Coney Island Cyclone Image courtesy of UltimateRollerCoaster.com
Coaching without a team or player/student has left many of the coaches that I know feeling frustrated. There isn’t a team or a room of students to coach because we can’t gather together while we shelter in place to slow, if not prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19. As I’ve talked with coaches in the last several months, a common theme about why they coach emerged. All of them have told me about how great they feel when a student or player takes what they’ve coached on and executes the learning. If a student applies the lesson and teaches the coach a lesson back it’s even better.
When coaching sometimes there is a need to be very direct and sometimes it’s best to back off. The best coaches gain an understanding over time about when to do one or the other. One of the best decisions I made about actively recovering from my accident in September of 2019 when I broke my left hip and clavicle in a bicycle crash was to hire a coach to train with. I have been around long enough to have seen the evolution of coaching go from strict disciplinarian tactics to periodization which is the method of increasing load and then allowing a period of recovery to take place before building by adding more load. The idea is to attain a base and then train to peak for a particular time period or event. If you are a racing driver it could mean adjusting your training to deal with anticipated conditions like the heat and humidity of summer in the south or northeast. If it is mental conditioning rather than physical training, it could be preparing for the pressures that come from deadlines and unexpected events such as the mother of epidemics we are experiencing this year.
As a coach I preach preparation. No one can prepare for what is going to happen. Everyone can prepare to be ready for the unexpected. In essence I advocate preparing by being actively distracted. The base training I am advocating is done through establishing routines for the tasks that need to be done regularly like brushing your teeth, putting tools away, etc. The routine lets us not have to think about that piece because its under control. Then there are things that it is harder to establish routines for such as diets and exercise schedules. For years I trained my self on the bike. It worked okay, meaning I maintained fitness which is what I wanted, but having a plan from a coach has really helped in the last couple of months. Yes, I’m paying for it, but that’s not what makes me try like hell to not miss a scheduled workout. It is more that I feel responsible for getting the workout in and finishing it. The training includes sprints, endurance training, and intervals. Some of it sucks, but I can feel the difference and that is reward enough. My coach isn’t someone like me who’s been riding for 35 years. He’s in college and working for a small coaching outfit. He’s got about 12 clients and we talk for all of 15 minutes every other week to check in. He’s never more than a text or email away if something comes up. I am not training for a particular event, and I am not too worried about outcomes. Instead I think of it as preparing for whatever group ride challenge comes up when I can ride my with buddies again post-pandemic.
My training also serves as a great distraction from the craziness that I can’t control. I’ve noticed different types of reaction to what we are having to endure. There are some folks that have taken longer to adjust to working at home and those that have overreacted by doubling down to focus on productivity out of fear that others would treat the situation as a giant vacation. It’s no fun having the latter reaction being aimed in anyone’s direction, and I’ve felt genuinely sorry for the folks that I know have had an especially hard time adjusting. Not being in a position to change how others react I’ve chosen to lead by coaching. No one has asked for my help, but given the new pressure, as I wrote in last month’s post, I started providing a daily distraction with the help of our family pet, Izzy the Turtle. I try to provide something active that lasts about one to five minutes so no one feels that they are taking too much time from work, and can get a little break through the mix of serious and goofy distractions. No one has asked me to stop so I think it’s helping my friends and colleagues get away from worrying about what we can’t control. Creating them is definitely helping the coach in me get through.
We all have days when, like my bike training, this isolation sucks. If you’re lucky enough to feel like you can help try sharing a little bit of yourself and send a distraction out to anyone you think could use it.