually start in a recreational program as beginner students but quickly move up the levels until they are ready to be placed in a program to prepare them for the competitive aspect of the sport. It is these talented athletes that coaches hope to see progress and evolve into the Elite level program. To become an Elite level athlete is a dream of many students, however, only a small fraction of athletes ever make it to this level. There are many factors that play a part in whether an athlete reaches these high levels of sport and many are determined by the coaching.
Many coaches dream of having the opportunity to develop and train an athlete to an Elite level. It takes many years for an athlete to reach this level and many gymnastics programs are designed for this development. As career coaches and gym owners know, the number of participants decline as the level increases. This is due to the extreme difficulty of gymnastics. Not only is the physical demands extreme in this sport, the emotional demands play an even larger role. As the levels increase, the risk factors also increase. To reach the higher levels of gymnastics, the athlete must have a low fear factor which allows them to train the difficult skills without stressing about the risks involved. Through proper training and skill development using a variety of drills, the risks are greatly reduced which raises the confidence in the athlete. Coaches of athletes training at these high levels are very creative in developing drills to assist the athlete in learning correct technique in a safe and comfortable environment.
It is at these higher levels where the athlete is now spending many hours a week in the gym. It almost is considered “home” to many of these students. Many do not have much of a social life and most of their existence is lived in the gym. They actually spend more time with their coaches than their parents and family members. It is critical that the coaches of these athletes build a positive and strong bond with them. I have stated in previous posts the importance of creating a positive and exciting environment so the athletes can stay motivated and move forward in a positive direction (Coaching: Lets Be Positive). So many times, a negative or demeaning environment will create frustration, stress, and lack of motivation. When a person loves what they are doing, they are more likely to be motivated to put out the effort needed to succeed.
It is a very exciting time for the athlete and coaches when an athlete succeeds and moves up to the higher levels of sport. This is the objective and what all the hard work in the gym has produced. The coach, of course, plays a major part in this success and should also be rewarded for their efforts. As the levels become higher and an Elite status is earned, the commitment to the sport goes to a new level. Not only is the training extensive 6 to 7 days a week and 4-6 hours or more each day, the competitions become many and traveling extensive. The coaches need to be strategic at this level in preparing the students for this lifestyle. It is important that the training is designed to prepare the athlete for competitions. When preparing for major competitions, the training is more focused on routine training and consistency. New skill training takes a back seat during the heavy competitive season. There also needs to be some down time to allow the athlete to recuperate after a competition, especially if it was a major competition. Not only is there a physical demand in the preparation of training and competing, there is also a strong emotional demand. This needs to be considered to prevent the athlete, and coach, from burn-out.
For those coaches who are considering a career in this upper level training environment, they need to understand the commitment. It can be considered being “married” to your job. Little time is spent at home with late nights and weekend trips. If the coach has the passion and desire for this environment, just as the athlete has the passion and desire to be successful, both will succeed. It certainly is a joint venture between the coach and student. It takes motivation and effort for both in order to have a successful result.