Like mentioned in the “What it takes” series, being a competitive athlete means a lot of commitment and sacrifice, for a considerable amount of time. In order to put in the work, an important issue that directly affects the athlete’s motivation is trusting the training program that the athlete follows. Only from 100% commitment to the work you are putting you can expect success. And 100% commitment is not possible without 100% trust.
There are many coaches that advise their athletes to stay away from the Internet forums, with some of them even policing the forums in search for posts from their athletes. According to them, Internet forums only serve to corrupt and to confuse the athletes, making them doubt their own training. It seems that for some coaches, the ideal athlete is the one that never has doubts, never questions and follows blindly the teachings of the coach.
Not surprisingly, I have the opposite position. I believe that if an athlete fully trusts the training program he or she is following, then nothing that they pick up from a forum discussion is going to make them lose their belief in what they are doing. And even if they question some things themselves, it’s the coach’s job to explain, educate his/hers athletes about what they are doing and how it fits the bigger picture of the athlete’s development. Paraphrasing Jack Daniels, if a coach cannot explain to his athlete why he/she needs to do a particular session, then the athlete should not feel obliged to do it.
Quite frankly, I have trouble understanding the thinking behind the censory attitude from the above mentioned coaches. With very few exceptions, Jack Daniels posting on letsrun.com being the most notable one, the Internet forums are populated with what I like to call the “n=1” crowd. The ones that because they have only their own experience to relate to, cannot see beyond their own reality. You know those people as well as me: the masters athlete with over 15 years experience in coaching himself to mediocre results; the coach that only talks about his own experience as an athlete; the “coach” that uses the title without coaching a single athlete; the self-appointed expert with zero credentials since he posts anonymously. What kind of athlete that works with a knowledgeable coach will doubt his/her own program when reading what the self-appointed “experts” have to say? What real coach will feel threatened by what his athletes read on the Internet? Both of these insecurities do not have a place in a healthy coach/athlete relationship.
Obviously the issue of trust is not only for the athlete, but for the coach as well. The coach needs to trust his/her knowledge and ability to help the athlete achieve the goals, as that trust will instill on the athlete the trust that he/she is doing the right kind of work.
The issue of trust is very important because trust builds belief. As everyone knows, belief is a very powerful emotion. When you believe in yourself and on what you’re doing, there are no boundaries to what you can accomplish. And that’s the place you want to be in order to fulfill your potential.