Monday, August 4, 2008

All aboard the BS bandwagon!

After Chrissie Wellington’s spectacular win at Ironman Hawaii last October (Veni, vidi, vici, for all you Asterix fans out there), it seems that a lot of people in the triathlon community are scrambling to get on the newest bandwagon: the Brett Sutton bandwagon. This bandwagon has been around for a while now, but before it was basically composed of those that merely model themselves after the master, but lack BS’ experience and, more importantly, results. Now there’s a mob of people trying to hop on the BS bandwagon.

Last week I was with some friends, and one of them had this month’s editions of the two tri-rags. They both had stories about BS, about his “secrets”, what makes him so special. The Inside Triathlon piece is the one that goes into more depth. In that piece, the writer noted that Chrissie Wellington was riding with a very low cadence, that might be the secret right there, let’s make a note of that! What surprised me more was that, some things that I assume that every coach would know, are presented as novelties, as secrets. I also had a coach friend of mine email me, asking about what I knew about BS’ approach. He wanted to know what swim workouts he prescribed, how a typical week was structured. Slowtwitch is publishing a two-part interview with BS (it’s got to be in two parts, there’s so much to learn!). Stay tuned for the second part, they’re going to talk about training! Hope everyone has their pencil and notebook ready!

What is funny about all this interest in BS is that here is a guy that’s been a high level triathlon coach for close to 20 years. Here’s the coach that produced such amazing athletes as Greg Bennett, Joanne King, Siri Lindley, Lorretta Harrop, Emma Snowsill and now Chrissie Wellington. And for the Kona-centered triathlon industry, because he coaches the current Ironman champion, it’s like he just arrived to the scene.

Even with all this interest in BS’ methods, the real question here is: All those that are jumping on the bandwagon, are they learning anything from the man? Are they going to go to a remote location and focus solely on training? Are they going to do the 50-60k swim weeks full of paddles and band swimming? Are they going to throw away the powermeters and GPS’? Are they going to remove the small chainring in their bike? It seems to me that they want the success, they want to hang out with Chrissie, Belinda and Erika, without having to put in the work and go through the sacrifices that are the reason for their success.

I have been a triathlon coach for close to 12 years now. I have learned a lot in these years, and many of the things I have learned are the same I was reading on that IT piece: The importance of squad training, of having little distractions outside training. The importance of strong leadership and trust in the work you’re doing. The importance of understanding the psychological makeover of each and every athlete you work with. I wrote about some of these things on this blog before. The things that make the true core of what coaching is.

When you’re solely interested in performance, in being the best you can be, the things that are the basis of BS’ approach are the things you need to focus on. And these are the things you learn as a coach when all it matters is to bring out the absolute best out of your athlete. These are the sort of things you learn when you coach athletes, not clients. These are the things you learn when you’re interested in performance, not keeping everyone happy and paying the monthly fee.

So what’s the downside of this approach? The downside is that everyone likes success, but very few are prepared to deal with failure. And when you search for absolute success, you have to have the abyss staring at you. You have to take risks and walk a fine line. And this makes for a terrible triathlon coaching business plan. And this is the reason why we have very few coaches like BS, but a lot of bs coaches.

8 comments:

Krepe said...

Good stuff.

rappstar said...

Ironically, in that second interview on Slowtwitch, BS says himself "Everyone's pinching my training sessions. There's no magic session. It's about how you put it together, for that athlete. We just try to create the environment where success is inevitable. Everybody's wondering about the sessions. I never worry about that. They ask, "where's your logbook?" I'm not interested in the sessions. That's the easy stuff. Any idiot can buy a book with 55 sessions. It's the way you put them within the training cycle. I can't write a book about where to put them in the training cycle, because I've got eight different training cycles depending on what athlete you've got. If you're a 48 kilo girl, you're gonna have a different training session than a 95 kilo bloke. We might have a routine, but within that, everyone has their own thing going."

I'm pretty sure that's called coaching. :)

Blake Becker said...

Very nice.

Wingman said...

I've been shocked by the coaching approach to the triathlon community - it's almost as if one size fits all. When I first started with my Coach I didn't understand why she wanted someone who squats over 600 lbs to cycle at a high cadence - it just didn't make sense to me. BS caters to the athlete that can deal with the extreme tests, that has a desire to push themself through pain and sweat - too often as triathletes we accept the whole sale approach. But BS knows what buttons to push and what to work on with his athletes; as a youth football coach and former player he takes the approach I believe in. I wish others would as well.

Roger Hospedales said...

Perfectly stated. I look forward to reading more of your intelligent posts.

Pat said...

Excellent, best blog I have read. Very well said

rr said...

The thing that strikes me the most is that his athletes eat, sleep and drink tri camp. There is no family, no job..

I don't think I could live for only one thing, all day every day.

Nice post, PS.

Neil said...

Nailed it.