All of my adult life, in fact most of my life, I have competed. As a young lad playing local and representative football, through my school years playing every sport going, leaving school and having a pro career in rugby, and now competing in indoor rowing. At no point in that timeline when I thought about coaching did I have any real interest in it. That was until more recently when my relative success across the distances in indoor rowing and some race wins along the way (whilst not being your average rowing type) lead to others asking me for training plans. So without any grand plan I just went with it and it seemed my coaching career was up and running.
At this stage I was both competing and coaching individuals (I still am) and hadn’t considered the impact these roles may have on each other. The relationship became more apparent when I started running group training plans where individuals, including myself, follow a generic plan that has individual targets for pace and stroke rates for each session. The group plan idea was formed following an early morning session with a client where I had remarked how this particular style of session would really help people of all abilities improve their rowing. His reply was simply ‘trial it’. So I did. Little did I know the Plan would have over 100 applicants! In my usual ‘no grand plan’ style, I just went with it and the FM Plan has been running ever since with great success.
In theory if I separated coaching and performing into two challenges in their own right then the relationship is easy. As there wouldn’t be a relationship! The tricky part comes when my style of coaching/leadership is considered. I naturally try to lead by example, something I’ve always done. Therefore if I’m not performing at what I consider to be an acceptable level then I automatically question my credibility as a coach. I recognize that this is my issue and not necessarily how I’m perceived by others during tougher training times, but it’s a difficult balance to strike. At it’s extremes, in the blink of an eye I can switch from having confidence in my coaching abilities, to questioning my approach to pretty much everything.
The fact is that the two aspects don’t need to effect each other. Ultimately I want to continue to perform AND coach, as both are hugely rewarding. What I really want to achieve however is that sense of balance and flexibility between the two, so that my perception of how credible I am to others doesn’t suffer every time my individual performances do. This is the next step for me. It’s both a personal battle and a professional development I need to undertake. As a starting point I made a parallel with parenting. In raising my 5 kids, I want them to acquire the ability to approach life and all it’s challenges with a ‘balanced’ perspective. In order to do that I’m required to guide them through their experiences with all my expertise and flaws so that they can learn from my successes and my mistakes and make their own path. We are at the end of the day, all different. They will hopefully take from me what they need to shape a life where they experience contentment. They are of course more likely to achieve that if I can demonstrate tolerance and an ability to do the same. If I can maintain my belief in my expertise as a coach when I perceive my performances to be flawed, then that’s a win…in the meantime I think if I remind myself that others have faith in me, and they can accept my ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach, then I’ll have the courage to progress.