True story from the summer of 2017…

An athlete who had no prior swimming experience signed up with TOEST’s Learn2Swim program in January of this year. He progressed steadily through the program, and at its conclusion decided to continue on training with TOEST in the Kick2Start program. The goal this athlete had for the summer was to complete a triathlon. Wanting to learn how to put all three sports together, they signed up for an ‘Intro to Triathlon’ program a local triathlon club had put together… one of those programs that promises to take an athlete with little to no skill, no technique, no training and deliver them to the finish line of a triathlon in 10 weeks or less.

Anyhow… the coach of that local triathlon club after hearing that the athlete is training with TOEST to develop his swim proficiency said this…

“Oh you train with TOEST… the coaches there focus on kicking, eh… don’t worry, you won’t be doing that with us.”

I believe the coach went on to ask if the athlete had done any training with pull buoys and paddles, and with the athlete replying “no”, the coach was eager to reply “oh, you will be doing alot of pulling with me… alot.”

Its amazing how without having to ask… people will reveal the depth of their ignorance if you let them just speak, or let them speak long enough.

Which leads me to this Youtube video created by PHELX Swim working in partnership with SWIMSWAM.com. The PHLEX swim tutorial videos are recorded at top level US College swim facilities with top level US swimmers providing the instruction. SWIMSWAM.com is a unique website devoted to competitive swimming at the US College level: stories & news are related to hi-performance swimming.

Before I dig in, I encourage you to watch the video below titled: “The Most Common Mistake Swimming Freestyle” (spoiler alert: the solution is not a pull set).

Alrighty then…

Too much emphasis on the upper body, too much pulling and NOT ENOUGH kicking is the most common mistake in freestyle swimming… and guess who perpetuates it: coaches who should not be coaching swimming, actually by individuals who likely should not even call themselves coaches because what they are doing has no semblance to coaching.  They may be writing a workout on the whiteboard, or emailing a weekly workout schedule to athletes but writing a workout makes you as much a coach as standing on shore makes you an open water swimmer… not in the least.

WIKIPEDIA definition of “COACHING”

“Coaching is a form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner in achieving a goal by providing training and guidance.”

If the coachee is a learner, than guess what the coach is supposed to be or be doing… teaching.  Writing a workout and telling someone to go harder, then harder, and if they begin to suffer any discomfort, or pain, or clearly lack the technical abilities and skills, pushing them harder still… is NOT a coach!

So for all those who are hacking at coaching as if its some consequence-less hobby that you can take on in the evening or weekends for no other reason than because you survived a competition, perhaps even managed to podium, STOP! If you lack the ability to assess an athlete, if you lack the ability to identify what specifically an athlete needs to learn, if you lack the understanding or the ability or simply the patience to teach what an athlete needs (and going harder, and learning “no pain, no gain” should be immediate red-flags that you do not have a clue), then please leave the coaching to those who have spent a lifetime studying, working, and gaining the varied experience necessary to offer assistance. Why? Because if you coach wrong, the cost is not an athlete failing to cross a finish line in a personal best time… the cost could be an athlete ending up severely injured, or worse… dead.  The fact that the average North American is now unhealthy – yes, the average person sports at least one if not a myriad of medical conditions, with many of those conditions ‘invisible’ (i.e. without clear physical signs or symptoms) – should scare some sense into all those who call themselves coaches because understanding the effect training has on well-being, on health has never been more important than it is today.

BTW… if you reconcile that your ignorance is covered by the fact that you have a signed liability waiver: FYI… a signed waiver is not your license to experiment willy-nilly with human life.

Do NOT toy with human life simply because you think you can coach, because you took a weekend course in coaching, because you have a finishers medal, or simply because you have been doing it. Years of doing something wrong and getting away with it, doesn’t make it right.

Oh, and in case you are wondering…

The entire reason we started TOETT (i.e. the Triathlon Team) was because that same triathlon club in its ‘Intro to Triathlon’ training had a novice, absolute novice cyclist – as in these are your front brakes, these are your rear brakes novice – riding hill repeats on the 2nd or 3rd day of their program.

Stop and think about that for just a second.

Brand new to the sport of cycling… and let’s start with… hmm… oh, let’s see now… right, hill repeats!

What a bunch of clueless arrogant A-holes!

Yeah, the truth hurts, but before someone else gets injured, hit by a car, or worse killed, someone has to call out the fool who calls themselves a coach while putting novices out on open roads and instructing them to train like sport or expert level athletes.

If that wasn’t enough, that athlete who was new to cycling had an accident during that training session… and it still didn’t dawn on the coach or the club that their ‘Intro’ program was inappropriate for novices and instead was a bootcamp style program designed to try and cram a year’s worth of triathlon training into a matter of weeks.

You want injury, illness, to crash while cycling, then find a coach who knows nothing more than how to write workouts and you will have all of it in spades. The internet is loaded with these sorts of coaches… you won’t have a hard time finding one at all.

You want to explore your potential, your ability to consistently perform at your peak… then find a coach who refuses to drive an athlete beyond their current capacity, a coach who focuses on skill acquisition, on technique training, on base building, and encourages competing at the entry level of the sport until the athlete has a solid solid solid foundation.

Let me save you some time… if you are a ‘bucket list’, ‘a PR or ER’, or ‘Ironman or bust’ athlete, then you will not find what you are looking for @TOETT. The coaches @TOETT care enough about an athlete’s emotional, mental and physical health that we will refuse to help an athlete bent on pursuing a goal inappropriate for their level of skill, experience, and training; however, we will help any athlete willing to invest in taking the time to learn, to develop, to improve, the energy and effort they need to achieve their fullest potential.

For athletes who want workouts… you have the internet.

TOETT is for athletes who are not in pursuit of medals, ribbons, or podiums first, but who seek self-knowledge. But HEY, we ain’t stupid, we’ll take all the medals, ribbons, and podiums that happen to come along as we explore and strive to live out our fullest potential.

Happy Training… at least I hope it is.