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Coach First, Parent Second

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Hey Guys! Todd here!

A few weeks ago, one of my youth athletes raced.  Throughout the week I had been messaging his mother back and forth with tips, tricks, and guidance.

Just when you think you know your stuff and think “ah, this will be easy, I only have one athlete and he’s doing the swim and bike leg of a relay” reality comes slamming you in the face.  It was quite a learning experience for me.  I’m sure nobody saw the mistakes I made, but I sure did reflecting back on the day.

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First lesson, I arrived at the event well before my athlete did.  I should have asked the parents to check in with me ASAP.  Is it necessary?  No, but I should have made sure he was okay before I did anything else.

Second lesson, I should be better prepared than my athlete.  The parents mentioned that their son didn’t have a tri top for the race.  My first offer was a tri top that I’ve used once but it way too small.  Being a young man, the response was “no way.”  So I offered my coach’s team’s top which I’ve never worn and he agreed.  “SWEET!”  Well, wrong.  You see, I screwed up.  While I wear a medium bottom, I ordered a large top.  When I gave the parents my kits on race day, WHOOPS, they didn’t fit.  Dang it.  How could I have screwed that up?  Great first impression, right?

Another example of this was I should have known the course.  I was on medical restrictions the four days prior to the race.  There was absolutely no reason why I couldn’t have gone out and drove the bike course to have an idea what it was like.  When my athlete got off the course, I had no clue what he was talking about.  It would have been much better if I could have been able to relate to the athlete.

Third Lesson, if the children are going to be racing in an Age Group event, I need to kindly remove myself from personal commitments such as my adult Club, my coach’s team, and my personal friends.  Looking back, if I want to truly be about my kids participating, I need to focus on them and nobody else.

One example was my coach asking me to take photos for him during the race.  While I wanted to be a team player and a good guy, I should have just kindly declined and said I wanted to focus on my athletes.  It’s hard for me to say no.  Heck, the guy has coached me through numerous Olympics, Half Irons, and a 140.6 event!  I owe it to him right?  Well, no.  I paid him and now I’m being paid by parents.  Instead of snapping photos, I should have been beside my athlete for any questions he had.  It was a very long wait considering it was a time trial start.

Another example is my friend’s son was at the race and is also a team member but he wasn’t racing.  He was going to be by himself for the race and I felt obligated as a friend and a coach to watch over him.  This wasn’t exactly fair to my athlete but I did it because I felt it was the right thing to do.

Fourth lesson is not to get caught up so much in snapping photos of the kids.

I got so darn caught up thinking I was providing a service to the parents by snapping action shots.  Since I only had one athlete racing, I should have been doing two things instead.  First, I should have had a stop watch or used my Garmin to time the event for him.  I could have had great data on at least one of my athletes to start the season.  Second, instead of snapping photos of entering transition and the actual transitions, I should have posted up AT his bike rack and recorded a video of his transitions not take photos!  It would have been a priceless tool to use in the future!  I would have given anything to have video of every one of my transitions!  Its free time for goodness sake!

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Well, there’s my confession.

I’m sure some will say “I can’t believe he forgot that” or “I would have done that” but that’s not my point I want to get across.

Two things to get from this: if you want to help your kids, be prepared as well as you can.  Second, coaches are human.  Yes, they’re usually paid to know more than you but they are human.  I see all too often athlete’s posting questions because they’re too embarrassed to ask their coaches a question.

Just remember, you’re paying the coaches…  Ask away!  If they don’t want to answer your questions or judge you for asking a question, find a new coach!  They’re working for you.

– Todd

Todd is a husband, father of three, youth triathlon coach and 140.6 finisher.
He’s the new voice of Swim Bike Kid.
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