Coach Melissa Mantak talks about how coaches can equip athletes to pursue sports over a lifetime and the ever-growing toolbox she has relied on to help athletes over decades of training and racing.
I’m flattered and honored to be able to say that I have two athletes who have been with me for a long time. One athlete for over 20 years, and one athlete for about 16 years, it really is kind of amazing. I have to stop and think about that sometimes.
Facilitate the athlete’s longevity in sport
But I think there’s multiple factors that have worked with that. I think number one is longevity in sport in general, because sport fitness, whatever you want to call it, is part of our lives. It needs to be a part of our lives forever. That was the philosophy I took on when I was younger, that movement and fitness is for life. It’s not something you can just do and stay there for the rest of your life, unfortunately.
How coaching evolves with long-term athletes
One of my athletes started out as a fledgling triathletes. He was in his 40s, and he wanted to go to Nationals, but he wasn’t doing very well. With him, I had to teach him how to push himself. He didn’t really know his limits, because he’d never really gotten to his limit. For him, it was learning to push himeself. Over time has become teaching him to back off a little bit. We’ve had to transform our relationship, we’ve had to develop our relationship over time.
I think my ability to roll with my athletes, to be flexible, to have lots of tools in my toolbox to pull from when they change direction, when things happen. He had a hip replacement, but he’s still out there racing. He just came fifth at Draft Legal World National Championship, so he’s still in it. I think he appreciates my dedication, my level of experience, and knowledge. My desire to learn more and continue to grow with the sport, and also just that reliability factor. I’m always there for him. I always have been always will be for as long as he wants to do it. So, I do what I tell him I’m going to do, I do it quickly, and I do it well. He continues to find success, and so it just feeds on itself.
Balancing mental health and performance
My other long term athlete has really changed a lot over time. She’s had more mental health struggles, which I think is so common nowadays. She’s had to really back off at times, we go to just a yoga phase. She’s gone from being an Ironman triathlete to ultra running now and has been doing very well with that. So it’s your ability to just grow and change and transform with your athletes and I think is part of that longevity.