Our day-to-day reality has taken a drastic turn throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The sports community proves to be no exception. Both athletes and coaches have to deal with an unforeseen situation presenting new daily challenges. Without the possibility of accessing training facilities and partaking in team training, runners have to be creative during these times. During this global pandemic, fulfilling the coaching role can be difficult.
However, coach or not, these training principles apply to every runner. Whether you were working up to your first 5K, marathon or a big track season, your season was disrupted and you’ll have some questions about how to proceed. Here are five tips to help coaches and athletes through this crisis.
Stay in contact with your athletes
Even though most coaches are not allowed to be with their athletes right now, it’s important to find a way to communicate with them a few times per week. Whether that’s via phone call, video conference, social media or emails–communication is important. This will help you to maintain a good relationship, allow you to understand how they are dealing with the current crisis, and give you an opportunity to provide feedback about their training. Maintaining this relationship will likely translate to a better coach-athlete relationship when practices return to normal.
Adapt your training plan
Cancel any competitions planned for the next few months ahead. With the newly established restrictions, adapting training plans and reorienting goals is necessary. You should avoid perpetuating anxiety for your athletes and keep in mind that now, more than ever, sport is a tool to decrease stress. For endurance coaches, it can be a good time to plan off-track sessions like tempo runs, hill repeats, and fartleks. Keep in mind that without any competitions on the schedule, your plan should look more like a base phase and you should avoid a high-volume training load. We want our athletes to remain healthy and ideally avoid injuries.
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Target some new learning opportunities
Coaches can take advantage of the situation to invest time in their professional development. Take time to adopt or learn about new practices that you didn’t have the time to before. Also, connect with your circle of coaches and discuss what they’re planning for their athletes.
Make sure you are doing well
It’s important for everyone to check in with themselves. If you want to have a positive impact on the athletes you are coaching, it is crucial to take care of yourself in order to stay motivated and be effective in your job. More than ever, community spirit will be needed to overcome the challenges during and after the crisis. We are stronger together, and the current situation should encourage coaches and runners to seek help from the their community.
Reflect upon your experience
In every sector, we will face significant differences before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Historically, every major crisis has has long lasting impacts on society. Sport coaches have to understand that our reality has been changed, and those who will adapt and learn from it will probably have more success in the future.
Felix Lapointe is the provincial head coach at the Quebec track and field branch and the head coach of cross-country at Laval University.