6 Things You Must Tell Your Coach

Coaches are a vital part of every team. The team’s trainer, teacher, mentor, negotiator, problem solver, motivation provider, facilitator, and organizer; a coach is a vital part of the team. Sometimes coaches can be a bit intimidating, especially when you are new to the team. We look up to our coaches, not only because they are selecting the race crew, but also because they hold such in-depth knowledge of the sport. Having a conversation with the coach might not always be easy, but open communication with your coach is essential to your success as a paddler.


Team USA coach Bob McNamara in Hungary, 2013. Photo: Rafael Veve

Here are 6 things that you should talk to your coach about.

1) Injuries

If you have physical injuries, it is important to convey this information to your coach. His or her job is to push you beyond your comfort zone, but if a coach doesn’t know about your injuries, he or she might inadvertently push too far. Many paddlers try to hide an injury from the coach so that they are not perceived as weak or worse, taken off the race crew. It is difficult to set our egos aside and do what is best not only for our body but for our team. Of course we want to race. We are athletes. It is in our nature to be competitive. But by hiding the pain of an injury, you are compromising your body and risking further injury. In addition, it is important to consider your value to the team while you are injured. Do you really think that you are better as an injured paddler than the person who will replace you? And what happens if you further injure yourself in the middle of the race? You’ve just compromised the race for 19 other paddlers. Is that fair?

Paddlechica Quebec Cup 2 Ed Nguyen

Quebec Cup. Photo: Ed Nguyen

2) Goals

Your goals need to be communicated to your coach so that he or she can help set you up for success. To what level do you want to take your paddling? Do you aspire to make your country’s national team? Are you hoping to make your team’s mixed boat? Do you want to be an occasional recreational paddler? As mentioned before, your coach’s job is to push you beyond your comfort zone. However, your coach needs to know what your commitment level will be. Let him or her know what you are willing to put into your training. Most importantly, be realistic. If you want to make your country’s national team but are only willing to make it to one or two practices per week and don’t have time to train in the gym, that might not be a realistic goal. Figure out what your achievable goals are and make sure that you inform your coach so that he or she can help you accomplish them.

Quebec Cup. Photo: Ed Nguyen

3) Health Limitations

Being in great health is a definite asset to a paddler, yet a health issue isn’t necessarily the end of a paddling career. One only has to look as far as the BCS (breast cancer survivor) teams to see evidence of this. However, it is crucial that your coach is aware of any health limitations you may have. If your coach doesn’t know why you have missed practice, he or she may start to think you are a bit of a slacker. Yet, understanding that you had a doctor’s appointment or a treatment that prevented you from attending a training session or hampered your efforts during practice will help your coach to appreciate your situation and the obstacles you may be struggling to overcome. And with that in mind, your coach can help create an effective plan to enhance your development as a paddler within the constraints of your health limitations.

Paddlechica Quebec Cup Ed Nguyen

Quebec Cup. Photo Ed Nguyen

4) Workout Schedule

Discuss your current training program with your coach and he or she should be able to guide you in the right direction to help you establish a regiment that will compliment your work on the boat. How often do you work out off the boat? What does your off-the-boat training look like? What are you doing to improve your cardio and strength? It is important to balance your training so that you can make the most of your workouts. We don’t always want to admit it if we aren’t doing much work off the boat, but giving your coach an idea of how you supplement your paddling is also likely to help keep you accountable. If you tell your coach that you are in the gym 3 times per week, chances are you will stick to that.

Paddlechica Gym Training Alice Tran

Team USA paddler Christianne Maigre working out off the boat. Photo: Alice Tran

5) Availability

Giving your coach some insight as to when you are available for races or practices will certainly help him or her to maximize your presence on the team. Are you available for any and all races? Or only local races? How does your personal budget play a role in your choices of race travel? Does your work schedule prevent you from training on weeknights or early mornings? What level of commitment are you available to give to your team? What is your family or work schedule? We aren’t professional athletes. We have a life outside of paddling and sometimes that life gets in the way. Let your coach know how often he or she can expect to see you on the boat for practices and races.

Quebec Cup. Photo Ed Nguyen

6) Appreciation

Being a coach is often a thankless job. Typically, if the team does well, the athletes are celebrated. If the team does poorly, the coach is highly scrutinized. It is easy enough to recognize your coach and his or her efforts for your team with a simple “thank you” after each training session and race. Your coach works hard for the team. He or she spends countless hours working on boat layouts for races, planning practices, and making training plans to take the team to the next level, among other things. Take the time to acknowledge his or her work. Do it frequently.

Paddlechica Coaching TIme Trials Hype

Team USA Coach Hype running time trials at the crack of dawn.

Of course there is a time and a place for all conversations with your coach to take place. As you can imagine, a coach is extremely busy. Stopping him or her to chat about your goals on race day probably isn’t the wisest decision. First and foremost, find an appropriate time. Nowadays, an email might be the best form of communication in order to discuss important points with your coach. Be concise and to-the-point in your message. Your coach will appreciate the information as well as your respect for his or her time.

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2 Discussion to this post

  1. Will says:

    Another fine blog entry. I’ll propose one more thing a paddler should tell a coach: “I don’t understand something you just said.”

    You’ve seen it.
    Coach: “OK, take another stroke.”
    Coach:”Ok, that was good, but remember to feather the blade.”
    Coach: “Ok, good, but you’re not feathering the blade at all. Take another stroke.”
    Coach: “Do you know what I mean by ‘feather the blade?'”
    Paddler: “No.”

    Hmm. Glad I asked before trying ten more times.

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