What must exist between all athletes & their coaches is the buffer of a clearly defined training & racing methodology. Sounds simple, right? Sounds like something that all coaches have or must have if they are going to call themselves a coach, right? Yeah… it sounds simple but the reality is few coaches actually have a training & racing methodology, and even fewer coaches have a training & racing methodology that is built on any actual education (e.g. anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, pathology, etc..) & experience (i.e. clinical and/or research experience that extends beyond a population where n = 1).
On our triathlon website, our training methodology is clearly stated so that all athletes know exactly how we train…
OUR TRAINING EQUATION
Hi Rep Technique Training [HRTT] = Develop Skill(s) + Build Capacity + Refine Technique
In this way, between athlete & coach there is a clear approach to what is training and how will training be performed, so that when it comes time to racing not only is it clear what racing is designed to put on display, but its also an equation that both athlete & coach can return to and adjust whenever racing doesn’t yield desired results.
In most athlete <> coach relationships, everything is fine when everything is fine… when training yields progress, when racing yields progress, when there are no injuries, when there is no illness, when everything is fine there are no problems. Problem is… ‘fine’ never lasts, reality will rear its head revealing the true skill level of the coach.
At some point, the athlete will plateau in training, or in racing, the athlete will find progress nowhere to be found and results end up compromised due to soreness, pain, injury and/or illness. Without a training & racing methodology that can be objectively evaluated in order to identify ‘where’ the actual problem lies, there is only one way for the angst, the anger, the frustration, the disappointment to be resolved: the athlete will start to point the finger either at the coach or back at themselves, and/or the coach will point the finger at the athlete or at themselves.
Instead of an actual objective analysis occuring to evaluate where the problem arose and provide the opportunity to develop an appropriate solution, when a coach lacks a proven training & racing methodology all that remains is blame.
A recent article titled “Setting Goals” in Triathlon Magazine (the printed version provided to all Triathlon Ontario members Vol 15 Issue 2 pg 7) spells out exactly what happens whenever a coach doesn’t have a proven training & racing methodology to objectively analyze the performance of their athlete: pro-triathlete turned coach Melanie McQuaid writes…
“When a coach refuses to shift blame to an athlete and the athlete takes full responsibility for their performance…“
This is exactly what I am talking about… just the mention of ‘blame‘ indicates that this coach lacks methodology (hence lacks the knowledge base & skills to coach) because training, racing and coaching have absolutely no connection to blame. When there is no training and racing equation, sport becomes a subjective experience.
Without a training & racing methodology (i.e. a training equation), coaches end up coaching relying on a ‘philosophy’. Instead of coaches having an objective training and racing equation, they end up coaching based on slogans, mottos, and cliches: “no pain, no gain”, “go hard or go home”, “PR or ER”. Those coaches who aren’t after the ‘A’ type personalities who can be bought with images of pain & suffering instead market training & racing as an emotional experience: a touch-y feel-y experience where they as chief hand holder, encourage and empower those out to prove that they too can cross some arbitrary finish line in hopes that it’ll prove that they are something or someone.
Gee… coaches basing their coaching on philosophies of slogans and mottos or ‘touch-y feel-y’ experiences and we wonder how its possible that we end up with abuse in sport?
Gee… coaches develop ‘workouts’ on subjective criteria and we wonder how athletes end up injured, ill and abused?
Yeah… when people who lack the basic education and experience to mentor, sell themselves as skilled and capable and those who trust them end up screwed… yeah, real stretch of the imagination that there is abuse.
How bout this… its ‘abuse’ to sell yourself as something you are not. In fact we have a name for it: its called fraud, its called being a con-artist. No one cares how noble your intentions may be… you may want to ‘heal’ people, but that doesn’t mean you should be given access to the local hospital operating room and allowed to perform surgery on people just because you have a desire or need to ‘help’. How bout this… go get yourself all the education and experience needed in order to help properly (i.e. become a registered medical doctor) and then help people… with your education and your experience. That’s real help.
Everything else is selfish egotistical ‘help’ not designed or destined to actually do anything meanginful for anyone in this world, its simply ‘help’ to make you feel good about yourself even though it comes at the cost of other people’s well-being.
That’s what has happened in sport… with the title of ‘coach’ being unregistered, anyone and I mean anyone who wants to call themselves a coach can call themselves a coach and as a result we have an entire cohort of “do gooders” who think that because they have good intentions, that that makes them a good, no… a great coach.
Yet we still wonder… how is it possible that there is so much abuse in sport?
Lets be real, a few hours over a weekend at a coaching course doesn’t turn anyone into a coach. If it takes a couple of years to end up with a culinary diploma, how is it possible that a weekend is sufficient to become versed in human anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, sport psychology, training concepts, etc… in order to coach? It takes a couple of years to learn in cooking school how not to serve raw chicken so you don’t kill someone, but only a couple hours over a weekend and voila… you are a coach? Again… and we are shocked and surprised that there is abuse in sport!
As for Provincial and National Sport Organizations (PSOs and NSOs), the story ain’t any different. People who want to be involved with sport, who likely even started with the good intentions of wanting to improve a sport, of wanting to help athletes in a sport achieve their potential… but being without sufficient education and experience to be Executives or Board members end up ‘abusing’ the sport and athletes in the sport (via policies that ‘hurt’ and end up mistreating/abusing athletes) no differently than coaches who abuse athletes.
Again, ‘good intentions’ and ‘do gooders’ all come across noble, even heroic, problem is that their do-gooding rarely leads to good results. Case in point: the PhD ‘do gooders’ who believed that they were so smart that because they could manipulate mosquito DNA, would eradicate the Zika virus but because of their egotism they failed to do the proper long term research to prove that their hypothesis would actually work in the wild, they released these mosquitoes into the environment and now the result is an ecological disaster of epic proportions as the DNA manipulation to eliminate reproduction somehow didn’t work out in the ‘real’ world and now these mutated mosquitoes are in the wild with no decrease in the Zika virus… how do you like those ‘good intentions’.
How bout the ‘good intentions’ of the Executives at Boeing who did their shareholders a great service of maximizing profits by cost cutting so much that they completely failed to redesign the 737 aircraft to fly properly. Nonetheless, these do-gooders managed to take hundreds upon hundreds of orders for the plane (and helped Beoing stock soar)… that is until the 737 started to fall out of the sky and ended up killing all the passengers on board. Wow… what great intentions were those… profits ahead of people!
If you don’t have the education and experience to coach… but you call yourself a coach you are a do-gooder. Congrats on your egotism, hope you don’t hurt or kill too many people while you are ‘do-gooding’ with all your coaching.
Athletes… be done with ‘good intentions’ and ‘do-gooders’.
Athletes… return to trusting those who have the education, the experience, the proven dependable skill level and the consistent injury-free, illness-free and abuse-free results as the basis of your coach selection.
When “no pain, no gain” in the physical dimension is translated into the mental & emotional dimensions…
If an athlete accepts “no pain, no gain” as a mantra for their physical training, then why when their coach coaches them with the same philosophy in mental & emotional dimensions is it considered abuse?
If you accept your coach ‘hurting’ you via writing up workouts that you have to push so hard so that you hurt in order to get the ‘most of out them’ and/or yourself, then what is the difference if your coach yells or screams at you for being a weakling, for being a quitter, for being a loser and not ‘taking the pain’ when you fail to make a pace time or a split? Isn’t that great coaching? According to the “no pain, no gain” mindset… it is indeed. The coach in this case is remaining consistent with their philosophy, hence the philosophy has to be accepted either as abusive across all dimensions (physical, mental and emotional) or not.
There is no line in the middle where you can say… its abusive when its anything but physical… again, that is being hypocritical or its holding a double standard (either way it doesn’t work).
If “no pain, no gain” is the accepted philosophy then its the accepted philosophy. The coach is actually abiding by their philosophy when they call you a failure to your face and in front of all your teammates… well… don’t you believe in “no pain, no gain”… well, your coach is giving you mental/emotional pain by screaming at you, by humiliating you in the belief consistent with the philosophy that “no pain = no gain”. Hence, the more pain they can cause to you… the better, because the belief is that it will yield more gain. You signed up for that type of training, so why doesn’t that make mental and emotional training that requires you to take the pain of ridicule, the embarrassment of being called fat or slow or heavy or overweight acceptable? What if your coach body-shamed you stating that that is why you are not making pace times, not improving in training, not standing on the podium at competitions? Isn’t that what you believe in… you have to feel the pain of body-shaming in order to feel gain?
This is exactly the problem. When there isn’t an objective methodology to training & racing… anything goes and then when anything goes we attempt to draw lines in the sand around specific behaviours to state that those individual behaviours are abusive when in fact they aren’t… they are consistent with the overriding philosophy which was accepted as desirable by the athlete at the outset.
Want to see abuse before it begins then start by evaluating the methodology or lack of methodology (i.e. philosophy) that the coach subscribes to… there will be no surprises.
If no pain-no gain is your motto, then you can be guaranteed that abuse is a certainty.