RT’s Run School | The Politics of Performance by Mark Blomeley

Generally my posts on Runner’s Tribe are about physical performance, and in particular those choices we make in our training that affect our performance. Today, I want to talk more about the mental side of performance, in particular how we can let politics within sport affect our performance, specific I want to talk about competitive level athletes.

One of the reasons I enjoy strength and conditioning in the private industry is that I can tend to stay on the sidelines and assist athletes without getting involved in the political side of the sport. However, as I continue to build up my involvement as a running coach, I’m starting to see more and more the political side of the sport.

I have been involved in the coaching or physical preparation of some high level athletes across multiple sports over the years and it’s frustrating when I see how politics can potentially affect an athlete. Whether it’s choosing who should be coaching you, who gets selected or simply if you are getting your coach’s attention.

From an athlete’s perspective, you need to plan for this. I think there’s no doubt at some point in your runner career you’ll have to make changes to your coaching arrangements. It’s very rare that the coach you start with is the coach you finish with. Therefore, at some point in your career you will come to a cross roads and have to make a decision.

Thinking through these sorts of decisions are key to your long terms success, because a step backward in coaching can be a backward step in performance. Sitting down and thinking about your progress as an athlete is key. What happens if you move up to the next level? Will you get the support you need from your coach? Does my coach train too many athletes to be valuable enough to me? These are all sorts of questions that all competitive athletes need to answer.

From a coach’s perspective you need to plan what level coach you want to be or indeed how you manage your athletes. Unfortunately, there comes a point where you can’t accept any more athletes, therefore defining what level athletes you are going to take on is key.

If you predominantly train junior athletes then what’s going to happen is that you’ll attract more junior athletes and therefore that will become your squad. When these athletes get to 18 or so they are going to outgrow you. It’s at this point if they make the decision to move on then you need to encourage them, not try to hold on.

I personally made the decision 18 months ago to coach open level athletes that are at or have the potential to compete at a national level. The limitations for me are that I can’t ever have a big squad, but need to focus my attention on a few.

Running, like any sport, is full of plenty of ego. The more that coaches can outline their areas of expertise and focus and individual athletes have a plan for how they want to progress, then everyone benefits. Hopefully this reduces the ego in the sport and improves the performances of athletes.

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