I'm the coach of Cross Country at Johnson University, and I take my job... pretty seriously, I guess. It's important to me to push my runners as much as I can to help them achieve their goals. In order for me to properly push them to the next level, I need to know more about them. If you don't know where you are, how can you get to where you're going? If I don't know where my athletes are, I might just hurt them by giving them too hard of a workout, and crush their spirit (which I am definitely afraid of doing, since I run 50-100 milers and they run 3-5). They know that I'm a big runner, and fortunately, I believe they respect that and accept my leadership as their coach. Therefore, I try to do the very best I can to get to know them as I start off their weeks of training.
First week of preseason went by without me because I was in Japan, but during that time, I wanted them to get to know themselves. In the crazy amounts of running that they did, they learned a lot about themselves, and what they could do. Finding out what they're capable was a big step. Once I came, we started practice Monday, and kept on going til Saturday. Getting miles in was important because the first thing I wanted them to understand was that the distance they were training for is not hard. Once they understand that the distance isn't hard, then the next phase comes along, that they can improve drastically by training hard towards that goal. Hard work pays off. When we get to that place, then it's just a hop skip and a jump because what they started out with and what they're going to end with... is totally different.
But how to get them motivated and understand what I want out of them?
First I need to know what they want out of Cross Country. For some, it's to beat last year's times, for others, it's to get in better shape. Still others wants to do well against our opponents, and there's always the dream to become number one in the nation. Understanding that there are various goals, my next step is then to encourage them and help them move forward toward their goals and achieve them. In understanding them, it's easier for them to understand that my training methods are made in order to push them forward. The mileage is made in order to create a strong foundation that they can build upon. The strength workouts are to improve their minds as well as their body, to handle the hard hills and to remain strong. The speed workouts are meant to help them persevere, to continue when things are tough, to get used to a faster pace. The breaks, to remind them that whatever they do, make sure to take that time off to recover, because you grow the most during the time that you rest.
With that all being said, there's another important thing that I believe is important in coaching. To understand thoroughly by training yourself and pushing yourself, so that you truly do understand what they are going through. I know some coaches like to bark, but I'm a little different from them because I also enjoy pushing myself. I hope to be an encouragement in this way also, to be able to show that hard work does indeed pay off. Understanding each other is vital, especially in a mentoring relationship, where you have someone teaching someone else. It is both my duty and pleasure to coach my team and I look forward to what each individual will bring to the team.
(Over the last few days, I've been running a little with the team, and some on my own. Last three days are as follows, 2, 7, and 5.4 miles. Next week I'll probably double my mileage because this week was a warm up week.)