Effective coaching is at the heart of cycling performance at every level - so access to quality coaching is just as important to someone preparing for their first sportive as it is to an experienced club rider, or even a professional athlete. But what exactly is a coach and what does coaching have to offer the club cyclist?
Coaches can be volunteers or highly paid professionals, they can be unqualified, highly qualified, be new to a sport or a highly experienced athlete - but none of these things automatically mean that a coach will be effective. To become an effective coach, it's not about reaching a finishline, such as gaining a qualification, it's about a commitment to an ongoing process of self development.
In basic terms, coaches are responsible for training athletes by analysing their performances, instructing in relevant skills and by providing advice on how to prepare for events. In addition they can potentially be an instructor, assessor, friend, mentor, facilitator, chauffeur, demonstrator, adviser, supporter, fact finder, motivator, counsellor, organiser, planner and the Fountain of all Knowledge.
However, very few individuals on earth can do all of the above (especially the last item ) but an effective coach should tick most of the following boxes:
- Have sufficient knowledge of the subject - i.e. knowledge that is demonstrably applicable to the specific to the task
- Can analyse what the real need is - e.g. don't make presumptions, check a rider knows how to correctly perform the basics, even if they've made an initial approach about something advanced
- Can communicate effectively - sometimes experienced riders struggle to explain the things that they do instinctively to a beginner and so the best riders don't always make the best coaches.
- Be open to new ideas and be committed to ongoing development - sport science and coaching techniques are constantly evolving, so a coach who was an expert in their field ten years ago won't necessarily be at top pf their game today, unless they keep in touch with current best practise and the latest knowledge.
British Cycling offers coaches some of the best training available and their qualifications are recognised by Sport England, so all i-Team coaches start their development by taking a Level 1 or 2 qualification. The information and techniques used by British Cycling qualified coaches are based on the experience gained from the Great Britain Cycling Team Olympic Performance Pathway
Once qualified, British Cycling coaches are authorized and insured to perform activities ranging from assisting in facilitating a coaching session, through to providing 1-2-1 individual coaching programs - the following table gives an overview and comparison on some of the different types of coach:
What can coaches do once qualified?
Within cycling generally, there is an anomaly. At Elite level, athletes will regularly mention how they work with their coaches - i.e. even though they are at the top of their sport, with years of experience and fantastic technique, they still need coaches to provide objective analysis and advice.
Level 2 and especially Level 3 coaches can often be far more useful to a rider than they may realise, - e.g. they can provide qualifed & objective advice on:
- Equipment Choices; e.g. saddle height, crank length, bar width, gearing, tyre pressures (notice no mention of how light something might be )
- Training Advice; e.g. how to prepare correctly for a sportive, what to do the day before a race, how to come back from an illness
- Performance Analysis & Benchmarking; e.g. how fit are you compared to where you were last month / year / compared to your club mates and rivals? - how do you know that your training having the desired effect?
- Tactics; e.g. how to position yourself in a group, when to initiate an attack, how to observe rivalsNotational Analysis; e.g. do you know why you won? Do you know why you lost? A coach can observe you performance and identify strengths and weaknesses by observing your performance live or using video and analysing things like your average position in the race, how many attacks you could make and follow, where you lost contact with a group, what gear were you in on the climb? Who was on your wheel most often...
Edited by Guy_Watson