Bruce Lee said “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it.”
Coaches need to continually evolve their knowledge and modify their tried and tested methods in keeping with the times. Look at the case of Yuri Ogoroonik. It’s still in murky waters. Coach claims innocence, world claims otherwise. Whose word do we go by? Was he too open in letting his athletes have some open rein which could have led to a transgression? Muddy waters.
That is an instance of a coach guiding the pupils down willfully. But that can happen with even the best intentions. Take the case of a typical student athlete in India, Rima, number 1 400 meters runner in the country for 3 years, who was under the tutelage of an Indian Coach. He spotted her at the age of 13 and moulded her into the athlete she turned out to be. She went on to break various school, state and national records, all in the span of 7 years under the guidance of Coach. She considered Coach to be her mentor, philosopher and guide. A win at the nationals was the one achievement left on her plate. Then she moved on to college and then decided to choose another career option for herself, as a result of which her performance started dropping. A national medal seemed like a distant dream. After deteriorating performances that eventually marked the end of her stint as an athlete, she decided to hang up her boots.
Now the important question that arises here is, was Coach responsible for Rima’s downfall? Was it because he stuck to his own methods of training and his resistance to change a factor that contributed to her poor performance? Or did Rima have an equal if not greater part to play in her own downfall?
So when is it the right time to change your coach? Most people, especially some over enthusiastic parents who only look at their kids as objects of fulfilling their own dreams, decide its the right time to switch when the prodigy is not showing results. While in some cases this may be true, in most cases this decision is based on sheer impatience and desire to see immediate results.
A coach can shape a budding athlete’s future.The decision to hire a coach, or to change over to the next for that matter, should be made with utmost care. It is probably as big a decision as getting married. While deciding to get married you think the other person is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. That is the person who is going to take care of you, understand you, support you, never ever give up on you, be there with you through all your ups and downs in life, lift you up when you’re at your lowest and give you strength to take on the world. Someone who tells you how perfect (or imperfect) you are. A coach does exactly that as well.
A coach is someone an athlete spends most of his/her time with. Someone who eggs the athlete on. Someone who instills in you a sense of confidence, a sense of fearlessness, the spirit to take on any challenge. A good coach does not look at you as a means to achieve his or her dreams. A good coach is someone who’s already done that and wants you to achieve YOUR dreams and goals. Someone who understands what your dreams stand for.
The minute you realize that the coach has his or her own hidden agenda in trying to get you to the top, is when the decision to switch should be made.
There are coaches with huge bellies who come straight from work (or the bar), stand in the middle of the field and blow their whistles while commanding their athletes to run 25 100 meter repititions in 12 seconds flat. Do it or die trying. Then there are those who come to the field dressed like they’re the ones training, ask the athlete how they’re feeling on that day, warm up with the athlete, work out alongside the athlete, cool down with the athlete and make sure the athlete is set for the next work out. It is the latter variety of coaches that eventually cultivate stars. Stars of the Saina Nehwal and Tintu Luka kind. Sure, everyone has their own style of coaching. Some prefer the fierce, I’m-the-boss-of-you kind of technique. Others prefer to befriend the athlete and make them realize that their dreams are theirs alone and that the coach is just a means of getting there. So when you realize your coach is your friend, your philosopher and your guide, be patient with him or her and most importantly, trust him or her. The rest will take care of itself.
Accountability is a quality every successful athlete can boast of. Even when a coach is misguided in some way, the athlete should be an independent thinker who should explore training methods and convey that to the coach. If coaching is a one way street with orders coming down on the athlete and no feedback going up, it may not be the best situation unless the coach is of an irreproachable caliber. But the problem is that our young kids are taught to look up to the elders with mute respect and in some cases, that isn’t always a good thing.
(Written by Zeba Changi with inputs from Siddarth Sharma)