“Miss Vicky, Miss Vicky”
I used to hear that from the kids in my lane when I was a swim coach for seven summers in Northern Virginia. I’ve always been a coach. I thrive on the sidelines, cheering, screaming my heart out with tears in my eyes.
As you all know, I have been coaching with Fleet Feet Savannah for the last few seasons of their CREW program. And I’ll be honest, when I started I was a rookie with much to learn, but I had enthusiasm, heart and determination on my side.
Fleet Feet’s CREW program is currently looking for a few coaches to join their programs and this got me thinking about why I coach and what coaching means to me.
Over the last few seasons, I have grown not only as a runner but as a coach. I am more confident in my abilities to answer questions, lead a group of adults from various backgrounds, and to foster a safe environment in which to develop a deeper passion for the sport. I am extremely passionate about coaching— so I thought why not jot down what I feel makes a great coach…. by all means, this is just piddly ole Victoria’s list… take it for what it’s worth.
1- Don’t coach for yourself all the time. Sure, we coach because it helps keep us accountable or it gives us the warm & fuzzies inside. But trust me, coaching because you need help getting your tuckus out of bed in the morning is completely transparent. Or if you want to coach because you desire more accolades behind your desk or a high-five…. maybe stick to running your own races and hang those medals behind your desk.
2- Not everyone is made to be a coach and that is perfectly fine! All different personality types can make strong coaches, but are you flexible among various personalities? Are you able to switch gears when thrown a fast one?
3- Continuing Education. Sports are always evolving and so are we. You wouldn’t want a coach that just became a “coach” from watching one 30-day DVD, would you? I really like this quote from Julia Child, “You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” Wouldn’t you want to learn a better way to explain hill repeats? Tempo runs? What about the newest studies on lactic acid? These things take time and energy and are not accomplished during the workout (see #4). You can also get RRCA certified which I felt was a nice addition to my coaching. It took what I knew, finessed it and added in other knowledge and resources that made me a more complete coach.
4- It’s a commitment. It’s a time commitment away from your training, from your family and from your social life. Is it worth it? Hell yes.
5- You have to be on. I coach, along with my co-coaches, beginner/intermediate runners. Just like any other sport, beginners sometimes need more positive coaching. Sometimes coaching can take a therapeutic turn, and you work through different issues with a runner, all while leaving your issues at home (or save them until your training run). I love this part of coaching; seeing how running has helped personal lives is so fulfilling.
6- Giving Back. My two first run coaches believed in me even when I was pulling up the rear on nearly every. single. run. And yet, they made sure I learned about cadence, tempo runs, and why the hell I needed to take an ice bath. They showed me what it was like to believe in myself, and now it’s my turn to give it back ten fold.
Now, I will say that this season should have an asterisk. With my injury, I came in 1/3 of the way through the half marathon training season and felt out of sorts…. it honestly was harder than I thought to get into the groove and gel with the group the first few runs. It took me a while to “be on”. I haven’t been continuing my education with as many articles as I should. But as we are approaching race day in three weeks, I can say I gained more and learned more from the runners than they did me.
Coaching is a daily event in my life, between emails or texts/calls to runners or the countless text strings between Fleet Feet coaches, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Being invited into someone’s adult life as a beginner run coach is a gift and everyday I am grateful, even on the days that are extremely frustrating.
Do you coach? What are your thoughts? If you don’t coach, what do you think makes a good coach?