The Power of Finding Your Why

Knowing what energizes you as a coach will cultivate performance. It also creates bandwidth for situations where energy and outcome are not yet dialed.

Video Transcript

Joe Friel  00:03

There are some types of athletes that you work with that you find to be really enjoyable. Is there something like that for you, Alison, that really, really turns you on?

The Joy of Coaching Beginner Athletes

Alison Freeman  00:14

There is. I love working with beginner triathletes. Whether they’re new to the sport, or new to the race distance, it’s just one of my favorite, favorite genres of athletes. I found that as a coach, in general, I focus on education, and I just, I love talking about triathlon and beginners ask a lot of questions. I really enjoy that. I like having those conversations. I like teaching them all the different things.

Alison Freeman  00:43

The challenge, though, is that you do have to teach them ALL the things. They probably have no idea what a heart-rate zone is, they’ve never heard of power. They certainly don’t know what VI is on the bike. Their swim technique skills, just understanding what an endurance pace feels like, they’ve never heard of rate of perceived exertion… so as you can see, a lot of things to talk about.

Joe Friel  01:05

It’s endless, isn’t it?

Alison Freeman  01:06

It’s endless. So you have to enjoy those conversations, and you have to have a lot of patience. You have to play the long game, right? You’re not going to teach them everything in the first week. But it is really rewarding to see… to take a fledgling athlete and turn them into a really successful athlete.

Joe Friel  01:26

That’s good, that’s good. Ryan, what’s your favorite type of athlete to work with?

Coaching Athletes with Passion for the Sport

Ryan Kohler  01:31

I think, for me, my favorite type of athlete is the one that really brings a deep passion for whatever sport they’re doing. They can have any type of goal, it doesn’t really matter that much to me. It’s more I want to know, I want to understand your why. Why do you do this? And if they have a why where they can get to a start line and smile there, or you can see them out on the course, whether they’re in the lead or back of the pack, if they’re just enjoying what they’re doing, I know that supports them as a whole athlete and has this foundation and kind of just [supports their] health, too. If it’s that type of athlete, then yeah, I love working with them. It’s the ones where if they come in, and they’re like, “I want to, you know, break this time, and I’ll do whatever it takes,” and they’re very just pointed with that. I am like, “I’m not the best fit for you.” But let’s have fun. Let’s enjoy this and make it work into your lifestyle and make this something that you can do as a lifelong activity.

Managing Athletes with Low Motivation

Joe Friel  02:22

Have you ever dealt with an athlete whose motivation was low? They’re paying you to coach them, but motivation is really not what it should be… they miss workouts when they really could have easily done it. That’s kind of the other side of this coin you’re talking about. I’ve run into that a few times myself, have you ever had that experience?

Ryan Kohler  02:42

Yeah, it’s been interesting with one athlete I’m thinking of that was really trying to push into more mountain bike racing and was like hitting the training hard going to these races, not finding the success that he wanted. You could see motivation was just trickling off, season after season. But then it wasn’t until he said, “Hey, there’s this cool trip where I can go ride my bike for a couple days in Nepal and accomplish something.” It wasn’t a race, but it was just another event that he could do to feel success. Once he started doing that it was every year it was, oh, it’s Italy this year. It’s Czech Republic here. It’s Nepal…. So then there will always be this goal he would have. We still did the training, and we had all the coaching and everything. But it was just geared completely differently where once we took that competition away, his motivation completely changed.

Alison Freeman  03:26

Do you think his original goals, when he wasn’t motivated, were just not in line with his why?

Ryan Kohler  03:32

I think they were just, they were partly too lofty. I think he had to find his why too. I don’t think he knew because he was more toward the beginner stage, getting into it and had a few years under his belt. But never had a coach or never had that education, so didn’t really know what, didn’t really see that whole range of possibilities.

Joe Friel  03:49

I think I can certainly sympathize with what you’re talking about. I coached an athlete who had been a world champion as a junior, as a teen. I started coaching him after he got the world championship, and one first thing I discovered was he had very low motivation. But he was so talented that he could just show up without even training and win the race. He was just an amazing athlete. The athlete who is talented and motivated, we all love to work with that athlete. But if you take away either one of those two things, now we’ve upset the apple cart, and we’ve got a difficult time dealing with this. So what you’re describing there is probably fairly common, we probably all run into athletes who have low motivation, and we try to help them figure out a way to to improve that motivation. But it’s a real challenge.

Ryan Kohler  04:38

Help them find their why. I often ask them, “What, you know, what kind of fills your bucket?” What about that sport fills it? If we can identify that, I think we can start working toward it. But until they know that, yes, it’s tough.

Recognizing When Training Needs to Be Dialed Back

Alison Freeman  04:51

There’s also an ebb and a flow, I think. There are seasons and years when athletes are very engaged and very motivated and doing all of their training. Then, sometimes, the subsequent season you can see different things happening on their calendar and just less consistency. I find sometimes when I dive into that with my athletes, it’s because the context of their life has changed. There’s something going on at home, or there’s more stress at work. Then you can have a talk about how, maybe we just rearranged things a little bit this year, maybe you’re doing fewer races, maybe you’re doing shorter distances.

Joe Friel  05:24

So things you are rearranging are training sort of things, you’re not rearranging their life?

Alison Freeman  05:28

No, I am not rearranging their life, they get to decide what to do with their life. But I can rearrange their training to fit better with where their life is today. I talk with my athletes a lot about the ebb and the flow, and triathlon is always going to be there for them when they’re ready to come back to it at a higher level of engagement, but it’s okay to have times when it takes a different place in your life.