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Why education is important for performance?

We have always valued education here at Pursuit Coaching, always interested in improving our athletes and also ourselves as coaches. We educate through a few different methods, at training (like all coaches), in our twice weekly emails, meetings and seminars that we put on.

Topics we’ve covered this year

  • Positive emotions

  • Team contribution & success

  • Building Confidence & barriers

  • Visualisation

  • Reflection, preparation

  • Competitive awareness

  • Racing in cold conditions

  • Flow state triggers

  • Mental fatigue

  • Critical career points

  • Mental toughness

  • Sleep

  • Proper warm ups

  • Travel

  • Grit

  • Mindset

  • Recovery techniques

  • race specific seminars

  • Women's health in triathlon planned for next month

Using the multiple channels, we can reinforce often as it sometimes takes a few times for athletes to take on board the information and then make it part of their training and racing.

Decision making

When we make decisions, we use our pre-frontal cortex. We have to learn step by step, very practically, the same as we would do for a complex movement pattern like swimming. I recall when I started coaching with Stadium Tri Club, if I got a question I wasn’t 100% sure about the answer I’d say “I’ll have a think about it and get back to you tomorrow”. I’d then go away, think about it, do some research or ask someone if needed and get back to them with the right answer.

This occurs less and less these days, Coach Deb Kempe often states how intuitive I am with my coaching. Quick decisions, which I’m sure some athletes think I haven’t given that much thought. They are correct in that moment, but the decision making is coming from a different area of the brain, the Basal Ganglia.

The intuitive or expert mind uses the Basal Ganglia, drawing on experiences, memories to make quick decisions. While the beginner or not an expert mind uses the pre-frontal cortex for a lot of the analysing of the situation before making a decision. Very different processes.

So, when you’ve passed the first year in the sport and you’re striving for improvement and your best, naturally we all learn and improve along the way. But back to the title of this blog, why is education important for performance?

Under stress the pre-frontal cortex doesn’t stand up so well. Think about the first time you’ve felt pressure to perform, you try to think your way through and often it gets worse. Yes, some will say embrace pressure as a positive, it may work for some but in my experience coaching, that some is very few. Experienced professional athletes are dealing with this differently by racing intuitively. No, it isn’t that simply, you need to be aiming to become experts first, develop a wealth of experience and knowledge for your intuition to be accurate.

That won’t happen just learning a couple of things at training each week, it also won’t happen reading emails, it’s a combined approach where you can learn and then make it part of your training, refine it. Then we put our athletes in race situations as often as possible so they can experiment with new found knowledge at speed. Local Tri-Events races, race simulations and even time trials where they have to deal with expectation and pressure. It is no surprise that our most successful athlete Carrie Anderson has completed the most time trials. Not all of the have been good, but it’s given her the opportunity to try things and gain valuable experience from them.

Race reports, also play a key role in getting the athlete thinking about their performance and what contributed to it being a success or failure.

“I think everybody has to be better, right from me out. Everybody has to step up their games for us to be a successful here. I’ve been lucky to be on some good teams over the years and that’s what it takes, everybody contributing night after night”. ED Belfour Hall of fame Ice Hockey Goal Keeper

At Pursuit Coaching we have worked hard for and are benefitting from every member of our squads (either Blackfins High Performance Squad or Pursuit Squad) contributing with enthusiasm, their knowledge or willingness to learn. For those reading either part of Pursuit or not, don’t limit your education from just the triathlon industry. Most if not all of the topics above have come from outside of triathlon as the information is more current. The Neuroscience of Leadership with Friederike Fabritius on The Psychology Podcast is a good listen if this has sparked an interest.

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