Why do (track & field) athletes change coaches?

It seldomly happens during the career of athletes that they have only one coach from start to the end of their career.

The change of coaches can have natural reasons such as:

  • within the structure of the sports you start with the a junior coach and when you get older you move to a different coach for a different age group, or you start training in the national team with a national coach
  • moving to another city, often for study or work, so becoming a member of a different club or university

But especially elite athletes sometimes change coaches for different reasons:

After working together for a few years the “chemistry” is over. Symptomatic often are the increasing numbers of tensions, disagreements, frustrations and conflicts. Even though the athlete’s performance can still be satisfactory.

Even when the performances are good, the athlete is in for something new, being bored with the predictable work-outs and seeing new things happening around him/her. Or other coaches may promise the athlete to make them even better and improve their performance (this often happened with national coaches). Often this can go hand in hand with better conditions, a better training-group, more support, better facilities, etc. And when raining with a new coach the athlete will give his/her very best to show how good they are (also to the former coach)

But most often the athlete is disappointed in his/her progress, improvement came to a standstill, despite hard training.  Injuries are the most likely cause or lack of progress. The athlete is limping from one injury to another, competitions have to be skipped, championships missed and the athlete spends more time on rehab than on training.

In this case they start to look for a new coach, hoping that he/she possesses a magic wand that will immediately make injuries disappear and training can be resumed as normal and performances increase and personal records are broken. In reality however this is not that easy. The injuries have left physicals scars, e.g. in connective tissues. The athlete has to adapt to an often different training-concept.

The new coach has to get to know the new athlete’s strengths and limitations. And all of this takes some time, whereas the impatient athlete sees the time ticking away. Often conditions for training with the new coach are less good. There was of course a reason why the athlete did not go to this new coach earlier and stayed with the former coach. Better training conditions and support might be a reason. And often the new coach lives further away, so frequent longer travels or moving to another city or even country might be necessary.

You can imagine coaching athletes with this background and history is never an easy task, the expectations are high, the chances are slim. Success in this case demands a lot of work and patience from the athlete and the coach. It is not an easy task anyway, no matter at what point you start coaching elite athletes. If anyone has told you coaching elite athletes is easy, they haven’t been telling you the truth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *