Reframing the way you talk to your coach 

We all need support during these extraordinary times. As athletes, many of you will have access to a network of people who can help you with specific strategies relating to the impact of COVID-19 on your new reality. We asked Dr Lindsay Shaw, senior sport psychophysiologist at the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, about how you can best utilise one of the most important pillars in this support community – your coach – to help you at this present moment.  

  • You should be talking openly and honestly with your coach during this time. This will set the foundation for you to come up with a plan.  
  • Reflect on the past together, to determine strengths or weaknesses to work on. 
  • Check out our latest articles on staying #MentallyFit and making productive use of your time during this period of uncertainty 

We’re several weeks into this now and you are well aware of that. Uncertainty triggers different responses, and you should give yourself a little bit of space to have whatever reactions that you’re havingThey could range from grief, disappointment, a sense of loss, a sense of relief, or even a sense of gratitude for this time off that you weren’t anticipating.    

Be honest with your coach 
You all have really different relationships with your coaches. If you‘re lucky, your coach has the authority to help you develop in a skilful way in your specific sport and can also be an important person in your life that is your confidant, and who genuinely has your best interests in mind as an individual, as a person and as an athlete.  

For those of you who have relationships with your coaches that are really close, you can be open with your coach right now. Tell them if you’re feeling lost, or if you don’t really know what you’re training for. Hopefully that sets the foundation for you and your coach to come up with a plan 

Set training goals in your new context 
It’s pretty typical that you are feeling sort of aimless, and that you don’t have this bold, directive behaviour. So I’m encouraging you to just try to set some goals – whether it is specific things you can set up with your coach about what type of training you can do at home, reviewing videos, or even components of your recovery. 

For example, maybe you could take a couple of days to assess a certain feature of your sport in training – it could be strength, precision or something else – and your coach could give you some short-term training goals and assess you after a couple of weeks. That way, you can both witness the progress that you’re making, or reformat the training so that you can make certain progress.  

This is an unprecedented time: you have several weeks or months of this ahead of you, so you can use it as a time to address something in your training that you’ve never had the opportunity to address, because it didn’t seem like you would get the right return or because it was going to be in conflict of your other training goals.     

Always reflect on the past to be clear about strengths, and to work out what needs to be addressed in order for you to rise up or stay amongst the best in the world

Embrace your mixed emotions 
Some of you may have a more emotionally distant relationship with your coach. Maybe your coach is having a hard time with the uncertainty too, or is struggling with not knowing how they’re going to support themselves financially during this time. 

I think you both need to recognise that your own emotions are your own emotions, and that if your emotions are very different from your coach’s emotions, then that could be challenging to navigate. 

But I think athletes and coaches – unless it’s a new relationship – can always reflect on the past to be clear about strengths, and to work out what needs to be addressed in order for you to rise up or stay amongst the best in the world

We don’t know what’s going to happen with the rest of the 2020 season, but we do know that in 2021 we’re all planning to compete again. So let’s lay out some specific training goals or take the time to identify some features of your training performance and recovery that you can enhance, so that you can be at your best in 2021.  

You and your coach can look to the future, together. 

For specific advice for entourage members on how best to support athletes during this period of uncertainty, click here