“Boundaries just exist in your head.”
Chris, what is good coaching from your point of view?
As an athlete I made the experience that I was able to show my best performances when I got full support from someone else believing in me and whom I could fully trust. Getting a training schedule and your data analyzed by a coach is important, but that is not enough at all. You and your dreams deserve to get the full attention as well. You will never be able to show the best you can, if you and your coach don’t believe. For me it is essential to be there for my athletes and if it is in need, to be there every day.
So, how does being coached by you look like exactly?
I need to be close with my athletes. Already when I meet them or talk to them for the first time I would like to learn as much as possible about them. I need to feel if we can work together personally. First off all, I analyze all historical data they can hand over to me, so I know what they have done so far and compare it with the current situation and set them into relation with their goals. So I’m able to see what is possible. From here I can define our rough training structure to reach a future goal, always keeping in mind the situation that there is also a social and work live. My athletes send me their data and tell me about their feeling before, during and after training sessions in the way which is the best for them. At least once a week we have a 30-minute talk on the phone to give each other feedback and start planning the next week.
What is your experience about this structure so far?
The athletes feel safe and supported. Most of them don’t know about getting positive feedback and are very critical with themself in a negative way. Many of them think good training is high volume or always going as hard as possible. But it only leads to being tired and almost never being able to show your highest performance. I like to look ahead to the achievements and progresses the athlete made, to be able to give as much positive feedback as possible. With this the build a lot more self confidence. It makes them believe in themselves. It is my job as a coach to built the training in an optimal way, to be a mirrow for the athlete and to always know which way to go to reach the goals the athlete wants to achieve and to show him the way. Boundaries just exist in your head and are being made by ourselves. My goal is it do make those boundaries disappear together with my athlete.
It is remarkable that you focus a lot on positive feedback. Can you tell us why?
Before I did start the first time at the Ironman World Championships on Hawai’i and before I coached an Ironman Champion I have been into martial arts for many years. I realized that if my opponent had only the lightest doubt, I could use it for my advantage. Same happens in any other sports and therefor also in triathlon. If an athlete has the lightest self-doubt, those are going to impair the athletes performance. With positive feedback, a continued comparison with the athletes dreams and looking at the achievements, me and my athletes see more self confidence and increasing performances. When you go into a challenge with a power-pose and full of confidence you are more likely to show your best performance. And that is our goal. Just look at Astrids outstanding triumph in Barcelona. She did exit the water way behind the others suffering form muscle cramps. She even had to stop just before the mount line because she wasn’t able to just run one step more or even able to jump onto her bike. The lead was long gone. But she did believe in herself and after taking it very easy in the beginning and controlling her pace, she settled more and more into a high performance bike ride and formed the basis for her Ironman victory with the fastest bike split of the year in an Ironman event. She just knew she could do this and she believed in herself. What sounds that easy was a long way and hard work, but now she is where she belongs. On top of the game in long-distance triathlon.
One last question for you. What makes you satisfied with your coaching?
That’s easy to say. When I realize my athletes trust me and we have formed a really close relationship working together. Which equals deeply trusting each other and also adopting new approaches. Every athlete is different and we are going to find the best individual kind of approach together. When the goal is not about a specific placement anymore but to give everything you are able to be on that specific day, then we achieved what I aimed for. By the way, if you get there, placements and good results happen almost by itself.