Why I’m Hiring a Coach

Since the very beginning of last year, I’ve done all my own coaching and programming. Of course, I have people whom I trust and like to bounce ideas off, I keep reading and keeping my eyes on new ideas, and I like to experiment with different things, but for that whole time, I’ve been in the driver’s seat. I’d had a kind of vague notion kicking around for a while that I might hire a coach, but my time in Minsk at Worlds this year really brought that to the fore, and I finally decided to act on it. I approached a coach there who I’ve got a lot of respect for and kind of vaguely know via social media and asked if he had room on his roster for one more athlete.

So, what are the ideas that finally made me take that step?

The primary reason for me wanting to hire a coach is to have someone who isn’t as close to my problems as I am to help solve them. When you’re right in the middle of something it can be hard to step back and take a proper look at what’s going – I’m sure everyone reading this has had some experience where some problem they’ve been looking at for hours or days has been solved in minutes by a fresh set of eyes! I seem not to have this problem when I’m doing things for other people (which is part of the reason I consider myself to be better at coaching than actually lifting), but when I program for myself, I seem to write in part with my ego despite all efforts not to.

So, reason #1 for hiring a coach: fresh eyes.

My second reason for choosing to hire a coach is to learn from someone much better than I am. I’m sure there are hundreds of ideas I’ve never had about meet day coaching, and thousands of ideas I’ve never had about how to program or manage athletes out-of-competition. Being able to pick the brains of someone far more experienced and knowledgeable about this sport is both incredibly valuable, and something I’m very excited for.

There aren’t many coaches (especially in New Zealand) with real international experience, fighting for podium finishes and discipline medals, and other than simply having more experience doing it (which is hard to come by), the next best way to learn these things is via an experienced handler. Along the same lines, every coach programs in a different way and has had different experiences in the past, and that colours they way they see and think about future problems.

Reason #2 for hiring a coach: learn from the best. 

Finally, reason #3 for hiring a coach: I’m going to try something new shit. Watch this space.

I’m not expecting this to all be super easy. I’ve had full control over my own programming for a long time, and there are definitely set ways I like to do things. I’ve got strong opinions on things like maximising strengths vs. improving weaknesses, microcycle structure, and macrocyclic planning. Quite often I look at a program (or part thereof) and wonder what the overall plan is because I don’t think it’s sufficiently clear. Giving up the control, and possibly not being able to see the entire picture, might be a tough change for me.

Having said all of that, giving up that control might give me more time to focus on my own athletes, and it might even be a relief to not have to stress about my own stuff!

I’m hoping to learn a lot over the coming months. From a programming perspective, I’m hoping to learn some seriously nerdy shit (feel free to skip the following list if you’re not that into programming.)

  1. Ratios of primary to secondary to tertiary (to quarternary? Undecided on this breakdown still) lifts, and how it changes within and between mesocycles
  2. Macrocycle layout. How far ahead do other people plan, what are important details to consider?
  3. How the fuck do you sensibly structure a resensitisation phase?
  4. Maximise strengths vs. minimise weaknesses, and why? Or perhaps this isn’t even a binary thing, maybe there is some intermediate stage I’ve yet to consider.
  5. How do other people like to think about intensity? How does average intensity vary?
  6. How steep do mesocycles ramp, and do they follow a similar structure microcycle to microcycle?
  7. How many focuses does an athlete have at a time? Is this different at different times?

I’m fairly certain that a literal essay could be written on any of the above topics, or maybe even a book, but just seeing how other coaches think about these things will be very interesting and informative.

On totally different aspect of coaching – I’ve never really done the online coaching thing before. Everyone for whom I currently program I know in person, and have known in person since well before we started working together. I’m watching the processes we go through very closely. What’s the onramp system? How do updates work? How frequently are we communicating, and what about?

Finally, and this might actually be the most exciting point for me – we’ve agreed to set aside some time each month to talk coach-to-coach (as opposed to athlete-to-coach) about things beyond the normal week-to-week interactions. I’m hoping to use that time to talk about the processes of coaching, and I already have a list of about 20 questions to ask.

So, that turned into a bit of an essay about what seemed originally to be a pretty straight forward topic. Have you ever had a coach? If so, were there any particularly good or particularly bad experiences you’d like to share? I hope everyone’s training is going well, and I’ll see you all next time.