Friday, March 25, 2011

Difference Between Coaching Adults and Students

America is a land full of conflicting information. For instance, popular media will claim that we are obsessed with thinness, but obesity is now considered an epidemic. Most people (obese or otherwise) will say that they want to lose weight. They also recognize that the single best way to burn calories is to run. Based on this information, you'd suspect that America would be a land of running and that we'd love it. Odd.

Wanting to lose weight doesn't seem to be enough. Many people need a more valid excuse for running, so they take up sports. Most athletes participating in sports are really closet Golden Retrievers- they chase balls for exercise. The ball provides the reason to run. Chase it or be chased. Some of those balls are hit with a stick (baseball),  tossed (basketball or baseball), or kicked (such as football (American and traditional) or the average dating scene). Regardless, launch a ball into a group and the hounds go wild. Granted, there are those who need no reason to run. In high school, we called those people 'unpopular.' And by 'we', I mean everyone else. And by 'those people', I mean me.

I started coaching track this week. Oddly, not much has changed since my high school days. Running is still just as thrilling as ever. I've come to learn that maintaining the motivation for a group of kids to run is just as arduous as getting a group of adults to be excited about running, especially since we remove the ball. That's where this coaching thing becomes lucrative (in the mental well-being sense, not the monetary sense). I enjoy watching athletes grow and improve throughout our time together. Yet, coaching adults is vastly different than coaching students (in the high school sense). Allow me to expand...

-Both adults and students know that running is good for you, yet still aren't that thrilled about it.
-Both have better workouts when you (and by you, I mean me) get out there and run with them.
-Both hate stairs and hill work.
-Both would rather subscribe to the Saturday morning infomercial form of training (you know, 6 minutes a day for only 4 days a week will give you long, lean muscle mass).
-Both don't take constructive criticism very well. You must provide the negative gift wrapped in opportunity or else risk a system failure.

-Adults base all possible coaches on the reality show, the Biggest Loser. They either want a Jillian or a Bob. (I'd want a Jillian, too)
-Students don't put a lot of deep thought into their coach. The coach is the coach. You want on the team, suck it up and live with it. (Thank goodness for that.)

-Adults are interested in the theory. They turn into large 4-year-olds once practice starts. Why do we do this? How do we do that? Do I really have to run hills? I have to get up how many hours before a race?
-Students want to put in exactly zero thought into their routine. Just tell me what to do so I can do it and get on with my life. I'll come back tomorrow and you can tell me again.

-Adults want to set their own goals. Some are lofty. Some are ambitious. It is the coach's job to help with reality and to see them through the endgame. (P.S. Pondering finished her NYC Half Marathon in PR fashion and blogged about it. You can read it here. I got a shout out. She rocks!)
-Students basically have one goal- win. All other goals are set for them.

-Adults appreciate data. Give them heart rates, paces, cadences, miles, time, calories burned, number of total steps taken, and how many minutes they just added to their life. They want it all.
-Students want to know if they won. If not, what place did they come in? All other information is completely useless.

-Students have practice for 2 hours daily and want each and every minute completely filled with something.
-Adults expect to get in shape in as little time as possible. Two hours in any day will not likely happen (including travel).

Both groups, adults and students, are uniquely rewarding. I cherish the opportunity to learn and grow with them. This post is a work in progress which I'm sure will yield the opportunity to expand and grow as time passes. (OK, the real reason I'm stopping the creative flow is that I'd like to research some fun track-related drills and games for the kids who need guidance for the next 10 weeks or so. I'm hoping I can find a running practice with a ball.)


  1. Astute observations...interestingly I fit all of the "adult" characteristics!! Wonder who these adults are that you work with and get all of this information from...

    Thanks for the link/shout out/shameless plug as well :)

  2. Well, last I checked you were an adult. Don't fret, these aren't all solely based on you. Not all. Honest.