Choosing Your Coach

This blog is about effective and ineffective coaching.

When you begin to take any sport seriously, the choice of a coach or coaches will make or break your ambitions. You can see it in all sports, and sailing is certainly no exception.

On an observation level, we see massively talented sailors doing well and loving their racing. We see average talents punching way above their weight. These are reflections of top coaching. On the flip side we see some hugely talented sailors wallowing in mediocrity because of poor coaching. We see technique, strategy and the psychological approach so obviously wrong that they are doomed to failure. It needs to be addressed, and we feel that we “give” so much free information in our blogs, and even what some coaches would call “secrets”, that we do indeed feel qualified to give you, the sailor, some guidance in the choice of coaches.

No, we don’t want al sailors to think that we are the only route to follow. Yes, we are so passionate about sailing, and so respectful of other top coaches, that we feel its time to blow the lid on the topic and make another contribution to improve sailing as a sport. Coaches need to earn respect based on reality too, and that includes Toplevel Sailing!

Over the years we have encountered some great coaches, we work with them, share information and techniques, and end up with both parties stronger, and as a consequence we are more able to produce strong sailors. The level of openness in these working relationships is massive. We give freely, and get the same given back. It works! Conversely there are a lot of coaches who are able to convince their sailors and managers that they are doing a wonderful job, the achievements are their creation but they are not responsible for any failures, most of them have a very limited record of improving sailors performance and skills and have mainly built their reputation over a single successful sailor (usually a mega talent) that they have “coached”, usually only as a part of a successful journey. They never openly exchange meaningful information with other coaches, nor do they seek for self improvement. What they do seek is credit for any of the sailors’ achievements, and they are invariably masters of soundbites so they can talk the talk, rarely managing to walk the walk! Usually their entry will be on the basis of economic values, and since the tendency of many is to conserve budget. Many times coaching is perceived as secondary importance for sailors performance which in itself is a proven, and very wrong old school perception.

A couple of years back while brainstorming with one of our managers regarding coaching methods and budgets he told us the following sentence:

“If you think good coaching costs a lot wait until you try bad coaching”

That sentence can’t be anything but an absolute truth and I will explain. Firstly, an ineffective coach may not only not improve the sailor, but also give them bad advice with wrong explanations and reasoning which sends sailors spiralling downwards in their performance. Since ineffective coaches don’t have the abilities and methods to improve their sailors skills they will deliver verbally some very convincing reasons with various psychological and technical theories. Maybe their sailors will be “slow starters” or “unable to see things around them”, they will put the blame on “old equipment” or the “wrong sails”. There will never be a plan or a system to combat those false psychological problems only a convincing statement that this is the problem we are facing and it will take time to overcome. The fact is “time”, on its own, won’t solve these challenges. They will only be overcome by addressing and strengthening the necessary skills to overcome Issues such as improving observation skills and learning how to prioritise, risk management and a bunch of other important skills necessary to become a successful sailor, whose career is accelerated by an effective coach.

An effective coach may not always have the solution at hand, but they will usually know where to look and who to consult. Ineffective coaches have a tendency to block any outside coaching for their sailors, They appear to know everything so why should they allow their sailors any outside perspective? The answer is to prevent their sailors from seeing the reality of effective coaching.

So what should a sailor look for in a coach?

Effective coaches will have a very clear method for solving challenges and strengthening weaknesses. They will do their best to address the right set of skills to solve any issues that arise with their sailors.

Their observations will be factual and will not invent mental blocks to disguise their lack of knowledge or ability. Accepting that the sailor is potentially better than you ever were, and addressing all matters in a humble way is the only route to ensure that the sailor fulfills their potential. That’s a difficult one for some to swallow!

They will exchange information and methods with other coaches, and sailors will feel that support on the water.

The levels of reasoning, explanations and knowledge building will appear systematic, with a method of communication that the sailor feels is correct.

At Toplevel Sailing we take pride in our coaching methods and our ability to implement the necessary skills for our sailors success, we will bring in different coaches when necessary and exchange information to ensure our coaches are at the top of their game and are able to assess their own strengths and weaknesses as coaches. The proven success of our sailors is the reason we are here, so we do everything possible to give our sailors their very best platform and chance of success. If you’re in sailing to achieve the very best that you can be, choosing a coach is a critical part of that process.

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