Coach's Corner|Jan. 15, 2021, 6:54 p.m. | 61
5 Key Lessons From Trackster Coaches
Eight accomplished high school, college, professional, and private coaches share their accumulated wisdom on how to be successful.
The Trackster community is filled with a diverse set of coaches with countless years of experience. Over the past few years, many of these coaches have shared some of their secrets with Trackster in our Coach's Corner Q&A series. Here are 5 key lessons for coaching success we've learned from these amazing people!
1. Coaching & Training is Never Easy, But Always Worthwhile
No matter how long a coach has been in the game or what level their athletes are at, there will always be unexpected hurdles to overcome. In District Track Club Coach Tom Brumlik's case, managing middle distance professional athletes poses a special challenge. Post-collegiate track clubs are often in a precarious position, and the middle distances are often neglected in terms of budgeting and attention compared to distance or marathon groups. However, finding a way to "develop leaders and keep athletes involved with the sport and away from desk jobs" has motivated Tom to bring the club to its current level, with support from Under Armour and athletes competing at global championships!
For Coach Nate Kraft (Lowell (MA) High School), the unforeseen obstacles and difficulties are what makes the job and journey worthwhile and fulfilling. "One of the biggest lessons I learned as an athlete is that this sport has ups and downs," says Kraft. "The ability to bounce back from disappointment is a great life lesson that you can learn from running." Whether you are growing the sport at the professional level or introducing high schoolers to running, embracing the challenges is the path to success and fulfillment in running.
2. Trust is the Most Crucial Component of a Coach/Athlete Relationship
During his time as a college runner, Coach Bryan Ramos of Cerritos College learned the importance of completely trusting your coach at the 1996 Stanford Invitational. Instead of doing an easy pre-race shakeout the day before the meet, his coach had them do a massive workout. "At first we didn’t know why we did such an incredibly difficult workout the day before a big meet," Ramos says looking back on it. However, his team not only ended up placing third at the meet, just behind BYU and Stanford, but they went on to place third at the Division II national meet. "It was really not just to train our body but to train our mind ," says Ramos. "As an athlete, the most important aspect is to trust the plan from your coach."
As the head coach at Grand Canyon University, Sara Slattery has seen first hand the importance of buying in. While the program didn't have much of a reputation prior to her arrival in 2015, "the team I walked into bought in right away and wanted to work hard" according to Slattery. This early buy-in has led to improvements each season, school records, and conferences titles over the last few years. "Having the improvements and building something special has helped us get better recruits each season," says Slattery. At the end of the day, athletes buying in to their coaching and culture makes more of a difference than any special training plan, workout, or weekly mileage.
3. Consistency is Key
One of the most active and consistent teams on Trackster is Kansas State. Led by Coach Ryun Godfrey, the team's consistent improvements paid off this past fall at the ultra competitive Big 12 Cross Country Championships, where the men placed 4th and the women placed 5th. As every runner knows, success on the cross country course is built during the summer. While "some of our athletes are working, some are taking classes, and others are doing some traveling" during the summer, "I think the biggest thing is to be consistent and stay healthy," says Godfrey. Part of building that consistency is logging their training on Trackster, according to Godfrey, since "it helps them be accountable to one another."
As a private coach working with clients online, Amanda Asaro constantly is reminding her athletes about the importances of consistency. According to Asaro, "Consistency in training is imperative to drive results. Consistency creates routines and routines create success. I encourage athletes to find routines that become the baby steps to larger goals." Breaking down training into bite sized daily routines makes each day a bit easier mentally, and in Coach Asaro's experience, leads to the consistency necessary for success in running.
In running it can be easy to get caught up in any one workout or race. However, Coach Mike Horan of Eastern High School (Kentucky) thinks that consistency is underrated by many coaches. According to Horan, "Being remarkably consistent is far better than being inconsistently remarkable." Focusing on the process and staying consistent leads to remarkable breakthroughs and true enjoyment of the sport!
4. Stay Connected & Keeping Track of Training!
With the Covid-19 pandemic throwing a wrench into everyone's plans this past year, coaches have found that staying in contact with and monitoring their athletes is more important than ever. No matter what level a runner is at, everyone has needed a way to stay connected and to know that they aren't on their own during this time. Many coaches found that tools like Trackster have kept their team together during the pandemic and allowed them to remain in contact and oversee their athletes even when team practices or meets were canceled.
"When COVID-19 hit, I was looking at options of using Trackster or Strava. The features and availability for both iOS and Android made it a no brainer to go with Trackster," says Bryan Ramos. "The app has given the team some accountability and structure with their summer training while they are working out on their own."
For Mike Horan, keeping a sense of community during the pandemic has been a top priority., "The Trackster app creates an interactive environment that we missed so much throughout the spring," says Horan. "It allows people to see what everyone is doing, to celebrate together."
Maintaining good communication and keeping a training log have become synonymous for Nate Kraft this past year. "Trackster has been especially important in our summer training and during the Covid-19 quarantine," according to Kraft. "Our athletes can post their runs and some comments and the coaches are able to check in on them. If something crops up, the feedback is there in Trackster and we can reach out to them"
5. Be Real, Be Authentic, And Communicate
Having great workouts, training strategies, and strength routines are important ingredients for success. However, most coaches would say that the environment and culture of a team is just as important and its workouts. The best coaches are able to cultivate healthy, supportive, and motivating cultures not through pre-season talks or emails, through their actions day-in and day-out.
Coach Rae Alexander (Olmstead Falls (OH) HS) spells this principle out perfectly, stating, "If you can provide an exciting environment where your athletes feel supported, they will respond to what you are doing and the work you expect them to do. When you mentor through positive knowledgeable communication and strong leadership that guides, you build trust."
A crucial component of healthy teams is communication. According to Nate Kraft, "Without communication, it is almost impossible to help my athletes achieve their best". A coach can only know so much based on workouts or body language. To meet their athletes' needs and build a great culture, coaches need to cultivate an open, safe, and communicative environment for their runners to be honest.
At the end of the day, running is about positive growth and achievement. For Mike Horan, creating a positive environment in turn leads to success. While his squad focuses on being the best and trying to top the podium in every race, having real, authentic connections throughout his program means that his runners "celebrate progress of all kinds." Horan sees his runners grow and improve in the sport because his program trains his runners to "work hard together, challenge and encourage each other, and create a positive family atmosphere where everyone is accountable to the goals of the group".
While every great coach brings their own unique experiences, knowledge, and gifts to the job, these five principles are universal to the coaches that have the biggest impact on their runners. Coaches can be some of the most influential people in life, whether they are instilling important life lessons or creating an environment that fosters growth. At Trackster, we specifically built our product to allow coaches to exact these principles, take their teams to the next level, and build relationships and habits that last a lifetime.