The importance of coaching/l’entraineur important.

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Unlike most of what’s been posted so far, this will be an original article, the opinions expressed those of John Lofranco. We are a collective, but I will take editorial privilege now and then.

It’s been a decade since I started my coaching career, so I thought I would expound on my thoughts on the job. The idea is to give the reader an idea of my philosophy of coaching. Il me semble qu’il y a des entraîneurs qui se pensent trop important: quand un athlète a des succès, leur coach prennent les accolades, mais quand elle manque le résultat, la responsabilité reste avec l’athlète. En effet, c’est l’inverse de la situation des avocats: personne n’aime les avocats. Si on gagne notre cas, c’est parce-qu’on avait raison. Si on perd c’est à cause de notre avocat pourris, ou, de l’avocat pourris de la partie adverse.

I’d say this is about half right. In my mind, the coach can take some responsibility for what the athlete achieves, right or wrong, but let’s be serious: the athlete does all the work. I say this as a coach who spends many hours each week thinking, writing and communicating with his athletes, in order to help them reach their goals. And these athletes for which I am responsible (I don’t like to say “my athletes” as it implies a possession that just isn’t there) have succeeded. Every season, most of these athletes run big personal bests. Liz Mokrusa went from 1:44 in the half marathon to 1:27 in seven months. Ryan Noel Hodge went from 17:00 in a 5k to 15:44 in just over a year, then down to 15:07 in the next year. I would love to say this is all because of my great coaching. First of all, however, what a sharp track mind will notice, is that the times being run are ok, but not that fast. The move from 17min to 15min is not that hard to do with a little commitment. To go from 15 to 14 is probably twice as hard. And then to go down to the 13min range, well, then we are talking about getting everything firing on all cylinders: recovery through nutrition, sleep, sports med; race prep via focused mental performance; consistent high mileage which enables high quality interval work; all the supplemental training in the right amounts, at the right time; and the rest of one’s life sorted out to support the training life. In order to put all that together requires a certain situation, and the coach is merely a cog in the wheel.

Without being falsely modest, the real answer is that, as a coach, and as a training group, I merely provided these athletes with the opportunity to improve. The athletes seized the opportunity. Not all of the athletes in the group have made such significant jumps. The coaching can’t be good for some and bad for others, can it? By the end of this article, you’ll find that my position is not as diminishing of the coach as it first seems. The coach and the athlete must work together to get the best out of each other. So, what can a coach do to ensure more athletes do take advantage of what we offer? As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

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