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Discussion: Have you had a "coach"?

in: Orienteering; Training & Technique

Jul 15, 2002 9:11 PM # 
Have you had an orienteering coach?

I'll define "coach" as someone who provides regular feedback on your training and goals, and who is specifically concerned with orienteering (a high school track coach wouldn't count).

If you have had a coach, do you think it was worthwhile? Why?

I wondered about orienteering coaching after I read one of Vlad's comments in the JWOC thread. Vlad wrote "It is obvious that it is best for an athlete, junior or adult, to have a personal coach who would spend time working one-on-one with the athlete. It's the ideal situation. Nobody in the States has such luxury."
Jul 16, 2002 1:21 AM # 
Vlad is right on this 100% for anybody and
200% right for a junior orienteer.
No matter how smart or strong willed you are it is very important to have another opinion and a qualified view from outside.
(even doctors go for second opinion)
Jul 17, 2002 5:53 AM # 
Anyone could be each others coach. Want a feedback and the course? Just ask the other runners. Learning from each other may well be a substitude for a personal coach.
Jul 17, 2002 2:20 PM # 
I worked a lot individually with tony federer in 2001. we usually talked about legs on the courses I ran, but also generic techniques, strategy (tactics) and upcoming races. it had some effects on how I think about orienteering. I think it was definately worthwhile, and my orienteering improved (fewer mistakes). we didn't talk so much about physical training, but that's easy to find elsewhere (track and xc coaches..)

I agree that talking to the other runners on a course is helpful, but I don't think it's a substitute for a coach. there are different benefits from each. another good source of "coaching" is to read books written by good orienteers or coaches of good orienteers. I have around 15 o-books, some are better than others.
Jul 18, 2002 9:21 PM # 
I've worked with "coaches" at different times since I began orienteering.

Typically, it has involved discussing goals and getting some feedback on my training and racing. I've never had someone prescribing training. I like to design my training myself. I don't think I could stand working with someone who wanted to tell me exactly what to do.

I've generally found working with someone worthwhile. A second opinion forces me to think about my training plan more carefully. A coach can really make you think just by asking a few questions ("I noticed you've been doing a lot of short intervals, what is the thinking behind that?") Knowing that someone is going to look at what I've done helps keep me honest. Having a coach creates accountability. I've also gotten some really useful technical advice -- like ways to improve running downhills.

When I've been working with a coach I've generally been motivated and made some significant improvements. I'm not sure about the cause/effect. Did working with a coach cause the improvements? Did being motivated cause me to find a coach? Either way, there has been a correlation.

In Sweden, I had a fairly structured relationship with the club's trainer. The club had a written agreement with each runner. The agreement spelled out the expectations on both sides. For example, the club would provide certain gear and training camps, and the runner was expected to be available for relay races. The agreement required me to work with the trainer to set goals (which were included in the agreement) and develop steps to help reach the goals. I also had to turn in trainining reports. The trainer gave regular written feedback on my training (as well as less formal discussions).

As an aside, the agreement also included performance bonuses. Runners could get money (to be used for training camps and O' gear) if they met certain targets. The targets reflected the club's goals. The club focused on relays, so the targets focused on relays. The targets were tough. As far as I remember, I only reached a performance bonus once.

I agree with Kenny that talking to people is good but isn't a substitute for coaching. Talking with people can teach you something, but it doesn't impose any accountability.

I also agree with Kenny that reading books is useful. Unfortunately, the best stuff doesn't seem to be written in English (another good reason to move to Scandinavia -- learn the language, read the books).

I partially agree with Vlad's comment that "Nobody in the States has such luxury." I don't think there are many people (any?) who are doing formal coaching. But, there are probably a lot of more-or-less qualified people who would work with someone (especially juniors) if they were asked. Tools like Attackpoint, email, scanners and instant messenging make it practical for a coach to work with someone from a long way away.
Jul 25, 2002 8:58 PM # 
Hi I'm a first time caller! ;-)
I've been away from the orienteering scene a year or two but can tell you that having
a personal coach and living close to a large number of maps in Hamilton were the most influential aspect of my orienteering development. Ron Lowry ('75 Cdn Champ) was my
coach when I was 15 to 20 years old. He coached me in technical, physical and the
all important mental aspects of the sport. He taught me how to analyze races and designed
very tough training programmes for me - which brings me to the second thing I'd like to discuss.

I followed the JWOC discussion in interest. I am in agreement with Vlad on the need for
North Americans to train and race more domestically. The US Northeast has a large number
of races and many World Class maps to train and race on. Once an athlete has proven
themself here in NA, then Euro tours become more valuable. The key to success is to train
in the terrain (as Ron Lowry always told me) and to do that people need to live near maps and live near others with similar goals. One needs to build on the experiences and racing in varied NA terrain is great prep for international events.. Kenny Walker Jr. and Co. have got it right.

Mike Waddington
Golden Horseshoe Orienteering Club
Jul 25, 2002 9:27 PM # 
I haven't "truly" had a coach, although when I was starting out I worked with a few different people for short (i.e. a few months) amounts of time. After learning the ropes I was pretty much out on my own. However, I feel that having a coach, or at least a training partner, would greatly improve my race. I tend to start into training with the best of intentions, then become bored or too busy with other things in my life and let it drop. I feel that having someone there to help encourage, analyze, and provide another viewpoint would be of great benefit in both mental and physical training. (Especially physical...I need to get back in shape, up onto Red, and back into my age class!)

This discussion thread is closed.