To become a better cycling or triathlon coach you need to go deeper, not wider
Many moons ago, when I first started coaching, the internet was still a relatively new thing, and searching for information still tended to involve some kind of quality magazine, a few books, and in-person seminars (as you could afford). Over the course of the last 20+ years, that’s changed significantly.
I argue that this has changed the life cycle and expectations of a cycling or triathlon coach considerably, as nowadays everyone has an opinion, and nearly all the information one could ask for, is at our fingertips.
And yet. . . Yet, there is quite a lot left to be desired from many of the younger coaches these days.
Now let’s be clear here, I myself had much left to be desired when I was a young coach, however it’s changed quite a bit. It’s harder to be a cycling or triathlon coach these days, as the competition is bigger, and many of those who seek coaches have access to the very same information you do.
While this has allowed the sport as a whole the opportunity to grow faster, it’s also produced a number of obstacles for coaches: How does a cycling or triathlon coach help their athletes best?
For many, their answer is much like what mine was- Learn a bit about everything.
- How to do general maintenance on a bike
- How to care for your bike
- How to plan a training week
- How to improve swim mechanics
- How to better program training blocks for better results on less time/ effort
- How to run better for less effort/energy
- How to do better with nutrition
And of course, how to strength train.
The problem with this is that we feel the need to become jack of all trades.
Yet we go out and accrue as many certificates and CEU’s helping us to believe that we are in fact specialists.
I should know.
Thankfully, there was in fact a common thread through all of my certification and CEU’s: They all evolved around strength training, and using strength training to make better, stronger, and more resilient cyclists & triathletes.
However, many of the coaches that I know, and who grew (and left) the field with me, often went with the cheapest, or things that may help 1 or 2 specific clients. Of course there is certainly nothing wrong with this- in fact, it’s a huge testament to how much they give a chip about their clients and athletes.
This, however, leads to even more un-specialization as a coach, and can even detract from your personal gifts and interests, as you try to learn more about more, because, well, more is better.
Well, it depends, are you getting more “burger” or more “bun”?
Add to this the challenge of finding CEU’s that each specific certifying organization will accept, and, well, you now have a cacophony of random requirements for each certification, and the financial and time requirements to meet them. This makes it incredibly hard to go deep on a subject.
But that’s exactly what you need to do, if you want to truly be able to help your athletes and clients be the best they can be.
7.5 Miles Deep, and 9 Inches Wide
To truly help our athletes, we need to go deeper, not broader.
Every single leading professional, or expert if you will, has made the purposeful decision to go deeper on a subject, not wider.
Sure, they may have more than a periphery understanding of related topics, but they dig deep into their area of interest, and really get to know it.
Did you know that the deepest hole in the world (literally) is 7.5 miles deep, but only 9 inches wide, and took more than 20 years?
The time and effort it took to drill to Kola Superdeep Borehole is the same amount of time, energy, and focused, purposeful practice, that it takes to become a true master in an area.
This seems to be lost on many coaches, I know it was lost on me for the first 5 years, as I thought I needed to know about everything. Thankfully, I had some great coaches and mentors who knew when to reel me back (and how), so that I could further develop my own skills and existing talents.
If it weren’t for Glenn, the owner of Big Bang Bicycles which was home to my training studio, I would most certainly never have become a bike fitter. . . That in and of itself gave me a far deeper understanding of the bike-rider interaction, and the better understanding of how bike fitters think, and why.
But going deep like this has become a huge challenge, an obstacle even, for many coaches as they look to meet CEU requirements every few years for the many certifications they hold.
Which is why I moved to become an educator for coaches, and have systematically built online courses, including the Strength Training for Cyclists Certification. Each of these courses has been approved for USA Cycling and USA Triathlon CEU’s, as well as NSCA, NASM, and AFAA.
Each course is built to meet the coach exactly where they are, and to reinforce the fundamentals, and also to give the coach or athlete the foundational knowledge and systems to be able to truly understand what strength training for cyclists & triathletes needs to be, and the understanding to be able to ask deeper, more meaningful questions on their journey to true mastery of the subject.
But it takes time, patience, and the ability to know there are other things one could dig into, but pushing off the urge to jump on the latest and greatest trend, and instead to stay and play in the sandbox you’re in.
This is how mastery and truly being able to help your clients and athletes is built.
For many coaches obtaining CEU’s is simply a task that needs to be completed every recertification cycle, often with a last-minute scramble to complete the requirements, taking whatever CEU’s are cheap, fast, and easy.
But if you’re looking to truly help your clients and athletes, you should be exploring a single subject and going deep throughout each and every year.
By taking the time to plan and focus your efforts and energies, you’ll be able to dig into a subject and able to develop your very own specialty, a mix of knowledge and skills and perspective like no other, which will allow you to set yourself apart from the many coaches out there.
If you’re thinking “This is all nice, but this is the worst time to be a coach because Corona has caused so many people to drop… maybe I’ll do it next year, or when things return to later”.
Now is exactly the time to plant your flag in the ground and invest in yourself to set yourself apart from everyone else.
Be a contrarian.
And then take the time to deeply study a topic- don’t just breeze through a course to check the boxes. Instead, linger. Re-watch some of the modules. Try different variations of something. Ask for more resources on a topic. Talk with leading minds in that space.
EXPLORE with the curiosity of a toddler as they discover the world.
There’s a lot of serious things that happen when we relax and truly play, instead of seeking a singular specific outcome.
As Phil Town says in his weekly sign off, “Now go play”.