Coaches & Coaching: The Art Form

It goes unsaid to often probably. How important are our coaches? They are a critical part of the performance equation. Here are some of my thoughts on not only the Australian coaches, but coaches in general. Actually I may even venture into to the realm of being specific.

This photo’s of the Australian coaches after the Luzern regatta. Seems the moustache is making a come back.

Some common abbreviations for the moustache are stache, tache, tash, and mo.

There are numerous slang terms for the moustache mostly reflecting its resemblance to a variety of animals, its tendency to retain food and drink or its association with sexual activity, for example nose neighbor, Lady Tickler, trash stash, fanny duster, nose bug and mobile tea strainer.

Sorry got side tracked there or you could say I have deviated a little off course…

Back to coaching as I originally intended. To paint the most accurate picture here of the styles of relationships athletes and coaches can share I would use a nice little model from Blanchard & Hersey, Situational Leadership. It highlights the style plus the type of learner involved.

Situational Leadership

What I like is this make sense of the styles of coaching and when and where we may seem that style being adopted by a coach. From directing, to coaching, to supporting and delegating. It’s important to understand that coaches need to be adaptable and flexible in the style to best suit the athlete and the situation.

From what I have been exposed to over the years I have had coaches who have all been different and at certain times they have suited my needs and other time they have not quiet matched up to what I have needed. This has also played out in relation to the situation also.

Recently our coach, Chris worked on being more directed and coaching in his style. After we got back into things it was required that he shift his focus to suit our situation. It was a different energy and help us greatly in getting the ball rolling again. We have been good at working with him in a more supportive and delegating way which relates to our experience and willingness to be involve and responsible for our preparation and performance.

Years ago with the four, Noel Donaldson was great at managing the group and as such operated well in a supportive capacity. This did not mean at times he didn’t shift into directing the group and coaching but it was often a quick switch and very effective in getting a response.

Now when I think of my development years at times I need a good kick up the ass. And well I had a few good coaches that did it perfectly. My only concern with this style of directing is that at some point the emphasis needs to shift and if it doesn’t then problems and or confusion can grow.

In Australia right now we have a large variety of coaches with such a range of experiences and history in the sport. I am sure there is a different level of ambition and ego too. Surely they are no different to the athletes in one sense. They want to be the best they can be. They want to be the best. They I would have thought would want what is best for their athletes. Some times these tow things can be in conflict which to me is the coaching dilemma.

This me to consider what it can be like in a crew also. In fact it goes to the heart of teamwork and why it can be so challenging to get it right. In a boat you want to do the best you can. You also want the team to do it best. You want everyone one to do there best. The dilemma then is what is the priority then? What are you measure by? What drives what and what can bring it all undone? These question like the coaches dilemma are very important in understanding why some times things work and other times they don’t.

At this level everyone has ability and everyone has performed in a way to get to where they are. The fine line between wanting something for your self and wanting something for others is a fickle and often precarious position. You need to be motivated to be the best, but this need has to stay in check with relation to the motivation for the collective effort.

I mention all this because coaching like rowing is about balancing the influences, expectations and needs of all involved. Although the coaching view of things is some what objective if this is all that is focused on then the nature of the art form is lost in the numbers. The subtlety of shifting and adapting is needed with out being reactionary. A coaches view is often more comprehensive. They have to take in more information about performance on and off the water. This is the challenge and to honor all perspective is critical.

Coaches like athlete need to be masters of their art form to have longevity. When I say master I refer to the ability to stay even in their presence and maintain consistency while subtly shifting focus based on what the situation requires.

As an athlete I know I need a coach. I enjoy having a person who I can work with to enable the best outcome. I have been fortunate to have what I would say as some of the great coached from our sport. Noel and Chris have been a major factor in me getting this far and assisting in helping me to not only be a better athlete but better person.

This I am sure is not unique to me, I am sure many athletes have and will continue to feel this way about their coaches. The above photo’s capture a great group of coaches who have a common bond. That is they play a significant role in preparing their athlete for the races of their lives.

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