Re­mem­ber to keep lis­ten­ing and don’t ever think you know ev­ery­thing, says Steve Trew

Triathlon Plus - - Contents - Steve Trew Steve is still learn­ing – but when the num­bers get big and the words get long, he finds it tough! Steve is an ad­vi­sory coach for Speedo. He can be con­tacted for all things triathlon on trew@per­son­­

Steve Trew ex­plains why you must never think you know it all.

About one mil­lion years ago, I was look­ing af­ter the Bri­tish Triathlon Fed­er­a­tion (then the BTA) coach education pro­gramme. It was early days and triathlon coaches were just be­gin­ning to get ac­cred­ited. It was an ex­cit­ing time to be in on the ground floor of coach­ing.

One week­end, the morn­ing ses­sion was over, and one coach came out of the lecture room, car­ry­ing his backpack. “Ev­ery­thing al­right?” I asked him. “I don’t think I can learn any­thing here, I’m off home,” he replied.

This par­tic­u­lar coach was fairly well known, he’d had some suc­cess at in­ter­na­tional level with one ath­lete, but he felt that he couldn’t learn any­thing new. How can you judge that from a cou­ple of hours in­put? How can you judge the next speaker on the pre­vi­ous one? How dare you think that you know it all?

I have been lucky enough to work with and to learn from some ex­tra­or­di­nary coaches in triathlon, swim­ming, cy­cling and run­ning. I have used that old coaches cliché method, CASE, (not Com­pare, Adapt, Spec­ify, Ex­am­ine but rather Copy And Steal Ev­ery­thing) by copy­ing, steal­ing and learn­ing from th­ese coaches.

I have been priv­i­leged to stand pool­side with Dan Bul­lock, with Archie and Robin Brew and I have learned and learned. My lit­tle coaches note­book has oc­ca­sion­ally burst into flame as I’ve been writ­ing so quickly, try­ing to take down ev­ery pearl of wis­dom, ev­ery as­pect of tech­nique, ev­ery nu­ance of skill and stroke that th­ese su­perb coaches have ap­plied to the group in the wa­ter.

I’ve spent far too many nights in ho­tel rooms with my good friend and su­per suc­cess­ful coach Chris Jones. We have lit­er­ally talked un­til the dawn has started to break; talk­ing new ideas, talk­ing old ideas with maybe a cou­ple of sub­tle tweaks to make them more rel­e­vant to triathlon than one spe­cific dis­ci­pline. I’ve spent so many evenings at ma­jor com­pe­ti­tions talk­ing to, lis­ten­ing to and learn­ing from coaches in dif­fer­ent sports. Soak­ing up words from Jur­gen Grob­ler in row­ing, lis­ten­ing to Jon Isaacs and Mike McFarlane in track sprint­ing, Bud Bal­daro in dis­tance run­ning. There are so many things to learn in so many dif­fer­ent ar­eas.

Okay, you prob­a­bly won’t learn stun­ningly dif­fer­ent tech­niques or fab­u­lous new meth­ods ev­ery time you sit in on a coach­ing sem­i­nar. But even then, isn’t it nice to hear meth­ods and philoso­phies and re­alise that, yes, that’s pretty much what you’re do­ing. When you find your­self sit­ting there, lis­ten­ing and nod­ding your head in af­fir­ma­tion, and think­ing “I must be do­ing some­thing right”, it’s a good feel­ing! I re­mem­ber lis­ten­ing to Dave Brails­ford talk­ing about his vi­sion for Bri­tish cy­cling in a coach­ing con­fer­ence and com­ing away think­ing, not “I can do that” but rather, “I must do that”.

To be in­spired by other coaches is a tremen­dous thing; maybe the spin-off is that you want to help and in­spire other coaches. The men­tor­ing as­pect of coach­ing has al­ways seemed to me to be one of the quick­est and hands on way of get­ting new coaches valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence. It in­vites work­ing to­gether, tak­ing joint re­spon­si­bil­ity and learn­ing how to do things in dif­fer­ent ways.

It is some­times ques­tioned if, as coaches, we should en­cour­age our ath­letes to join other coaches in work­shops or re­gional camps. To me, if we don’t do that we are dis­play­ing our anx­i­ety that “our” ath­letes will leave us and go to a new coach. Ath­letes need to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for them­selves, they need to be able to see and ex­pe­ri­ence other views, other ways of train­ing. Ath­letes change coaches, some ath­letes change coaches fre­quently, some ath­letes (Carl Lewis in track, Michael Phelps in swim­ming) re­main with their coaches their whole ca­reer. But when an ath­lete de­cides to go from one coach to an­other, for the old coach, this can be a real up­set. One coach likened it to your first boyfriend/girl­friend leav­ing you. But it hap­pens and you have to get on with it. Make no mis­take, if you cling too hard to an ath­lete, they will def­i­nitely seek ad­vice else­where. As you get a lit­tle older and a lit­tle more ex­pe­ri­enced, you ac­cept that ath­letes will move around, ath­letes will come to you from their pre­vi­ous coach. So what do you do? Well, you phone them up and ask ques­tions; you lis­ten and you learn. It never, ever stops.

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