As much as I would like to welcome in the spring months of March and April, February is just too short to complete all the necessary tasks required to successfully prepare for the new racing season ahead. Despite this continued time pressure, our athletes heralded this return with some excellent early season racing at the weekend at both half marathons and at the Ashridge Duathlon. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves as athletes to always perform well and, as a coach I have the added pressure of taking responsibility for balancing an athletes desire for a strong early season performance with a need to remain focused on the A races later in the season. This can require some sensitive balancing of training, maintaining momentum and improvements in performance but still enabling a positive outcome to help retain athlete enthusiasm. Judging by Sunday’s results, so far so good!
This is, of course, only one of the challenges of coaching and, at the end of a busy month of coach education for Triathlon England completing Level 2 courses in West Sussex, Leeds and Crystal Palace, these new coaches will find that far harder tasks await them throughout their coaching careers. In fact, it was on the early morning drive into London last Saturday that I was reminded of one of these challenges, the remarkable research highlighting that bees can not only be taught skills but that they are then able to pass on this education to other bees. As ever, what is in reality a key principle of education and, more specifically, coach education, has been lost in the triviality of the popular press. The BBC have associated this learning with football and that bees are able to score goals. Even the Science Magazine (or the on-line version, at least) is focusing on the innovation of the bees in resolving this challenge.
Whilst I do not want to be seen to be playing down the skill displayed by bees…they after all have been successfully adapting to the challenge of living alongside civilization (such as that is). But it is only in the early hours, and probably only on radio, that scientists are allowed anything more than the opportunity to offer the most basic of sound bites. Even then, I can’t put this down to the journalistic skill of the radio presenter and nor was the scientist keen to tell the world of what, to me at least, was the punch line. It was approaching the end of the interview when it became apparent that the scientists had been trying to train the bees for some time but this had been without success. As we now discover, this was not an inability of the bees to be trained, but an inability of the coach (the scientist) to find the correct method of demonstration from which the bees could learn. As a coach and, even more importantly, as a coach educator, this is an extremely important lesson to learn for two reasons.
Firstly, this reminds us that the coach may have to be selective in assigning a teaching methodology to ensure that every athlete has the best chance at learning. Although learning theory has been debunked in coaching circles if not educational ones, the coach still needs to be creative in delivery style, especially if not everyone is learning at the same pace. Secondly, and more importantly, however, what we can learn from the bees is that all too often we discount many people because they can’t swim or can’t run and yet, is it not possible or even probably that the coach simply hasn’t found the correct coaching strategy? If bees can be taught to score goals, surely there is nothing beyond us all if we have a coach who is sufficiently patient in seeking the correct coaching strategy and the athlete sufficiently motivated to do the work. This is certainly food for thought, as the bees almost certainly didn’t say.
Returning to projects that are closer to home; March sees another action packed month. Another Level 2 Triathlon Coach education course starts this weekend in Lincoln and then Sarah and I are putting the final preparations into place for the St-Michel-de-Vax training camp. We still have a number of places available for this camp which is all inclusive from airport collection to departure. Our colleague in France, Britta Sorensen, has been working very hard to make this opportunity available and I have just seen Sarah’s proposed meal plan to keep the athletes (and coaches) going which looks great. The outdoor heated pool is perfect for early season training and for confirming pace and the Tour de France roads offer a chance to stretch out. Add in the beautiful scenery for running and to learn some bike handling skills climbing and descending Milhars. Although we aim to be repeating the camp in future, the introductory price remains unrepeatable, so please confirm soonest if you wish to join us.
The camp will mean that Sarah and I will travel out on the 15th March and therefore I will aim to get most of the training plans out to athletes before we go. I will of course be contactable during this time but there may be a slightly delayed response so please be patient!
Finally, it is great to have a few athletes return and to share a new set of objectives with you and to welcome some new athletes to the fold and to look forward to assisting you in achieving your athletic aspirations.