Episode 39 – What defines success for a coach?

What defines success for a coach? Is it wins and losses?  Championships won? Leading athletes to new personal bests? Having one athlete win an Olympic medal while destroying 20 of them? These are the common notions that we associated with success. But is it the best way? In this episode of the Magness & Marcus show,  we look at how we, as coaches, should define success. Going back to our early days where the holy grail was coaching athletes to the Olympic Trials and the Olympic games, we look at how initially success is defined externally. We judge ourselves based on the traditional measures of success.  As young coaches, this business model of coaching is ingrained into our mentality. We define ourselves by the races won, championships earned, or PR’s gained by our athletes. We have thoughts of “If only I coach an athlete to a state/NCAA/Olympic Trials championship, then […]

Coaching Psychology- Delivering the right message and understanding where athletes are coming from.

When Patrick McHugh read the book The Energy Bus, he felt inspired. Patrick is an excellent High School Coach. He’s meticulous in his planning, always trying to learn, and willing to reach out to others to help perfect his craft. In other words, he’s the perfect guy to energetically transfer his lessons from a book to the team. Upon reading the book, he gave it to his top runners to read, knowing that they’d get the message and come together. The book hit like a dud. Sure, kids might have picked up a message here or there, but it didn’t have the same profound impact it did with Patrick. The kids couldn’t relate. When an athletic director handed the same book out to his department, about half of the people bought in, glowing with excitement, while others slugged through the words. Despite a large group of pretty successful people, all […]

Is it time to ditch the clock and the chase for records in athletics?

Who has the record for the fastest time at the Kentucky Derby? How about the record at the Daytona 500? What’s the average speed record for the Tour de France? If you know these facts, you’re a more avid fan of sports than I. Records are important in track and field. They allow us to connect to history, comparing how fast Nick Willis and Roger Bannister covered the same 4 laps around a track. No one doubts the importance of records, but what I want to suggest, unlike the aforementioned sports, is that we’ve sold out. Track has become so time and record obsessed that we’ve forgotten what makes sport great. This never-ending search for faster times creates a system where athletes fail more often than they succeed. A system that is reliant on breaking records or exceedingly fast times to get that hit of excitement from the fan and […]

Episode 38-The Science of the Unscience of Running:

Humans have a need for explanations. When faced with uncertainty we rely on closure. The world of running is no different. When something goes wrong, as athletes and coaches we go into a panicked search for a reason why we didn’t perform at our best. Often, we perform elaborate gymnastics attempting to find the elusive explanation. When we perform a search, we often think we are taking a scientific approach; breaking down the potential causes one by one until we find an explanation. While there is merit in taking such a seemingly rationale approach, what often ends up happening is we are simply developing a story to reach closure. We can’t actually say that the warm-up or the meal you ate the night before, or the workout you performed two days before was the magical key to it all. As coaches, this plays out in real life all the time. […]

How do you get to World Class? A look at the progressions of top 800m runners

A few years ago, I posted a data analysis of the progression to world class for female 5k runners. I’m an inner data nerd, the kind of kid who grew up calculating baseball stats and looking for patterns before we could easily pull all that data off the web. I’m not a stats guru by any means, I like to keep things simple. What I really like to do is see how stats match up to the real world.   A few weeks ago, I posted an article on how certain governing bodies utilize progressions of athletes from year to year to make decisions on athlete funding. Often, they determine whether an athlete gets governinmental funding based on if they are hitting a certain pathway towards some measured success (i.e. getting a medal or making a final). But it’s not just funding that is impacted. Team selection is too. Countries […]

Episode 37- Interview with Vern Gambetta: Coaches Education

In this episode, we are joined by performance coach extraordinaire Vern Gambetta. Using the performances at the recent Olympic Trials as a backdrop we take on coaches education. Where have we gone right and where have we missed the boat. We start by asking the question of what makes a good coach? Is it coaching a singular athlete to the highest level or someone who consistently develops athletes, regardless of the level? Once we have the definition in place, we turn our attention to some components that are missing in a lot of today’s training paradigms. Starting with tactics and the ability to race and not simply fall in line behind a rabbit, to the use of ‘play’ in training. In particular, we have a lively discussion on the tendency to program and enact highly scripted workouts instead of actually coaching. In this discussion, you get to hear the perspectives […]

Episode 36- Innovation & Getting Stuck: An interview with Mike Smith

In this episode, we have a special guest, the director of Track and Field at Georgetown, Mike Smith. In an in-person conversation at the Olympic Trials we discuss innovation within coaching. With the three of us having been in the collegiate and post-collegiate world we discuss the tendency for the NCAA system to lock coaches into a stale state where we get stuck utilizing certain patterns of training. We get locked into a 7 day cycle with Saturday races and the church of the Sunday long run. We start to become reactive coaches, seeing only as far as the next race this upcoming weekend. Starting with the perils of the NCAA system and having to be ready for Cross-Country, Indoors, Outdoors, conference meets, Penn Relays, Stanford, and so forth, we then venture out into the world of coaching as a whole. This 50 minute sit down conversation is all about […]

Selection Nightmare- Countries Denying Athletes their Olympic Dream

Consider this a plea. A plea for countries that do not send full Olympic teams, when they are perfectly capable of it, to reconsider their policy. I realize that this will mostly fall on deaf ears, but for athletes in countries that don’t select teams, perhaps it will offer some solace. I have no dog in the fight, no athlete who didn’t get selected this year, but it’s something that’s been happening for decades, with no real resolution. There’s a notion in athletics that if we create difficult standards, athletes will rise to the occasion. We simply need to raise the bar to a level that pushes athletes to strive to a new level. Every new head of athletics that comes in and tries to be a hard ass and draw a line in the sand for how good you have to be to make my team is demonstrating this […]

Thoughts and Lessons from the Olympic Trials

Four years ago, I had my first Olympic Trials as a coach. It came right after my tumultuous time with the company who shall not be named. I had one athlete there who had a shot to qualify for the Olympics, but bombed out in the heats. It was one of the hardest things I’ve dealt with as a coach. You spend years planning and perfecting the method to get to a point, then execution of the plan fails and you’re left picking up the pieces. Four years later, I had three athletes here. One who came to me with 2 stress fractures and having not run a PR in 4 years, another who had the standard but then developed mono in the months leading up to it, and another who ran a marathon PR in April and decided to go for a fast 5k less than 3 months later. […]

Episode 35 – Emotional Control & Picking Up the Pieces- The Olympic Trials

Coming at you in-person from the Olympic Trials, we dish on the high pressure environment that is attempting to make the US Olympic team. Jon and I take a look at the 7/8 of the field that leaves disappointed and how we should pick up the pieces after a hard fought race. The Olympic Trials is a meet like no other, it’s a finish top 3 or face the reality that 4+ years of work with this meet as the goal has not ended in a wonderful Cinderella story. We discuss what it’s like to be in that position, how hard it is to be consistently great, and how to step back and gain perspective. When we face the reality of missing a long term goal, we are given the opportunity to check our assumptions, and evaluate where we are at. It’s at these points where athletes can grow from […]