I recently came across a question from a new coach who was torn between training with his athletes and training for his own (different) goals. His dilemma was that he wanted to set the pace for his athletes by leading the conditioning workouts, but he also had entirely different goals for himself. Leading the conditioning sessions would detract from his goals. He was at a fork in the road and had to make a decision.
My advice is to separate your goals from those of your athletes. As a coach, your job is to prepare your athletes for their specific needs. Coaches are not judged by their own athletic abilities. The coach is judged on his ability to teach and prepare his athletes for their respective events. Yes, past experience is important and relevant, but the experience should already be present, as it should be a prerequisite to earn the position.
For a real world example, consider the sport of boxing. Working the corner for a fighter does not mean you throw punches between rounds. You are there to provide strategic advice, alert your fighter to possible mistakes, keep him mentally sharp, etc. Your own abilities as an athlete are irrelevant. You are not paid to fight. You are paid to prepare the athlete so he can fight. What you do on your own time is entirely up to you.
Using myself as an example, I often have entirely different goals from those I train. Holding the mitts for a fighter has nothing to do with my own development.
I have not fought in over a decade. My own training is for me. This stance may appear selfish at first glance, but I strongly believe in the importance of taking time out for yourself. I spend a considerable amount of time helping others, so taking an hour in the morning to target my goals helps keep me physically and mentally fresh. Getting my workout out of the way in the morning allows me to spend my work day focused on helping others. My own work is finished so it is not a distraction.
As a man in my 30’s, I have a long list of goals and challenges that I would like to achieve in my life. I’m hoping to exercise for at least another fifty years. That is longer than I’ve been alive. There is no way I am going to train one way for such a long period. I will continue to pursue my own personal interests and challenges (on my own time).
Currently, I am working on a new deadlift challenge. The image above is from yesterday when I pulled 565 pounds. I am hoping to hit 600 pounds this year. My own deadlift challenge is irrelevant to my role as a coach. I don’t even have a specific reason for pursuing the goal, other than it being something that is new and different for me. I’ve never focused too much time on this particular exercise.
Five years from now, I might be training for a marathon or perhaps a triathlon. I honestly don’t know. Wherever my passion leads me, I will be sure to target my goals on my own time. It will not interfere with my coaching.
In summary, it is great to see coaches who are determined to lead by example, but you should also hope that your athletes surpass your own abilities. Your job is help your athletes excel. Your job is to make them the best that they can possibly be. If you are always trying to stay a step ahead, your priorities will interfere with the development of your athletes. When you train an athlete, he or she must come first. Don’t let your ego interfere with their development.
Take your eyes away from the mirror and focus your attention on those who rely on you.