6 Signs You’re Over-Coaching Your Athletes at Meets

Posted by Tony Veney



As I go into the 39th year of my coaching career, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t one of “those” coaches. You know the one I’m talking about. The guy who thinks he’s been coaching 39 years but has only really coached one year 39 times (thank you Gary Winckler for that bit of wisdom)!  On meet day, I am more of a manager trying to enable my young people to execute what we so painstakingly worked on during the week. But I am surprised at two things that continue to baffle me “On The Day!”

meet management, Tony Veney

I am stunned by how much “coaching” is going on at the meets.     I am not talking about abandoning 14 to 21 year olds to their own devices at the meet, but can we admit that we can sometimes be responsible for a lot of the cluster bombs that explode on the day of the competition? 

I have seen the following at the State Meet and NCAA’s:

1.   New drills introduced at the meet.

2.   Coaches walking their athletes through every drill with comments and corrections.

3.   Once the competition starts, giving dissertations between each jump, sprint, throw.

4.   Telling them this is the biggest meet of their lives (do you really think they don’t know that?).

5.   Not watching your kids warm up and they start doing someone else’s drills because they are cool looking, or they are so nervous they are desperate for something to calm them down.

6.   Introducing a new race plan because you feel it will fire them up, or you believe the new plan will appear to be a secret weapon you’ve been saving for such an occasion.  One of my high school coaches decided to take it upon himself to give me a new race plan when my event coach was unable to be at a very important invitational (he had to teach driver’s training). I was told to keep my toes tucked in my spikes and make sure my saggital plane and transference hip angles were tilted coming off the turn. My event coach’s spider senses must have been tingling, because he drove his first meeting driver’s training class on the interstate to the meet (he had a girl who had never been behind the wheel drive on the freeway for 45 minutes – and she wet her pants on the way).

My coach arrived 20 minutes before the race and saw me warming up with my head down (he knew something was wrong). He asked me what was up and I told him about my new race plan. He gave me a good shake and asked me how many guys were in the race? I said “9” and he quickly told me to ”beat 8 of them!” I was so flustered I asked, “what about the 9th guy?” He shook me again, and said, “That’s you stupid!” I went out and ran a then national leader at 880 yards (oops, I dated myself, I meant 800 meters).

This is just a taste of the things I see that as coaches we have to stop doing on the day of the track meet. (Related article: “Race Modeling” )  Now some of you may say, “I’ve done these things and it turned out OK.”

YOU WERE JUST LUCKY !

We have to stop wanting to be “SEEN” coaching up our kids. If your kid runs great or lousy, you can bet people will know who you are. And don’t let your last minute paranoia about whether or not they are ready creep into your head (at every meet they are ready to compete that day).

Your job at the meet is meet management; to manage their day (batons, tape, extra shoe laces, toilet paper, extra jerseys for the relay, tape measures, make adds and scratches, check-ins, and girlie stuff {yeah, I said it}) and not to coach. You already did all the coaching you need during the week. You can do some tinkering at the meet, and make a few last minute adjustments if you see the weather turn, lane assignments change, somebody on the relay misses the bus, or someone forgot their spikes.

They need to put what you’ve taught them to task and they can’t if they have to listen to more coaching at the competition.  I’m not saying you can’t talk to the kids or laugh, encourage, chastise, congratulate or help them manage the pressure, but they often wait on every word that comes out of our mouths and sometimes it just needs to be, “Beat 8!”

There’s a saying:

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

But, I would like to think,

“When the student is ready, the teacher disappears.”

 

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Avoid becoming one of “those” coaches by preparing your athletes for competition in advance.

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Tony Veney is the head track and field coach at Ventura Community College in Ventura, CA.

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