Coach Joy Duerksen takes a moment to look back at some of the lessons she's learned on how to communicate with "grown-up" athletes. She shares her three top lessons and suggestions on how to strengthen your relationship with your client through the way you talk to them.
I am new to coaching. Let me take that back. I am a new Cycling coach. I have coached junior high softball and volleyball along with high school varsity girl’s basketball. I have BEEN coached since 6th grade softball all the way through playing four years of collegiate basketball. That adds up to 9 separate teams I have been an athlete on while performing under the tutelage of at least 15 distinctly different coaches. To top it off I am 8 years into an illustrious career as a physical education teacher.
The above synopsis of my coach/athlete experience has done me wonders in laying a solid foundation for being a cycling coach. My quiver is full of motivational dribble that could last until spring break and my mind is stacked with drills, reps, game plans and lesson plans which on paper, could make the newest novice a success.
However, I have quickly come to learn that coaching grown athletes with real jobs and lives via the internet is an exciting new challenge with its own set of rules and maps to success.
What I have learned over the past 5 months:
- Much is lost in translation. If you think things can be misunderstood in a phone conversation, try communicating through brief workout descriptions! Be precise, outline the goal/point of the workout, and break down your “coach language” into phrases your working athletes can understand! Begin each workout with “the athlete will learn/build/improve/develop…”
- If you are asked a “silly” question, rewind back to some of the things you asked in your first months as a coached athlete, and you will sound just as silly. Your algebraic equations that act as intervals need to be broken down at times and if one athlete asks, there are probably 3 more that have the same question. Accept some of the responsibility and temper your response like this: “sorry my workout didn’t make sense and thank you so much for the heads up! This is what we are looking for in this workout…” In my mind, I am super clear and everyone should understand me. Not so much in the real world.
- The way you respond to your athlete can make or break their day. Affirm, affirm, affirm! In teacher school, we learned the sandwich method: Affirm behavior, correct behavior, affirm behavior. Make an Oreo out of a reprimand. Example: “You are doing a great job of completing the interval sets. Let’s try to stay closer to your prescribed workout times though so we can avoid burn-out. Your commitment is awesome!” With brief email replies, our remote athletes really hinge on what we say about them and their progress. Make it a point to find occasions for positive affirmation so that when a learning and building experience comes up, you will have a solid trust foundation in place!
I have learned many more important lessons over the past 5 months, many of which I am still trying to digest. I have found that building a relationship with the athlete while providing structure and accountability all play an intricate role in the success of the athlete.
Joy received a B.S. in Physical Education and Commercial Fitness from Pacific Union College and during the summer of 2010, she completed both the USAC Coaching certification and the ACE Personal Training certification in order to pursue her dream of coaching athletes of all levels. Joy is also an avid cyclist. The 2010 season brought Joy into her 3rd season racing as Professional mountain bike racer. She also made the segway into road cycling, racing the majority of the season on skinny tires as a cat 2. She also races cyclocross from time to time and would love to hit up a pump track in the near future. You can learn more about Joy and her company on the Big Wheel Coaching website.