In the summer of 1999, I got a call that seemed strange to me. My old high school coach, Coach Conway, was asking me to help him write a training plan for the cross country team. I was a college student and runner with not a day of coaching experience. He was a coach with decades of experience and state champion teams and individuals in his past. Just over a year earlier, I was present as he was inducted into the Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Why would this very experienced, very accomplished coach come to me asking for help writing up a training plan?
Well, because he was a great coach and great coaches don't rest on their laurels. They are always trying to learn new things. He knew that the college program I was running in used the Daniels training method well before the first edition of Daniels' Running Formula was published. My coach at the University of Wisconsin-Stout talked with Daniels on at least a semi-regular basis. Earlier that summer, Coach Conway borrowed my copy of Daniels' Running Formula and obviously liked it. He wanted to implement some ideas from the Daniels method into his training plan and, knowing I had first-hand experience with the plan, asked me to help him out.
This is one of the marks of a great coach. You're always looking for a better way, you never rest on your laurels and you're always willing to ask for help, even from people who may never expect to get asked by you.
On that note, I came across this interesting article last week:
Athletic coaches must be open to self-examination, lifelong learning, experts argue
Coaches are often lauded as experts at what they do, and, consequently, it can blind them to their athletes' individual needs. As a result many problems in sport are misunderstood or solved ineffectively. To address this, coaches need to engage in the critical examination of the knowledge and assumptions that inform their problem-solving approaches for them to become a positive force for change in making thoughtful, healthy, ethical decisions and choices for their athletes, experts argue.
Not only do the best coaches never stop learning and never stop asking for help. They admit their mistakes and learn from them. The bottom line is they are always trying to make themselves better. Anyone can do the same thing year after year and say they have years of experience. The best always innovate and have years worth of experience.
Of course, this all applies to runners as well. Whether you have a coach or you're a self-coached runner, are you continuing to learn? I don't care if you're in your third or thirtieth year of running, knowledge is always changing. If you don't keep learning, you'll be left behind. Be a lifelong learner. And, if you have a coach, make sure your coach is also a lifelong learner.