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Coaching and Sports Science

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

trisutto triathlon Brett Sutton Coaching Sports Science

When I look at giving coaching advice, from the very outset I depart from normal coaching procedure.

I believe one should give advice that can be useful in a practical sort of way, that athletes (and coaches) can sit and think and reflect on what I'm saying with regards to oneself, one's situation, and circumstances. It makes no sense to me, to see people listening to a long comprehensive lecture about the theory on any fundamentals of triathlon, when the individual doesn’t get anything out of it, except the possibility of being totally confused by said lecture.

I was recently sent an article by a friend at a website that had interviewed me, asking would I like to read an article by Dr John Hellermans. Of course I would as John is one of the few that I trust with the abundance of knowledge he has, and his ability to impart it. During the interview John made a very telling comparison between his time with the elite New Zealand athletes and the Dutch ones. He noted that the culture of sport within New Zealand was one of hard work and passion, while the Europeans, one of structure and science, or something to that effect.

He said of New Zealand's great success (and also the Aussies) was due to 'you can go a long way on hard work and passion for what you do'. He said he failed to integrate these qualities into the Dutch system. Of course I have found exactly the same in Switzerland. When compared to Australia, structure and sports science are held in much higher esteem within the Swiss system.

How does this have any bearing on coaching?

Or how can I use it to my advantage? Simply this, I have found that the structure, sport science and biomechanics only works for the very, very talented. It can work if say you're a swimmer or bike rider that has the time for 10 sessions a week over a 5 year period. In contrast, the hard work, consistency and passion method can deliver greater results to a much wider audience of differing talent levels.

When looking at swimming protocols, an average age grouper with 1 hour to swim, the actual hour spent swimming moderately hard to get fit, with short rest intervals, will individually swim faster over an hour than the athlete who spends it doing drills learning 'proper technique'. It's not what some coaches want to hear but the facts are just that, facts.

I find the same with running. I watch group after group doing drills for 30 minutes then finish with a 20 minute run, then more warm down. I don’t contemplate in public, but I KNOW, that a person who put their running shoes on at the same time and then ran an hour non stop, or with very short rests, will indeed have greater improvement than the 30 min drill guy. Now people are going to say Sutto, drills are only a small part of the run program. So let's explore the run program shall we? So you're a normal age group athlete that can fit in 2 or 3 swims, 3 runs if you're lucky and 3 bikes if your spouse is very caring indeed. If one of those runs includes drills at the track, one is your long distance run and one is recovery, I ask you, where is the improvement going to come from? Same in the swim, where is improvement going to come from? Being more efficient will be the answer thrown at me. I ask 'more efficient at what?' There is the conundrum, more efficient to swim 200m maybe, but to swim 1500m? Not likely. To run 800m maybe, but to run 10km up to half marathon? Not likely. Every day we watch a marathon on television and once we look past the top 15 in male and females, we see an assortment of demented techniques that have every tri coach running for the remote. I suggest looking a little closer at the times they are running with their very inefficient technique! Let's forget the 'but they would run faster if they ran properly' and look at the very impressive times they are running with poor mechanics, and ask yourself the question 'what is their core efficiency?’ You will, or some of you will realise it is because they are very efficient cardiovascularly. It overcomes their poor technique, and here is the tip - it will overcome yours as well! Just the way I see it, Sutto

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