Coaching, Podcast

Lachlan Kerin and Mikael Eriksson on coaching | EP#406

 September 4, 2023

By  Bernardo Gonçalves

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE:

Lachlan Kerin And Mikael Eriksson - That Triathlon Show

Scientific Triathlon coaches Lachlan Kerin and Mikael Eriksson discuss all things coaching and coach-athlete relationship and things athletes should know about coaching and coaches.

In this episode you'll learn about:

  • Who should consider getting a coach (and who should not)?
  • What are the benefits of coaching?
  • What should you expect from a coach?
  • What does a good coach-athlete relationship look like?
  • Local or remote coaching?
  • How to find the right coach for you
  • Pricing considerations
  • The time-course of a coach-athlete relationship
  • Myths and misconceptions about coaching
  • The future of coaching and the AI coach

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Shownotes

Benefits of having a coach

03:17 -

  • Regarding the advantages of having a coach, it provides a crucial outside perspective, maintaining a broad and objective view of things. 
  • While this might sound simple, from both a coach's and an athlete's standpoint, it's challenging to uphold this on your own consistently. 
  • I've experienced this firsthand, trying to self-coach as an athlete, where I tended to focus on my strengths and preferences, potentially neglecting areas I was hesitant to explore.
  • Although I'm currently self-coached, we've both undergone coaching experiences throughout our athletic journeys. 
  • We're discussing this as coaches and athletes who've learned from working with various coaches. Staying objective is undoubtedly an essential aspect. 
  • Another valuable aspect is that having a coach is like investing in your education. The lessons you gain from any coach remain with you throughout your career. These lessons, acquired from each coach, continue to be applicable as an athlete or coach, contributing significantly to your growth and knowledge over time.
  • Furthermore, a coach often brings fresh ideas you might not have considered before, which is a decisive advantage. It's easy to become confined in your perspective. 
  • Even though you're self-coached now, your background of collaborating with diverse coaches has likely influenced your coaching style and approach. 
  • This array of influences enriches your ability to guide other individuals effectively.

Training effectiveness

06:10 -

  • I believe there are instances where having experience from multiple coaches or as an athlete is invaluable. 
  • Mistakes are common, and learning from them is part of the journey, but having a coach with lived experience can help avoid these pitfalls. The coach guides you, steering you from potential wrong paths.
  • In a solid coach-athlete relationship, learning is not one-sided. The coach gains insight from the athlete's experience and tailors advice accordingly. 
  • For instance, I typically ask new athletes about their historical experiences with tapering, intensity, and volume. It's about asking the right questions, not having all the answers, and collaboratively figuring things out.
  • A good coach-athlete partnership involves mutual questioning. Sometimes, neither has the answer; external expertise can be brought in in such cases. A coach's network becomes a valuable resource.
  • Accountability is another significant benefit. For many athletes, knowing they have a coach to answer to motivates consistent training. 
  • This doesn't mean following a plan blindly; a coach educates you on adjusting based on your feelings. 
  • Accountability underscores commitment to training, making it a crucial aspect for athletes serious about progress.
  • However, not everyone needs a coach. A coach can be a game-changer for those striving for improvement and accountability. It instils seriousness in training. 
  • I've experienced the power of accountability, altering sessions on the fly, or sticking to a set despite hurdles. This accountability is a driving force in successful training.

Athletes that might need a coach

10:38 -

  • When seeking a coach, embracing the coach-athlete relationship and being receptive to their input into your training plan is crucial. 
  • If you resist this dynamic and only seek affirmation for your existing routine, a coach might not be able to provide significant value. The type of coach you need could differ between beginners and experienced athletes. 
  • The essence of the coach-athlete relationship shapes the right choice, considering factors like their experience and philosophical approach.
  • In most cases, many individuals could benefit from having a coach, but the emphasis remains on that relationship. However, I also acknowledge that some athletes engage in sports purely for enjoyment, like triathlon, running, or cycling, without a primary focus on improvement. 
  • A coach might not be necessary for athletes who are content with the experience. Coaching shouldn't compromise the enjoyment of training, but it's vital when improvement is a central goal.
  • Ultimately, a coach should provide a pathway for enhancing your skills and performance in your chosen sport or activity. Not all athletes require coaching, especially if they prioritise the joy of participation over specific performance goals. 

Coaching and the athlete's experience level

13:00 -

  • When considering the interaction between a coach and an athlete, there are different dynamics at play based on their experience levels:
  • Beginners: For beginners without much experience, the athlete's ability to provide detailed answers to coaching questions might be limited. In such cases, coaches could be more proactive, guiding the athlete through experiments and providing learning opportunities. Instead of enforcing a single approach, coaches should be open to trying different strategies, fostering a mutual learning process.
  • Experienced Athletes: With more experienced athletes, the coach-athlete relationship tends to become more collaborative. Ideas are exchanged, and the coach becomes a partner in trying out new techniques. This partnership allows for flexibility and continuous improvement.
  • Beginners' Learning Process: For complete beginners, especially, having a local coach can be advantageous. Joining a club with coaching sessions provides the benefit of in-person guidance, especially during the early stages of triathlon learning. As basic skills are established, the necessity for in-person coaching diminishes.
  • Remote Coaching: As athletes gain more experience, remote coaching becomes more viable due to advanced communication tools. A strong coach-athlete relationship and trust are crucial, whether the coach is local or remote. While in-person coaching can offer advantages like immediate visual assessment and adaptation, remote coaching is increasingly effective with modern communication methods.
  • Global Perspectives: The rise of remote coaching allows coaches to work with athletes worldwide. This diversity offers coaches exposure to various training techniques and regional nuances. This broader perspective enhances coaches' skill sets and communication styles.
  • Advantages of Remote Coaching: The ability to bring together ideas from different regions benefits coaches and athletes. The global nature of remote coaching encourages sharing techniques and approaches, enriching the training process.

Athlete's coaching expectations

16:50 -

  • Our approach to coaching revolves around maintaining an open-door policy, ensuring that communication channels remain accessible. 
  • Athletes should feel comfortable reaching out with questions or concerns without apprehension. 
  • Unlike my recent experience with my accountant, where even a simple query felt costly, communication in a coach-athlete relationship should never induce stress. 
  • Although immediate responses may not always be feasible, the pressure to communicate promptly should never prevail.
  • Undoubtedly, the most crucial aspect is recognising that coaching is individual-focused and not merely a standardised training plan. 
  • Each athlete deserves personalised attention and tailored planning. While this seems common sense, it's worth highlighting since some athletes still believe that coaches follow a one-size-fits-all approach. 
  • This misconception is a glaring red flag that athletes should be wary of.
  • These relationships naturally evolve. For instance, athletes who initially communicated frequently might become busier due to life changes, leading to less frequent interactions. Still, when communication does happen, it becomes all the more important. 
  • Conversely, athletes should feel empowered to request more structured communication when necessary. As a coach, I welcome and incorporate this feedback into the coaching process.
  • The crux lies in the athlete's role in shaping the communication style. Various modes of communication work for different individuals. If an athlete prefers text messages, the coach should respect that. Similarly, if an athlete occasionally prefers video calls, that option should remain open. 
  • Flexibility is vital. As training is not a "my way or the highway" scenario, communication shouldn't be either. Athletes can decide whether they want more frequent calls or if updating their workout log suffices.
  • It's all about collaborative communication, where coach and athlete work together to determine the best way to interact. 
  • This isn't about rigid contractual stipulations; it's about adapting and crafting communication to serve the athlete's needs within the coaching relationship.
  • Having an open-door policy with coaches is vital. Whenever I've been under coaching, I've always valued the ability to communicate freely and ask questions. 
  • While I don't anticipate immediate responses, it's reassuring that I can reach out without waiting for a designated time or day, like waiting until a specific Sunday or a couple of weeks later to send an email or have a call.

Performance expectations

21:39 -

  • The concept of performance can take on different meanings, and this perspective extends beyond coaching. For example, for some athletes, success might entail avoiding injuries and race absences, especially for those with a history of injuries. 
  • Similarly, as athletes age, maintaining performance could be a victory; even if compared to younger competitors, they might be improving. In essence, while defining success might differ between individuals, the overarching aim of a coach-athlete relationship is improvement. 
  • This should be a shared understanding within an athlete's life circumstances.
  • Success doesn't always equate to becoming a world champion; it might be optimising performance within one's life constraints. Aligning goals is pivotal here. 
  • During our onboarding process, we delve into the athlete's objectives, extending beyond race targets to encompass other aspects such as consistency in sleep. 
  • Such personal targets are essential, as a coach can offer accountability and support.
  • When an athlete's life situation changes, as in the case of having children, it's essential to revisit goals. Coaching someone for years involves recognising evolving circumstances. 
  • Parenting might shift priorities from high-performance goals to consistent training and injury prevention, ensuring the athlete reaches race start lines in good shape. 
  • A coach must be transparent and practical. If an athlete aims to qualify for a prestigious event, but the timeline is improbable, honesty is crucial, framing realistic expectations over time.
  • The coaching journey involves balancing pushing limits and knowing when to ease off, such as during off-seasons. A coach maintains a strategic overview, relieving athletes from constant pressure. 
  • While athletes focus on immediate training, a coach should consider the broader picture, guiding the path towards long-term goals.

Getting a coach

26:15 -

  • When considering a coach, it's crucial to determine the type of feedback you seek. 
  • My personal experience has shown that the best coach for me wasn't necessarily the one who provided extensive data or sports science information. 
  • Instead, I found value in a coach who engaged in deep, philosophical conversations and empowered me. Your preferences might differ – you might desire insights into interpreting data, understanding numbers, and grasping the physiological aspects.
  • Reflect on your needs, which might evolve as you explore coaching options. Reach out to coaches with varying approaches to better understand what aligns with you. 
  • It's advisable to have conversations with multiple coaches before making a decision. This step ensures you find the right fit for your goals and personality.
  • As an athlete and a coach, I emphasise the importance of an initial call rather than relying solely on emails. This conversation helps both parties assess compatibility and expectations. Any reluctance from a coach to engage in this conversation might raise concerns.
  • After the call, allowing yourself 24 to 48 hours to mull over the decision is wise. While enthusiasm can drive a quick commitment, taking time to reflect prevents hasty choices and ensures a well-thought-out decision.
  • In terms of finding a suitable coach, personal networks can be precious. In my case, I connected with a coach, David Tilbury Davis, through a podcast where I interviewed him. 
  • His coaching philosophy resonated with mine, making him a fitting choice. Utilising your network, contacts, or individuals you know within the field can lead you to coaches who align with your needs and style.
  • When finding a coach, Google tends to be the go-to option for most people. However, beyond just a Google search, there's an alternative approach. You could explore individuals who have been mentioned in podcasts or similar platforms. 
  • Often, these podcasts provide an opportunity to listen to discussions with potential coaches for about an hour, giving you insights into their coaching style and philosophy.
  • Additionally, seeking recommendations from your athlete peers and friends can be incredibly valuable. If any of your friends have experience with a coach, they can provide firsthand insights into their coaching experience. For instance, in my case with David, my friend Rasmus was already being coached by him. 
  • This familiarity with how things worked gave me confidence in the coaching relationship.
  • This unique situation applies to only a small percentage of listeners, but in my experience, it worked well. 
  • A few years back, I was in a similar situation with David, and interestingly, one of my close friends was also being coached by him. 
  • This arrangement had an added benefit because although we received remote coaching, we shared the same coach. 
  • This allowed us to align some training sessions and strategies, especially in the lead-up to races, creating a sense of camaraderie in our training journey.

What to ask a coach as an athlete

31:43 -

  • My coaching philosophy is essentially rooted in the significance of the coach-athlete relationship, as we've previously discussed. Asking about the coach's experience, especially with athletes like me, can provide valuable insights. 
  • Although each athlete is unique, having relevant experience can guide the coaching approach. 
  • On the other hand, if the coach lacks direct experience with someone like me, there's an opportunity for collaboration and exploring innovative approaches, which can be pretty exciting.
  • The coach's background, knowledge base, and communication ability are vital factors. 
  • As you've asked me, I'd probably turn the question back to the athlete. A coach-athlete connection is often felt during discussions, and a sense of compatibility is essential. 
  • Communication is crucial, too; I'd inquire about the communication options and whether there's an open-door policy. Trusting the coach enough to share personal matters impacting training is essential. 
  • Assessing the coach's communication style and emotional intelligence is significant. 
  • If the coaching relationship feels like a dictatorship, it might not be the most productive one. 

What a coach should ask an athlete

34:44 -

  • Regarding expectations, it's vital to be honest from the start. If an athlete's ambition greatly surpasses their ability, coaches should address this early. 
  • It's about understanding what the athlete indeed aims to achieve. Sometimes, a simple goal, like consistent training, can be decisive. Recognising the athlete's past experiences, preferences, and training history is also essential. Aligning their goals with their training history can avoid potential challenges down the line.
  • Adding to this, it's crucial to evaluate the athlete's consistency and injury history. Their ability to adhere to training and their susceptibility to injuries are essential factors for goal alignment. The coach's role in keeping them healthy is significant, but athletes also share responsibility for consistency.
  • Identifying any red flags or potential misalignments is vital. For example, if an athlete follows a restrictive diet, coaches should discuss how it fits into their training plan. 
  • Addressing such issues early prevents misunderstandings later on.
  • From an athlete's perspective, feeling comfortable around the coach is essential. Andy Kirkland's suggestion of being at ease eating an ice cream in front of the coach illustrates this. 
  • If discussing diet makes an athlete uncomfortable, it's a warning sign that needs attention as it could lead to potential issues.

Coaching pricing

39:29 -

  • I once coached an athlete who compared my fees to the cost of a personal trainer and found it empowering. 
  • That kind of perspective serves as a yardstick. Prices for coaching can vary greatly, considering the coach's experience, knowledge, and what they offer in terms of communication and personalisation. 
  • It's akin to other fields where experience and expertise justify higher prices.
  • For us, we have our pricing available on the website. I don't usually mention prices in podcasts because they're evergreen, and it's better to refer to the website for up-to-date information. 
  • Some coaches don't list prices on their websites, which is standard across industries. We prefer transparency; that's fine if our pricing isn't suitable for someone. 
  • I believe our coaching offers excellent value. We have customised plans, distinct from coaching, where you get a personalised plan based on your questionnaire. 
  • While it lacks communication, I aim for coaching to provide the best value compared to customised and readymade plans.
  • Pricing should consider individual willingness and ability to spend. Quality and price might be correlated, but it's not always linear.
  •  You weigh the trade-off when discussing fees with a coach. Think about whether it seems worth it for you. Comparing it to the personal trainer example is wise. 
  • Triathletes often invest in gear, but coaching can save money by guiding equipment choices. Consider whether upgrading a bike or investing in coaching aligns better with your goals.
  • Absolutely. When considering coaching fees, there are often hidden costs that athletes might not immediately recognise. As a coach, I must account for various expenses such as taxes, training equipment, internet, and phone services. While these are part of running a coaching business, they are factored into the overall pricing structure. 
  • Athletes need to be aware of these factors as well. The pricing they see isn't equivalent to the actual take-home earnings for the coach.

Coaching timeline

44:33 -

  • Regarding the timeline of an athlete-coach relationship, I believe it can be extended as long as it remains productive. 
  • Real-world examples of elite athletes working with coaches demonstrate their effectiveness. 
  • The key is the coach's willingness to seek external advice and involve other experts when necessary. This approach helps acknowledge that one doesn't know everything and can benefit from diverse insights.
  • As for the three months leading up to a race, it's a bit of a dilemma. From a coach's perspective, I recognise the challenge. 
  • Establishing effective communication styles and training methods requires time. As the saying goes, "The same man never crosses the same river twice," What worked for an athlete previously may not yield identical results for another. 
  • This learning process, spanning a longer athlete-coach relationship, involves experimentation, adaptation, and gaining different perspectives.
  • Determining an optimal timeline for coaching is complex, and rapid interventions, like those 10 to 12 weeks before a race, may yield some results but could be less than optimal. 
  • Clear communication about expectations becomes crucial here. Training in endurance sports demands patience. 
  • Significant improvements are gradual and can't occur within a month or two. However, a short-term coaching arrangement can still be valuable regarding consultations leading up to a race, involving discussions about race strategy, nutrition, hydration, and tapering.
  • Long-term athlete-coach relationships make sense as long as they lead to improvement. The top-level athletes who continually work with coaches and keep progressing underline this. 
  • There's room for individualisation in a shorter time frame, especially in areas like pacing over 12 weeks. 
  • Even if specific metrics don't substantially improve on paper, athletes may enhance their performance subtly, contributing to overall success. Adapting pacing strategies over time is just one example of how coaching can lead to progress.

When a long-term coaching relationship has run its course

49:12 -

  • There are times when stopping coaching is a natural progression, like when life events such as having children or changing career paths occur. 
  • I stopped racing professionally, which naturally led to not needing coaching. 
  • Sometimes, athletes are urged to explore different avenues, which can be pretty empowering. 
  • Each coach brings unique perspectives, methods, and communication styles, and seeking change can introduce novel experiences and stimuli that are also valuable.

Coaching pricing

44:33 -

  • Regarding the timeline of an athlete-coach relationship, I believe it can be extended as long as it remains productive. 
  • Real-world examples of elite athletes working with coaches demonstrate their effectiveness. 
  • The key is the coach's willingness to seek external advice and involve other experts when necessary. This approach helps acknowledge that one doesn't know everything and can benefit from diverse insights.
  • As for the three months leading up to a race, it's a bit of a dilemma. From a coach's perspective, I recognise the challenge. 
  • Establishing effective communication styles and training methods requires time. As the saying goes, "The same man never crosses the same river twice," What worked for an athlete previously may not yield identical results for another. 
  • This learning process, spanning a longer athlete-coach relationship, involves experimentation, adaptation, and gaining different perspectives.
  • Determining an optimal timeline for coaching is complex, and rapid interventions, like those 10 to 12 weeks before a race, may yield some results but could be less than optimal. 
  • Clear communication about expectations becomes crucial here. Training in endurance sports demands patience. 
  • Significant improvements are gradual and can't occur within a month or two. However, a short-term coaching arrangement can still be valuable regarding consultations leading up to a race, involving discussions about race strategy, nutrition, hydration, and tapering.
  • Long-term athlete-coach relationships make sense as long as they lead to improvement. The top-level athletes who continually work with coaches and keep progressing underline this. 
  • There's room for individualisation in a shorter time frame, especially in areas like pacing over 12 weeks. 
  • Even if specific metrics don't substantially improve on paper, athletes may enhance their performance subtly, contributing to overall success. Adapting pacing strategies over time is just one example of how coaching can lead to progress.

When a long-term coaching relationship has run its course

49:12 -

  • There are times when stopping coaching is a natural progression, like when life events such as having children or changing career paths occur. 
  • I stopped racing professionally, which naturally led to not needing coaching. 
  • Sometimes, athletes are urged to explore different avenues, which can be pretty empowering. 
  • Each coach brings unique perspectives, methods, and communication styles, and seeking change can introduce novel experiences and stimuli that are also valuable.

Listener questions

Mark Matthew's thoughts on self-coaching

50:46 -

  • I believe the arguments presented in the podcast aren't about coaching but extreme examples that lack integrity. 
  • Coaches serious about their work wouldn't provide athletes with a basic template training plan without customisation. This approach forces athletes to fit their lives into a rigid plan without any input, leading to potential boredom and burnout. 
  • While these points have been addressed, one aspect we haven't discussed is training with other people.
  • Both of us consider training with others as an integral part of coaching. It's not just something athletes can do; at times, coaches may recommend it as an intervention to help athletes improve in certain areas. 
  • For instance, joining a swim squad to enhance swimming skills or riding with cyclists to improve bike handling. Training buddies can be beneficial for pushing each other during runs. 
  • Integrating training with others into the coaching plan maintains a broader perspective and can be adjusted to ensure effectiveness.
  • While there might be rare instances where training with others might not be suitable due to specific circumstances, in general, it's encouraged for its psychological benefits and the chance to socialise. 
  • Additionally, when choosing a coach, considering athlete turnover is essential. 
  • A coach's ability to maintain long-term relationships indicates their commitment beyond financial gain. If a coach consistently builds lasting relationships, it's a positive sign of their dedication and effectiveness.
  • Considering coaches, it's worth asking how many athletes a coach handles and how effectively they manage them. While not a common practice, there are instances where coaches handle a significant number of athletes, which can compromise individual attention. 
  • However, not all coaches adopt this approach, as highlighted in the Mark Matthews podcast, which might have portrayed a more widespread scenario than exists.
  • The highest number of athletes I've heard being coached by one person is 150, a seemingly impossible workload. 
  • Conversely, coaches often tailor plans to an athlete's life, adjusting training to their schedules. 
  • In my experience, I frequently seek information about an athlete's commitments and upcoming plans to align the training regimen. 
  • This dynamic contrasts the perception that athletes must mould their lives around a coach's plan.
  • For amateur athletes, it's the other way around. Life obligations such as family, work, and set routines take precedence, and training must work around them. 
  • This reality underscores the need for personalised training, as some aspects of life cannot be altered. 
  • Hence, we individualise training plans rather than imposing template routines on athletes.
  • I can provide examples, like individuals working night, day, evening, or overnight shifts. 
  • If you're providing a generic training plan, it's unlikely to be effective. The coach should constantly tailor the plan to suit the athlete's unique schedule and optimise the available time. 
  • If this individualisation is lacking, it's a significant concern.

What athletes need to do to develop a coach/athlete relationship

57:53 -

  • One of the most valuable aspects I appreciate is feedback, even if it's not always positive. Constructive criticism is crucial for growth, much like in any profession. 
  • As a coach, it's essential to foster an environment where athletes feel comfortable giving positive feedback and areas that need improvement. 
  • Coaching is a service industry, and athletes should feel at ease sharing their expectations and concerns so that coaches can provide the best possible support.
  • In our coaching approach, it's not just a coach-athlete relationship but a broader connection. We develop close bonds with athletes, becoming friends as well as mentors. 
  • I recently married, and my athletes' congratulatory messages showed me this relationship goes beyond coaching. 
  • They genuinely care about me as a person, just as I care about them.
  • This close relationship often extends to knowing the athlete's family, partner, children, and pets. Keeping communication channels open is essential, and athletes sharing feedback about their training through platforms like TrainingPeaks is a crucial practice. 
  • Timely updates about missed workouts and plan alterations keep the coaching process transparent and effective. It's all about maintaining a mutually respectful and communicative dynamic.

What makes an age group coach happy

1:00:56 -

  • A strong coach-athlete relationship with effective communication and valuable feedback is gratifying. It facilitates the coach's ability to excel in their role. 
  • Meeting in person, even in remote coaching, can elevate the relationship. This can be achieved through training camps, coinciding races, or personal trips.
  • I've experienced these scenarios repeatedly, managing to meet almost every one of my athletes over time. 
  • I have another meet-up planned at an upcoming race. Both athletes and coaches should seize opportunities to connect whenever feasible. 
  • Despite being located on a somewhat remote island in Australia, I've found that training camps have proven immensely valuable for fostering connections, particularly with European and US athletes. 
  • Hosting camps has notably enhanced relationships, marking a powerful tool for taking the coach-athlete dynamic to new heights.

The best time of the year for having a coach

1:03:22 -

  • If you're considering coaching, I would advise starting sooner rather than later. Even if you're preparing for a race in June 2024 with a four-month coaching budget, it's better to begin now for a few key reasons:
  • Accumulating Benefits: Just like investing early for compound interest, starting coaching early provides good training you can build upon. Waiting might result in less effective training at the beginning.
  • Educational Value: Engaging with a coach allows you to experience and learn from their training advice. This knowledge can be applied to your training over the following months, creating a foundation for continuous improvement.
  • Comprehensive Guidance: Coaching isn't just about training plans; it covers equipment, nutrition, hydration, injury prevention, sleep, and more. Starting early gives you access to a wealth of knowledge across various aspects of performance.
  • Maximising Value: Initiating coaching sooner provides significant guidance and knowledge you wouldn't have otherwise. This maximises the benefits you gain from the coaching relationship.
  • Additionally, you might consider periodic consults if you have a limited budget and around 12 months until a target race. 
  • Rather than a continuous coaching plan, these shorter sessions, maybe every second month, can provide insights and advice for the upcoming weeks. 
  • This approach can offer direction without the commitment of a complete coaching package, making the most of your resources.

AI and coaching

1:05:54 -

  • AI in coaching currently adapts to specific metrics but relies on pre-designed workouts created by coaches.
  • Human insight is crucial to differentiate odd metrics due to hardware issues from meaningful data.
  • The coach-athlete relationship is a valuable learning experience, allowing athletes to shape their training and discover what works for them.
  • AI could be helpful in minimising time spent on repetitive tasks like building workouts, thus allowing coaches to focus more on other essential aspects.
  • The future trend in coaching might involve coaches dedicating less time to routine tasks and more to skill development, such as psychology and philosophy.
  • Coaches will likely need holistic knowledge, including emotional intelligence and effective communication, to individualise training.
  • Evidence-informed practice, integrating evidence, experience, lifestyle, and environmental factors, will continue to be essential in coaching.
  • AI's current limitation lies in the necessity for immaculate input data, as it struggles to discern nuances like incorrect or missing data.
  • AI's ability to recognise anomalies like heart rate traces from different devices remains challenging, making human oversight vital.
  • The potential of AI is undeniable, but its full integration into coaching will require advancements in data handling and interpretation.
  • Some athletes diligently provide accurate data, often acknowledging when their heart rate readings aren't precise due to using a watch instead of a monitor. 
  • Occasionally, I have to be the one identifying these discrepancies. This challenge with accurate data is still an issue for AI to tackle.
  • Furthermore, AI's prescriptions are generally based on a database of workouts. While this can be useful, it tends to offer very prescriptive and rigid training plans, lacking the adaptability and flexibility that some of our more customised training methods possess. 
  • For example, workouts like "soul miles" for enjoying the ride or splice workouts where athletes have autonomy over their pacing might be more challenging for AI to create. The AI tends to provide overly robotic plans, and this rigidity isn't always optimal.
  • I'm not overly concerned about AI threatening my coaching role. Although I was offered a position at an AI company, I declined because I believe that while AI can save time, it won't reach a level where it can replace human coaches, especially in high-performance sports like Olympic-level coaching. The irreplaceable bond and nuanced understanding that develops between coaches and athletes in those elite spaces cannot be replicated by AI.
  • Regarding training plans, my experience as an athlete and understanding of race dynamics heavily influence my coaching decisions. Developing sessions based on how I believe a race might unfold is crucial for preparing athletes for various scenarios. AI has a long way to go in that aspect.
  • AI's easiest potential lies in improving an athlete's physiology, but that's only one facet of performance. Recognising race dynamics, such as how a race will play out, can be challenging for AI. For instance, it might suggest power targets, but sometimes, power alone doesn't guarantee speed. 
  • Understanding an athlete's limitations, whether it's power, aerodynamics, or fueling, requires a deep level of comprehension and intuition that a coach brings. A coach can often discern if an athlete isn't fueling sufficiently through conversation, which might be cumbersome if input into an AI system.

Mikael final thoughts

1:16:16 -

  • On the topic of whether an athlete can achieve the same level of improvement through self-education rather than having a coach, I'd like to add the following points:
  • It is indeed possible for some athletes to self-educate and improve without a coach, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Most athletes benefit significantly from having a coach, and if an athlete doesn't see improvement with coaching, it could be due to factors like choosing the wrong coach.
  • Comparing this scenario to seeking medical advice, medical treatment sometimes doesn't yield the expected results. However, this doesn't mean medical advice is generally ineffective. The same applies to coaching; individual outcomes can vary.
  • It's unlikely that an athlete, alongside their training, work, and family commitments, can invest the necessary time to acquire the depth of knowledge and education that a competent coach possesses. While self-learning is valuable, a coach's expertise is honed through extensive, focused experience.
  • Even if an athlete dedicates their life to self-education, they are essentially on the path to becoming a coach. This is a commendable pursuit but emphasises that coaching isn't just about accumulating theoretical knowledge. 
  • It involves the art of applying that knowledge effectively in practice.
  • Even if you, as an athlete, possess a deep understanding of physiology and sports science, having a coach can still be incredibly valuable. 
  • It's not just about your knowledge but how you complement each other as a team. A coach brings objectivity and practical experience that might be missing even with extensive self-education.
  • Moreover, coaches benefit from a network of peers. When a coach has a close relationship with several other coaches, it creates an advantage. 
  • They can engage in ongoing conversations, share ideas, and receive feedback and critique. This dynamic exchange of ideas offers fresh perspectives, strengthens weaker areas, and leverages their strengths.
  • As a personal example, when I decided to learn how to surf, I found countless instructional videos on YouTube. While these videos provided information, my coach accelerated my progress. 
  • Through small group lessons with experienced coaches, I received objective feedback and corrected my mistakes. Watching one YouTube video would have taken me much longer to get started. The parallel here is that information is readily available online, but practical application in practice often requires guidance from a skilled coach.
  • However, I want to emphasise that having a coach is not a one-size-fits-all solution. 
  • As we discussed earlier, There are valid reasons for having a coach and for not having one. 
  • The point I'm making is that for those deeply interested in the theory of training, understanding the actual value of coaching may provide a different perspective.

LINKS AND RESOURCES:


Bernardo Gonçalves

Bernardo is a Portuguese elite cyclist and co-founder of SpeedEdge Performance, a company focused on optimising cycling and triathlon performance. He writes the shownotes for That Triathlon Show, and also produces social media content for each new episode.

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