Death By 1000 Cuts
(What a dramatic title this week)
Two weeks in a row! What is going on! I know, I know, I have been a bit sporadic with my posts of late but I have a bit of free time while I am on uni break and thought it was a good idea to post again. Plus, I have something to write about this week too (which always helps). I had an experience last week with an athlete that I used to coach where basically I realised it was time for us to both go our separate ways. This was not an easy decision to be made at all. This was one of the athletes I had been working with for the longest time. I was and continue to be super invested in their success. But I came to the realisation that I was no longer able to assist them and that their best bet would be to try working with someone else. A new approach might kick start their journey again and get them back on track.
I think coaching has become one of the greatest things that I have ever fallen into. I mean this; I never intended to become a coach (and still consider myself a student of coaching as well.) It just sort of happened. The pride and joy I have in my athletes success and the pain and frustration I feel for their failures is something I never would have expected. I mean it is so easy to get caught up in what you are doing as an athlete. It would be easy to assume that you only have the energy and focus for what you are doing. But this is not the case. I have experienced so many high’s seeing those I coach exceed their expectations. I have however, also had plenty experiences with those who fail to meet mine or their own. I think this is where coaching can get tricky. Yes, it is a service that people pay for and it is good to be professional. But when coaching you tend to experience people at their most vulnerable and it can be quite difficult not to develop a genuine relationship with them. If there are any coaches out there who have learned not to do this then please let me know. One of my athletes who has also turned out to be one of my closest friends and I have come up with a system where there is ‘Coach Tim’ and ‘Friend Tim.’ But look as long as things are working there isn’t really a problem. It isn’t until things start to go wrong that the closeness can become an issue.
My Mum has always encouraged my siblings and me. I think if I called her up now, a semester from finishing my law degree, and said, ‘Mum, I decided that I actually want to join the circus as a lion tamer’ she would be the first one to say ‘You would be the greatest lion tamer the world has ever seen.’ Now as her son, I know that this is the parental bias thing but as a person without children I have never really experienced it myself. That was until I started coaching. Now don’t mistake me. I am not a pushover. I write challenging programs to get the best out of my athletes and when sessions are missed, I am not afraid to ask why and say that the excuse is not good enough. But what I have started to struggle with are the athletes (and there have been a few) who start to make skipping sessions a habit. There are only so many times you can encourage an athlete to get focused again and get back on track. I always question what is going wrong, if it is timing; I ask for a new schedule and adapt their program to meet their availability. If it is the intensity, I back it off to a level they are comfortable with and start to build again. Basically, whatever they tell me is the limiting factor I try and accommodate it.
Now this isn’t an opportunity for me to write about what an amazingly service-minded and capable coach I am. Instead, what you start to identify is the athlete who is a lost cause. Now I use the term lost cause nervously here because I don’t want people to think I am saying that these people are hopeless or anything like that. What I mean is that there are some people that I work with who you just can’t write a program for. The first person I ever started weight loss coaching with approached me about a plan. From day one (I think from memory it was a 45 min walk) would not do the sessions because they were too busy. I tried so many different things like fitting their sessions into their lunch break, selecting classes at their gym after they finished work or even made the intensity slightly higher and the session shorter so they could do it before work. But every week when literally NO sessions were done I asked, ‘what is the problem?’ I asked them if they had made any changes from before they started working with me, getting up earlier, going to be later, anything? The answer was no. So if they knew they didn’t have time (they did) before starting with me, how were they going to fit in time to train after they started paying me? That relationship lasted 4 weeks and was a waste of both of our time.
But back to the point I was trying to make. Some athletes I think we both know when things aren’t working and it might be time for a change (a good tip is to stop coaching someone when they don’t pay you!) But then there are others who you have that paternal bias for. No matter how much they struggle or inconsistent they are you believe that they are going to work it out. Well that is what happened to me last week. I realised that I was not going to be able to assist this person anymore because ultimately, they needed to want to help themselves. Now it is easy to say that you want to do something or you want to make a change. Watch, I want to play the piano. But in reality, I am not going to give the piano the attention it requires to actually learn how. I may pay someone for lessons and tell my friends I am learning the piano but the reality is I am not. I spoke to another person (coach) I know about this athlete multiple times and asked what to do and the conversation ended up at, ‘if they are happy to keep paying you, write the plan.’ I couldn’t do that. So instead, I made a call and decided to stop coaching the person. I refunded their money for July and suggested they try a new approach.
I believe that this was the right thing to do for both of us. The relationship had obviously become stagnant. It was a cycle of training hard for a week then slipping to the point of doing nothing and this had been the case for over a year. There were constantly obstacles and hurdles that had to be managed. Some of these were incredibly legitimate but others were not. It was causing me increased frustration and I can only imagine how demoralising it must be as an athlete to keep missing sessions and have it cause stress. So I did what I didn’t want to do because I thought it was the best and most responsible thing to do. I like to think that if things ever became stagnant or were no longer working with my coach he would do the same. In fact, I would like to think that the majority of coaches out there would as well. The problem lies though in the place where the professional and friend line is blurred and one or both parties is unable to separate them. I think that may be the case here. I was accused of not supporting the athlete because I ended the coaching relationship, which upset me. But I am confident that I actually did what I did to support them. Maybe in time they will see it too.
So that is my little tale of what has been happening with me. It was a tough decision to make but I do not regret making it.
The coach, athlete relationship is a two way street and has to work for both parties. Remember this and as always, remember to TRI!
Remember to tune into Think Fit where this week we discussed the biggest fitness excuses we have and did use
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I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.