The Australian Canoeing Coaching Brief is an informative resourse available for AC coach members. The monthly additions will provide information on stroke techniques, teaching aids and models.
Who is the Coach?
Back in the days of club sports the stereo-typical image of the coach was the loud mouth in the baseball cap shouting abuse from the side line.
Today the demands of young athletes and the socio-changes within the last generation; together have developed a completely new role of a coach.
The coach has taken on the role of a mentor rather than a dictator. A coach can be any dedicated individual that gives up their time each month, week or day to promote and support the sport they aspire to. These may be a paid positions, volunteers, experienced athletes or parents.
When refering to the learner the term athlete is frequently used. An athlete is not necessarily an olympian.
A simple definition of an athlete is someone who has talent or has gained skills for a particular sport and has undertaken some level of training to compete in a specific event(s) to develop the required fitness and muscle co-ordination.
The coach and athlete will have different personal goals to achieve from the training program. However, there should be a common direction so that short and long-term goals can be set to reach the overall goal. Goal setting helps keep the training program on schedule and keeps goals realistic.
The evidence of your athletes performance is obvious; their times are faster, they won the race or they beat a competitor when previously they had only seen the back of their head. The improvements in the athlete can be measured in their physical performance and as they grown and mature in their approach to the sport.
But, what about the coach? How do you as the coach measure your performance? In the case of a paid position Peter Davis from the United States Olympic Committee1 suggests the coach considers undertaking a Formal performance-appraisal system and in the case of a volunteer position to consider self-evaluation at the conclusion of a season or event.
The benefits of a formal performance-appraisal system is to have some feeback and measure of the coaches performance to develop effective and improving coaching methods. Start with a written copy of what your goals and expectations are for coaching and for the specific athlete, these include long and short-term.
Have a clear direction and let your athlete know how you plan to tackle one step at a time. Make sure you regularly communicate with the athlete how they feel they are going and if the training compliments their goals.
Next set-up a feeback system but carefully consider the audience. They must be trustworthy colleagues, friends or staff that are prepared to give positive and negative comments.
Then self-evaluate, this is a mental replay of events, how you approached things and how you would like to approach them in the future. Be realistic with yourself and have a healthy balance of good and bad thoughts. Know in yourself what kind of coach you want to be and what characteristics that includes and aim to achieve them.
Prepare yourself to ask for feeback. It is no use to anyone if your colleagues come up to you after you think you have done a real break through and then they dish out negative comments, you were not ready for it nor was it the colleagues place to bring you down. So it may be an idea once you have mentally reviewed things to set aside a quite time to discuss your performance with a 3rd party.
So set aside a quite moment and evaluate what you are doing, what you want to achieve and steps to get you there and then see what kind of performance you are doing.
According to Vladmir Issurin2 there are two distinct strategies when preparing an athlete for the competition day training and on the day.
Situational factor - the external/environmental influences such as the wind, sun, behaviour of other competitors. These are often unpredictable but will have huge impact on the performance on the day. By working through possible scenarios and how to deal with each will prepare the athlete for what ever they face on the day so their performance is not comprimised in anyway.
Programmed Factors - the game plan and performance path that has been set during training and mentoring. The performance of the athlete can be set during training. The race can be broken into individual components such as calming pre-race nerves, the starting gun, endurance and the finish. These factors can be worked on until the athlete is confident and weaknesses are addressed. At the conculsion of race the athlete and coach can use these same components to evaluate the performance.
1. Davis. P., (PhD) (2004) Director, Coaching and Sport Sciences, United States Olympic Committee. "Coaching performance: what sort of job are you doing?" Sports Coach, vol. 27, No. 1 Australian Government, Australian Sports Commission.
2. Issurin. V., (1998) "Race strategy analysis in world-class canoe/kayak paddlers" Science & Practice of Canoe/Kayak High -Performance TrainingElite Sports Department of Israel.