We all train with the simple goal of improving and obtaining the best possible results. However, even when we’ve followed our training plan to the t, and when results in training are pointing in the right direction, results aren’t always a reflection of our potential and we are often left wanting more. What gives? Are we merely on the losing end of a psychological battle?
Getting to the bottom of this question is no easy task, partly because it is hard to get a clear understanding of the expectations athletes put on themselves, and the ones that coaches put on their athletes. To achieve success, is it necessary to find common ground between a coach’s expectations and those of the athlete in question? Here’s what we’ve found out about this in our series on youth development.
The Perfect Race Doesn’t Exist
We can’t help but smile when we hear the old cliché “train hard and race with ease”. This type of expression helped create the myth of the perfect race where everything seems to come easily. As a matter of fact, the perfect race simply doesn’t exist. Champions are often crowned despite mistakes they make during a race. There are always things that can be improved on.
To obtain results during a race, athletes must give their all and consequently must go through moments that are harder than others. Athletes have had to be prepared to go through these moments and not to give up when facing adversity.
An Individual Path To Success
The development of an athlete is an individual process. It must be treated, not only according to the athlete’s past, but also according to their ability to adapt in training. Simply reproducing the workouts and training practices of a better athlete is a slippery slope to go down. Sure, this type of approach can be positive when it comes to getting inspired and staying motivated, but on the flip side, the end results will almost certainly not be the same. For example, the ‘better’ athlete may in fact just be more advanced and at a different point of his/her progression curve and this doesn’t mean that their athletic ceiling is higher.
Take Calculated Risks
Training volume can rapidly become an issue between coaches and athletes. An athlete, by example, may request more speed work on the run. It may be considered risky for some to augment speed work on the run, but after all, is risk taking not a common characteristic of all champions? Absolutely: innovative training techniques and risk taking are important ingredients to the recipe of success. That said, these risks should be calculated. An athlete’s motivation and drive to succeed rarely take his or her physiological limits in consideration.
Triathlon is in constant evolution (material, technical & tactical aspects). Knowledge and success go hand-in-hand. Athletes should strive to become students of the sport.
Be Realistic In Victory And Defeat
Weaknesses and regression can be lost in victory just as much as strengths and progress can be lost in counter-performances. When analyzing races, it’s important to be open-minded and to listen to others as well as to be honest (with yourself and others) when recounting the events of a race. Masking/omitting certain aspects of a race can only have a negative impact on your following races. Communication is a key part of success and if you judge it impossible to share your fears or anguishes with your coach, you may want to review whether coach and athlete are compatible. That said, an athlete must be prepared to accept constructive criticism from his coaches and peers.
Often thinking it’s the only way to obtain support, some athletes feel they need to profess goals and ambitions that they know they aren’t ready for. Such actions have their consequences: they risk having their integrity questioned and losing the confidence of people around them. There are no ‘little white lies’ when it comes to this.
A Constant Desire To Improve On All Aspects
Success is often the result of a balancing act involving all aspects of life. An athlete must not only be satisfied by improvement. He or she must find a meaning to the process of training.
At the end of the day, athletes have to understand all of the specificities that training and racing require. They must be prepared and willing to face all of these demands head on in order to meet expectations (whether they be their own, those of their coaches, or ideally a mix of both).