One aspects of starting coaching again is that you realize how very time-consuming coaching really is: not only the travel to the track and the workout itself, but also writing training programs, go to competitions and training camps, communicate by app, etc. But let’s face it, nobody told me it was an easy or rewarding job, and after 30 years on the track you kind of should know how it is.

But in 14 years of absence from coaching athletes on an almost daily basis, you notice changes. Fourteen years is almost a generation and with an ever increasing pace of change, those changes also seem to be amplified.

Since I have been coaching elite athletes for a long time, the accumulated experience during that time makes it interesting to compare these athletes from the 1980’s and 90’s with the current generation of athletes that I coach.

Here are some differences that I observed:

1. this might be a coincidence but my current group of athletes makes me feel really dumb at times,    all of them are extremely smart, thank God I still know a bit more than them about training and coaching. They are all very rational athletes and cognitively well equipped. Also they learn very fast, not only in cognitive sense, but also in the sense of motor leaning.

2. none of them are full professionals yet, they all have a fulltime study or work sometimes with adapted working hours.

3. their motivation and dedication are unbelievable, since I always thought that my former athletes were already very motivated and I found it hard to believe one could be more motivated than that. Wrong! They are extremely ambitious and have no problems raising the bar for themselves.

4. an obvious one: the use of modern technology is fully integrated in the lives of the athlete, not only the obvious use of their phones to communicate or to find information, but also the use of their phones for photos or video recordings . So I have much more visual data from training and competition than before, certainly since I came from the age of the Super 8 film camera. The limitation here is the overkill of data. I hardly have the time to watch all the movies and take splits or count strides. We predominantly use it for visual feedback for the athlete.

5. the new group is more independent and yes, like I wrote above, very smart, but like many of their generation, they sometimes tend to suffer from cognitive overload, also because the extremely high demands of their study and their work. However, there is an increased incidence of emotional turmoil. Their brains seems to be overstimulated and at times their hard disks are becoming full. Thus is however a normal social phenomenon. More than before, the guidance of the coach or better said: the psychological/emotional mentorship is much more important than before. The numbers show that many young people of this generation already suffer from burnout, which is a tell-tale sign about the unseen load like the iceberg hidden under the surface.

Now all of this has no scientific value, but I don’t really care about that, my questions is if coaches who care coaching over a longer period as well share the same experiences that I observe , or maybe, like often, I am in an exceptional position.


I am happy and proud to be lecturing on March 30 at the “Transfer to Sports” Seminar, together with my dear colleagues Justin Kavanagh, Jeff Moyer and Ian King, at The Sport & Speed Institute, Chantilly, VA.

I will be speaking about advanced sprint training, and also about some new developments en experiences of the last year.

For more information:

For interested readers: here are some of the podcasts I presented in the past months:  Off the track, Part, 1,2,3,4    h

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