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Who actually completed the Club Training Programme? Anybody?

Most coaches have no absolutely no insight into what training any given athlete has completed over a season. They could produce a copy of the training programme the prescribed. Over the period fo a season athletes end up completing a different amount of training as well as executing it varying levels of intensity. Knowing what has actually gone on during the season opens up a coaches understanding of why some athletes have improved more than others.

About the author

Adrian was a former coach at Cambridge University Boat Club, then British Rowing, followed by Rowing Ireland where he was Chief Coach and coached the Irish sculler at the Olympics in London 2012. Throughout his coaching career, he worked with high performance teams and also mentored other coaches working with high performance teams.

Adrian also holds a Master’s degree in Executive Coaching and co-founded two startups, both in Sports Data Analytics.

Training Plans

Coaches spend a lot of time planning, writing, and re-writing training programmes. They then make sure the athletes are sent and receive this programme, so the athletes know what is going on.

What happens next?

Every morning, the athletes come into the boat shed, saying “Hi” followed by “What’s on the session plan, coach?”
This might drive a coach mad!
‘After all that work, what was the point?’ a coach might rationally ask.

Well, the point is that having spent all that time thinking about what to put in the programme, the coach – with all the developed knowledge of the coaching environment required for effective sports coaching – has has a clear understanding of what they are trying to achieve and how. This means that, even if the coach – sometimes inevitably – has to tweak it a little, the coach understands the programme and knows what needs to be done. All coaches have all had occasions where they were not able to find a moment to prepare the programme fully in advance, so just ‘ad libbed’ for a little bit – a few days, or even a few weeks. At that point, a coach might realise that he or she has no idea of what the squad has done, or whether the right balance has been struck in the training programme. This may make a coach feel like a bad coach!

However good or bad a coach may feel the training programme is, there could be many reasons why it needs to be changed. Maybe two athletes both have a bad back, so need to sit a session out and sit on the bike instead. Maybe the weather is so bad that that land training is the only option but there are only enough ergos for half the squad at once. Maybe the coach realises that the weather or the work has been such tough going for a number of weeks that the athletes are pretty worn out and need an easier session – or even a day off?!

So what started out as the coaches club or squad programme very rapidly has morphed into a collection of individualised programmes.

In this situation, it might be easy for a coach to lose track, at the end of this phase or at the end of the season, of what training the athletes have done.

Such situations can raise a number of questions.

  • How does what training the athletes have actually completed compare to the programme originally set out by the coach?
  • Would the athletes have been faster or slower if they had done the programme set by the coach?
  • Did the athletes in the squad who completed the full programme improve more or less than those who didn’t?

Answering such questions can be very challenging, and raises a further set of questions for the coach. How is a coach supposed to keep track of all that? Who has the time or the inclination to record it all?
Together, this all raises the question of whether there is any common idea of what training rowers across the world are actually doing and, overall, the importance of planning a coaching session?
Maybe the solution is for coaches not to worry about it and just carry on with the way things have worked for coaches for decades. In other words, just crack on blind into the darkness not knowing what has worked.

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