Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Flavor of the day coaching

I was feeling particularly lazy today and did not have the energy to write a post about one of my favorite red herrings, the quest for improved fat burning. So I thought I would recycle an old post of mine on Slowtwitch, one that I feel is still very actual.

"You can divide coaches in many categories, according to age, level of experience, school of thought (if that exists in triathlon coaching at all), nationality, etc. One of the most common divider, especially in the US, is between coaches that are competitive athletes and those that are not.

For some reason, most people think that a successful athlete will be a successful coach. Not only that is not true, but in my opinion that almost never happens. I often see those coaches that are competitive athletes as "flavor of the day" coaches. Because they are too involved with their own training process, they easily take the tree for the forest and see all other athletes as "clones" of themselves. Because they are not bound by a long-term plan, athletes by definition have difficulty with focusing on long-term plans, they focus on what seemingly works here and now. Because they constantly change their methods, they lack the consistency in methods and processes you need in order to improve.

As a coach, it is very easy to spot these athletes/coaches because they say they are coaches, but talk like athletes. When discussing training, they discuss their training and their experience and have difficulty with abstract/general concepts. When justifying past setbacks, they always act like they were wrong then, but NOW they are right. Whatever is the "flavor of the day" is the absolute truth....now.

All the truly great coaches throughout the years were not and are not competitive athletes. The great coaches are the ones that have the ability to detach themselves from their own experiences and live the experiences of the athletes they coach. The experienced coach is the one that throughout the years learned through the experience of many athletes. The experienced and successful coach is the one that used what he/she learned throughout the years to build a consistent and coherent system for success. "


MarkyV said...


"All the truly great coaches throughout the years were not and are not competitive athletes."

What of Mr. Daniels?

I know n=1 :D

99.9% of the time this is spot on. Just keepin' ya on yer toes. :)

khai said...

Shit! MY coach is an athlete!


rr said...

Does this mean you won't be racing that waterfun guy after all?

Great post, PS, I must have missed this on ST.

Dan said...

I though Magic worked out great as a player/coach...

Paulo Sousa said...


I stopped watching NBA when MJ retired from the Chicago Bulls, so I don't even know if you're being sarcastic or not ;-)

The context was obviously (or maybe not) individual endurance sports where coaches have the same type of athlete/coach relationship that exists in triathlon training. As for team sports, I can think of several reasons why former players can be successful coaches.

Jot said...

Why is there a difference between team sports athletes becoming successful coaches, and individual sport athletes becoming coaches?

Seems to me that what happens is that people who would be good coaches (have the communication, analysis, etc) occasionally happen to have been good athletes, but there is no reason to assume they're inextricably intertwined, much less related.

Paulo Sousa said...


You can find the whole discussion here


If my views about the subject changed from then until now, what would that make me? ;-)

Jot said...

Ok, I read the whole thread. Didn't realize you had changed your username to '..' for a post or two.

I might have missed it, but I didn't see you discuss why you believe team sports coaches are different than individual.

I'm not replying because I particularly care about debate for debate's sake, but because I'm honestly interested in why you think they're different. (In particular I'm thinking about (american) football, where most of the very successful coaches are former professional players)

If necessary, I will engage in random 'ad hominem' attacks just to make it feel like old times. :)


Dan McKerrall said...


Not sure I agree with you on that one. Here is a list of NFL coaches with links to their backgrounds.

The unscientific analysis seems to suggest that:
- few played pro regularly as a starter
- some played pro as a backup over a relatively short career
- most played college, but did not enjoy a regular starting position as a pro.

In summary, most of the NFL coaches, did play football, but were your "MOP" guys, certainly not the stars or big names.


Paulo Sousa said...


Coach Dan's "data" fits nicely with what is my impression. In team sports, former players that didn't achieve a great level playing professional are often the best coaches. I do think that it helps being a former player because of the issues regarding team dynamics that you understand better if you are a former player. And no, I don't think it's the same when you're working with individual athletes.

Jot said...

I guess I interpret it differently. I did a sampling of the list and saw that most of the coaches played in the NFL. This puts them in the upper echelons of their sport. They may not have been superstars, but then again, not everyone wins Kona. :)

I can definitely see how coaching teams vs individuals is different, and so that would impact it. It's more about coordination, strategy, playing to your strengths, etc. My question was more, how does ones experience as a player impact the career and philosophy as a coach?
And as a followup, what are the differences between succesful individual sport athletes/coaches and team sport athletes/coaches?

I have some opinions, but I geniunely interested in hear others.

I also can't spell today. :)