Team Mom Julie Weber (my wife) sipping on a "small cup" of coffee
Great systems make great running programs
Everyone knows that a running coach must have a great understanding of running mechanics and physiology to create great running programs. You can't skip this step. You have to know the training phases of our sport inside and out to help each athlete reach their God given potential. However, most coaching training programs just focus on these two areas.
The problem is that you can't stop there. You must have world-class support systems in place to create a best practice running program (or any sport for that matter) as well.
Well thought out support systems help runners reach their potential
Coaching well is just as tough as any other profession. You must have excellent support systems and processes in place to achieve great success. What are some of those support systems in coaching?
In a successful high school, club, and even a collegiate program you need a great volunteer base to succeed. At the high school level, dedicated parents carry some of the administrative load so coaches can do what they do best, coach!
The best programs have parents, volunteers, or staff who help raise funds, set up team tents, plan food for race days, arrange transportation to meets, help organize running camps and meets, schedule hotels, and get their kids to practice on time.
Another example of a great support service is what we call a team mom (at the high school level). A team mom (or dad) who supports the social and emotional side of things and helps young people work through personal issues, team building issues, and offers a lending ear to just about any issue in life is worth their weight in gold.
Coaching in many ways is much more about being a life coach than a running coach. I think the concept of a team mom or dad can be applied to any team with a little creativity.
A top rated physical therapist and/or athletic trainer who is specifically trained in running strategies is also important to team success. You can't have someone helping a running team who does not understand the impact of running day in and day out. Many athletic trainers don't have the background to really help runners. Find one who does and hire them or find a volunteer. This same person can also serve as a core and conditioning expert as well as teaching the best biomechanics if they have the background.
A good running coach will recruit others who are specialists in a particular area to help the team. A coach can't be an expert at everything. Leaders bring in others to share their knowledge with the team.
You also need people to keep splits, stats, and help organize races. Having a formal project plan in place to implement races and other team tasks also goes a long way toward ensuring success as well.
All great teams focus on the details just like a project manager who manages multi-millionaire dollar contracts. Success lives in the details of everyday planning.
Look under the hood a few times a year
Like a quality-focused fortune 500 business, a great team must have a quality improvement process in place. Each year it is important to look at all of your systems and processes and find better ways of getting things done. Checking your ego at the door is the only way to get better. Looking honestly at your successes and failures is how champions get even better. Looking under the hood each year is a must not a want. Fix the problems, don't fix the blame.
Yes, support systems really are that important. You need others to help develop a great program and to carry some of the load. No one ever achieves any level of greatness by themselves.
Championships require great people who support and are committed to the team mission. If you are a coach, it is your job to find the best people possible to help your team members reach their God given potential, in all areas of life not just running fast.