Is it essential to have been a World Class Athlete to coach a World Class Athlete?
Liz McColgan is one of very few female coaches in the UK producing World Class athletes right now. Her athlete and daughter Eilish McColgan, who Liz has coached since the beginning of her career, has had a fantastic season so far with her first senior championship medal at the European Indoors back in March, selection for her third World Championships in London this year and has two Olympic Games under her belt.
Liz may be more well known for her own running career as a World Champion in the 10,000m, Olympic Silver Medallist at the 1988 Games and a host of accolades to her name…and as a coach, she is continuing that success on the World stage.
The FCN Founder Vicky, wanted to know Liz’s thoughts on her experience of having been a world class athlete to now a world class coach…is it essential to have been that level of athlete to make it as a world class coach? And has her experience of that level of competition helped her in her coaching decisions?
To read our full interview with Liz and her athlete / daughter Eilish CLICK HERE
Do you think to be a successful coach you need to have been a successful athlete?
No, being a coach is a never ending experience, there is always something to learn. The only thing I bring to the table which is different to a coach who hasn’t been an athlete is I know mentally what the athletes are going through. So if you have a coach who has never competed at their athletes level before, they won’t know this. I know what it’s like to be in a call room for 20 minutes where you can’t do exercises or people are looking at you and you have to deal with your nerves in front of people. I know what a 10 x 1 mile sessions feels like, so when I ask my athlete to do that session, I know how they are going to feel… so my experience does bring that little extra to the table which is helpful and probably useful but it doesn’t make me a better coach than those who don’t have that experience. There is more than one way to skin a cat, if there wasn’t, we would have all coached Olympic Gold medallists! All you need to do as a coach is coach that person in the best way you can to get the best out of them and thats the challenge of coaching. You just need to put in the effort and the time to learn your event and if you do that you will be a good coach.
As a coach myself that is definitely the bit that I lack, I have no idea how to deal with the nerves of competing in front of a stadium full of people…so how do I as a coach advise my own athletes on how to deal with that?
Well this is where workshops and networkings come in, this is where you learn from people like myself or Kelly etc. As a coach, you might never literally feel what its like to experience certain things that a top athlete does, but you will learn how others have dealt with it so when you work with your athletes you can support them.
On that topic of you being an athlete before you were a coach, what one lesson from your career would you pass on to your athletes or other coaches? What one bit of advice would you share with coaches who have not experienced what you have as a World Champion?
How to cope with pressure pre-race. That would be the one thing I think I dealt with really well. There is nothing worse than going into a race knowing you have the World Champion, the Olympic Champion and all these medallist in your race and you have to run against them. It can be a very daunting experience, so I had to learn to be very positive going into situations like that. I just had to concentrate on me which is what I try and get across to my athletes. Don’t worry about anyone else!