Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Managing Coach/Athlete Disagreement

I sometimes hear talk of athletes having a hard time with their coaches. They say things like their coaches don’t listen to them, or are scheduling training that doesn’t fit in their schedules or they’re setting workouts that don’t address their training and racing goals. When it comes to athlete/coach disagreements, I know I don’t have all the answers, but I do understand my approach to the balance between a healthy dialogue and too much conflict.

First I don’t believe in the “it’s my way or the highway” approach to coaching. I believe in a mutually respectful relationship that thrives best with communication. I have my fundamental beliefs, my experience, my philosophy and my approach. I’m hired by athletes because they believe that I have something to offer to help them achieve their goals. I as a coach am committed to doing everything I can to make the individual athlete be the best he or she can be.

Some of the best lessons I’ve learned as a coach have come through listening to my athletes. The greener or newer an athlete is to sport or my program the less room there is for negotiation. That said, I do encourage questions. I want my athletes to become educated so questions of “why” are welcome.

The longer I work with someone, or the more experience he or she has, the more my guidance becomes a conversation. Just like I need to be able to have confidence and the answer for why I am asking someone to do something, if an athlete disagrees or has a different opinion, I’m open to hearing his or her concerns.

My best possible answer to how do I handle disagreement is to listen first, then explain the “why” from both sides why and how the “X factor” that is being disagreed on has an impact on the athlete’s overall goals he or she set out to achieve.

I believe every action and plan is geared towards the goal that the athlete came to me to help them achieve. If something is not in line with that goal then it’s open for discussion. I also believe that an athlete has come to me to help -- to make a change. So if he or she is just plain not willing to do that it may be that individual just isn’t ready to be coached.

It's normal and healthy that at some point there will be question or disagreement on either side of the coach/athlete relationship. The key is putting emotion and ego aside and coming up with the best possible solution to put the athlete further along the path of success.


Marilyn Chychota has been in elite sport since the age of 9, from show jumping to cycling and triathlon. Competing on an international stage in all three sports with an Ironman title, several podiums and state championships in cycling, Marilyn works with all distance and level of triathletes and cyclists. From beginners to elites; short course, bike racing, stage racing and long course triathlon, she has guided several athletes to the podium and to Hawaii qualifications.
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