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Being a player-coach. « Mathieu O'Halloran's Blog


Being a player-coach.

Hey readers – this is a short spew about something thats been on my mind for a few months already – hope it captivates you!

Triathlon has a copious amount of “player-coaches” and possibly more than any other sport in history!

I am one of them =)

There has been quite a few successful player-coaches in team sports in the past, but recently they have been obsolete…Legendary Basketball player Wilt Chamberlain who once scored 100 points in a single game was one and so was Bill Russell who won 11 NBA Championships is possibly the most successful of them all. Now this one is for my Filipino readers – Robert Jaworski who is arguably the best Filipino basketball players ever was himself also very successful playing-coach.

So why does triathlon have so many of them? Some sports its actually against the rules!

Well, the main reason is the UN-fortunate reality that the money @ the top end of triathlon is quite sparse, this compels many pro’s to find some means to support themselves within the industry. Considering the mentality of many age group triathletes who obsess over numbers, the ‘coach’ with the fastest racing numbers must know what hes doing, right? Just like the buying the bike frame that’s got the fastest wind-tunnel numbers ;)

And then there is a lack of competent triathlon coaches, regardless of their traditional sports education, weekend courses or ridding the wave of a single good athlete, many mainstream coaches appear to struggle to consistently deliver an all encompassing program…

Now, what makes a good player/coach?

It takes superior detachment, regardless of emotion, friendship or current/past results on both sides, the relationship must maintain its integrity and initial “teacher/student” dynamic to be cohesive in the long run.

Time managements and being organized are also key. Regardless if its an virtual or face-to-face relationship, humans are prone to put their personal/family priorities first, before anybody else’s ambitions. So when swim/biking/running towards similar objectives but with different details or to have a juxtaposing plan, prioritizing and individuality are critical or a fault may arise  in the end results on both sides if corners are cut…

A player-coach maybe judged subjectively by his present actions/performances or lack off in competition as they are in a way a ‘role model’ to their pupils where the “do as I say not as I do” quote might cause some cracks in either sides ego…Leading by actions and example, may often be most crisp way to make a point.

Its in the Player-coach’s best interest to have a 2nd set of eyes on their training and coaching. Some sort of mentor or guide can be critical when obstacles make their appearance and assistance with perspective is required. In my experience, many struggling payer-coaches actually coach themselves, rarely look outside for advice and that ends up to be their downfall…

Coach Brett has tough me many things over the years about sport, life and Dr Pepper ? His advice keeps on coming to me as I become more independent!

Training and racing against your own coach or athletes can cause certain conflicts; sure, it might be fun here and there to see your coach work his ass off or giving it to your athletes and show them how it’s done. But ego’s and emotions maybe hard to keep in check, so this might instigate a rivalry or jealousy in the relationship that might cause a shift in control or trust.

And then it can also hinder a player-coach’s observations of particular aspects/weaknesses that their athletes needs to work or eliminate of which is only apparent during a pressure points, but can be hard-pressed to notice is as player-coach is to busy with his own thing…

Heres this for multi-tasking, I am this lady's coach, training partner and lover! Yes, there are some occasional conflicts but being able to share every thing/moment is priceless!

This year I did it all, I raced my athletes, I coached up to 8 athletes in a single race that I was racing, I coached a couple races from the side-lines, I watched workouts from the deck and I went head-to-head with them in training!

5i50 was our first race as a full team this year and was a true test of my leadership abilities, racing fitness and taking the right decisions @ the right time! Definitely an experience that took ALOT out of me!

My Kuya from a different mama is one of the fastest triathletes I have worked with - @ the Batayan Triathlon in 2011 he compelled me to look over my shoulder enuff times to give me a sore neck ;)

Me and Marc earlier this year - we would be 1-2 out of the water and 1st and 3rd on the overall podium!

Being a player-coach will let that athlete to live his dream, allow more time to train/race and mix his passion with his work! I have heard of a few stories of successful men who quit their 6 figure a year income to coach so they could train/race more to live the dream 8)

You can be sure, if your coach is active, he is very much aware of the strain and pain of training/racing – when I watch my athletes in the ‘hurt-box’ I remind them, that I know how they feel, I have been there myself and will go back there soon so might as well make it count by doing your best in the moment!

Versus a coach who hasn’t recently felt the pain/strain of heavy training or fierce competition, this might allow a loss of touch with the necessity and rigors of high performance sports so I believe it be a good idea for ALL sedentary coaches to occasionally get out and ‘refresh’  their athletic spirits!

This year was my heaviest as a player-coach, but ironically it was my most consistent as an athlete! My rationalization is that I FINALLY had financial stability for the first time in years, I felt like I living for more than just myself and last but not least that seeing my athletes grow before my eyes gave me a extra bit more toward fulfillment!

Lastly, most player-coaches I have meet tend to race and coach half assed – only a few have the discipline, maturity and leadership qualities to do both @ a competitive level.

Actually, they might as well be called coaching-players ;)

Please leave your comments on the forum.