Better Coach: Athlete or Non-athlete?

Paleo box

I’m sitting in my new favourite café ‘Fuel’ in Clontarf.

I have my café favourites in genres.

I wouldn’t be going to fuel for a dirty dessert put it that way.

It’s very paleo driven and I really like it, plus it fits in nicely with the new food plan.

The coffee comes in a glass though, they need to sort that shit out.

A flat white in a glass fair enough but an Americano in a glass is just plain uncomfortable!

Today I had a good chat with guy who looks set to be my supervisor for my upcoming sports science thesis.

A conversation arose, which was the tendency of world class or elite athletes not making the transition into word class coaches.

He asked me why?

I have been an elite athlete and now I’d consider myself a leading coach in Ireland in terms of credibility and experience.

So yes, I have personally made that transition and this is why he wanted my opinion.

Both have coached me too!

I’ve had both former elite bike riders coach me, and lads that wouldn’t peddle out of the way look after me too.

What have I learned?

Both tend to have their distinct advantages and disadvantages in my experience.

The non-athlete tends to be well read, has done the courses and bought the ticket so to speak.

They know what sessions work and what effect they illicit on the body physiologically.

But when it comes to the crunch, have they been there?

I remember getting contrary after a session and stating,

“Sure how the fuck would you know what it feels like?”

Although still a good mate, (surprisingly) I had lost him as a coach.

Subconsciously I just didn’t respect him enough as a coach anymore, clearly!

The athlete on the other hand has been there.

Although this can be both positive and negative!

He or she understands what you’re going through at a personal level, so straight away the coached individual feels accountability towards you.

“What did you do or how did you feel in that situation”?

This responsibility is something that’s often taken too lightly by coaches, especially in the case of young athletes.

You’re essentially in charge of a big proportion of their lives and your influence can be profound.

The downside of the elite athlete turn coach is that they have often picked up irreversible bad habits.

They can preach about what worked for them and apply that same training, but can they answer ‘the why’?

This was once me!

I rode internationally and abroad professionally.

Through pure graft and determination I moved tediously through the ranks.

I learned the process over 10 years.

You’ve a fully-fledged career in motion if you went any other route at that stage!

So why still couldn’t I put the wheels in motion and become a super coach?

I knew what I was doing but ‘WHY’ was the problem.

I couldn’t answer the simple questions, threshold today why? Sprint block why? Three minutes recovery, why? Less than eight seconds is considered a-lactate, why?

All coaches have their own philosophies and this is super important but I believe for a former elite athlete to take their coaching to the top level they need to go back and learn the ‘why’?

Our experience combined with the knowledge of ‘the why’ makes us at A1 different.

Our plans and coaching not only offers guidance through experience but also through the latest science.

What would I say to the younger me?

Start learning ‘the why’ pronto!

The bigger part you play in your own coaching i.e. the degree of autonomy the better.

When you’re doing a session ask yourself what it’s doing at physiological level?

If you don’t know read about it!

Sometimes the ease of having a question answered for you ruins that learning process.

You never stop learning and cycling is a great example of that, I still learn something new every week out on the bike and I think this is the key.

The day you think you know it all in this sport is the day you stop progressing.

We want to not only make you the fastest cyclist you can be, but also one that knows the suss!

Has a good degree of autonomy and isn’t just out to follow orders.

We want you guys to learn this stuff, believe me when you start learning ‘the why’- you begin realise so much more about this wonderful sport.

See you on the road,

Aaron Buggle

About the Author