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The competing coach

30 May 2013 2 Comments

One of the guys said “It must be hard to get in and train on your own when the squad has finished”, as I was about to get into the pool this morning. It made me think a about it a bit. I thought, the rest of the squad has finished training, they’re having a coffee or breakfast, and now they’re off to work. They all work at fairly responsible jobs.

In fact most of them have demanding jobs, and families, yet they find time for their training because that’s their passion. They manage to balance their lives around work, family commitments and training. There’s not much difference for the coach who still enjoys competing. I’ve read a facebook post from another coach who was criticising coaches who train with their squads for not being coaches. He has never been an athlete himself in the twenty years I’ve known him.

When I coach a squad session I am on the pool deck coaching. But like my athletes, I fit my training around my work. I join them on long rides, and it’s amazing what I see when in the group. I am constantly reading body language, I know as soon as an athlete changes his/her mindset. In fact I believe I am a more effective coach by being in the group, watching, guiding and encouraging developing athletes during their training. My younger, stronger athletes are often in a more advanced group on a similar course to the group I train in.

I personally feel that setting an example is an important role for a coach. A few years ago I met Wayne Bennett when he was the State of Origin football team coach. He was training in the gym with the team. We had one important thing in common, we had flat bellies. Unlike many of the other coaches, especially swim coaches.

Most of the members of my squad fit more into a life than a “normal” person of their age can manage. We have managers, engineers, accountants, IT professionals, air traffic controllers, paramedics, PTs and students. Every one of them manage to  fit their training around their family commitments, their work commitments and social engagements. Fitting my training around my coaching commitments is easy compared to what they have to do.

I believe that myself and the guys in the squad who are in their sixties and seventies have a responsibility to set an example for the younger squad members. We unconsciously set a standard which inspires our younger members. I don’t have any trouble doing my training after the squad has packed their gear away, in fact I’m energised by the passion I see them put into every session. I’m inspired by the way they encourage each other and support each other through hard times. If I didn’t get in and do my training while they recovered, I’d feel I was letting them down.

When we suffer together on long hard days, we share a bond which others rarely understand. When we race we share a passion for what we do and every time we see one of our mates we dig a little deeper, hold our form a little better, and smile as we push to the limits. If I wasn’t a coach, I’d be a squad member just the same.


  • Tim said:

    Good article Al.

  • John Lee said:

    Percy Cerutty on of Australia’s/ great Athletic coaches trained with his athletes always trying to out do them on the sandhills at Portsea Percy always said You might train faster but you will never train hard than him.

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