I have been very fortunate as a rider to work with some incredible coaches from whom I have learnt enormously. I’ve also worked with some arguably wonderful riders and coaches where I just haven’t got much out of the lesson. Over time I have come to realise that there are certain ingredients that make for a truly great coach.
Three Essentials In A Great Coach
1. The Ability To Communicate
The most fundamental aspect of any relationship is communication, and the student-coach relationship is no different. Good communication skills are essential to ensuring that a coach is able to explain concepts and exercises and answer questions.
We’ve probably all had the experience of being in a lesson with a brilliant rider and just not getting a lot out of it because their ability to explain concepts and exercises is limited.
Part of the ability to communicate is the ability to integrate rider/student feedback into instructions. Picture this scenario, you’re halfway through an exercise and you tell your coach that you are feeling something that you know you should not be. Does your coach adapt their instructions to you, do they explain why you are feeling, what you are feeling, and why you need to push through—or do they push on regardless?
Of course sometimes you will need to push through things in lessons, but if your coach is not able to explain why you are feeling what you are feeling, or adapt the exercise to help give you a better feel, the end result could be quite frustrating.
2. Ability To Push You
Have you ever noticed that you tend to get better work in lessons than you do when you are training on your own? I certainly do and I believe that part of this is that our coaches push us through the discomfort that comes from being outside of your comfort zone.
I’ve talked about getting outside of your comfort zone in order to facilitate growth before.
For me, it’s about being uncomfortable, but not unsafe.
In order for this to happen we as a rider need to trust our coach, equally our coach needs to know how far they can push us. This is something that may take time to develop, and is the reason that sometimes it is easier to make progress with a coach that you know well, as opposed to a one-off lesson with a visiting instructor.
3. Belief In You
Last but not least, never underestimate the value of having someone in your corner. I think one of the things that I have appreciated the most over the years is when my coach has believed in me. And I have been fortunate enough to have several coaches demonstrate this in a very real way, from riding a coaches Grand Prix stallion, to a coach telling me that I am capable of much more.
Equally, this belief may be demonstrated by a comment such as ‘that was ok, but you’re capable of so much more.’
Why is this important? It’s hard for me to put into words exactly why this is such an important part of the relationship for me.
Is it because I lack confidence in my own skills and abilities? That may be part of it. But perhaps it’s more a result of having experienced working with coaches where they do not believe in me. It’s not a reassuring feeling.
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