I went to a Christmas party last year. An annual party with my best group of friends. Kids, parents, everyone was there. We do a White Elephant gift exchange and it is always hilarious and fun. I am going to the same party tonight and I will see one of my best friends for the first time since this Spring. My friendship with her suffered, fallout from the stress I was under. I messaged her an apology and thank goodness she forgave me for being a terrible friend. She isn't the only one I am determined to make amends with. I will make it right with every single person affected by this mess. I don't know how, or how long it will take, but I will make it right.
I was talking to one of the other people at the party, about my job and how it works. I was explaining how we were able to bring in our own athletes, and that we were also "given" older athletes to work with. Her response....wow, if I was an athlete I don't think I would like just being handed over to a new coach. She was right. I am incredibly attached to my own coach (again, a reminder that my coach is NOT my old boss). Coach trains your body but is also your sports psychologist. You tell coach everything. You talk about peeing on the bike, peeing in your wetsuit, blowing snot rockets and spitting loogies in zone 4. You talk about your goals, your fears, your demons. Its a close, trusting relationship. I am grateful the athletes who were asked/told to work with me gave me a chance. I don't know what my boss said to them but I vowed to do my absolute best with each person. There was a lot of careful obsessing in the early days. I studied old training, thought a lot about each individual and how best to train them. Building schedules took hours. As coaches, we get very attached to our athletes. We take deeply to heart their training.
Outside of the first few athletes I worked with, I had a few of my own and one that I advocated hard for. Her training was being affected by the incredible performance pressure she was under. She got yelled at, at a local race for wearing the wrong shirt. The wrong shirt. In front of her husband and friends. This was not the only demeaning incident. Her stress level was high and she was losing the enjoyment she got from training. I told my boss I wanted her. He said all right, but said "you have one chance. Don't screw it up." That athlete was grateful for the switch, and later admitted to me that she did not believe any of her logs we being read. A word on logs - we read everything. We may not comment on every workout, but we read it all and we file it all away. We often look back at old logs, sometimes from months or years before. Those comments mean something and are important clues to putting together the puzzle that is each athlete.
One thing I could never understand is why we were always "given" older athletes, and never referred the new ones that came in. I always tried my best to make the transition as smooth as possible. My only speculation as to why we were never referred to the new athletes, is that they would be given the opportunity to get a discount if they pre-paid a big chunk for 6 months to a year of training. How much attention they got after that, I can't speak to directly.
There were a few incidences where an old athlete approached me about switching. The first was a teammate who had been around for years. An experience runner and a good person. I explained to him that my boss occasionally would give us his athletes. I explained who each new coach was, a little about their specialties, their niche in the company. He felt like we would be a good match. I am not sure what he told my boss, but my boss flat out lied to him. He said he did not give us his old athletes and seemed offended by anyone asking. He promised to address all the needs this person was missing in his training. I was furious. He made me look like a fool and a liar, when I was trying to handle the situation with tact. This was around the time when we were doing a lot of schedules for him. Sunday would roll around and there were dozens of blank schedules. 2 other coaches and I would jump in a write up the week for someone. These athletes weren't "ours," so this was a long process. We wanted to them have quality training, so it meant going through previous weeks, studying, and reading logs. This particular athlete had a bad race (a marathon, if memory serves) and was told "the girls" were doing schedules at the time. As if whatever happened during training was somehow our fault. This was not true. Yes, we did a lot of schedules, but it was not for that athlete's race. My husband often said to me on those long Sunday afternoons..."you know, its illegal to ask someone to work for free." We did it to save the company. We did it to help my boss, who seemed too busy. We did it so athletes would have a schedule.
Shortly after that, another athlete contacted me. A woman. I told her we could talk about switching, but having been burned by the last experience, I asked to talk to my boss without giving too much detail. I am not sure what happened after that, but she did end up leaving the team entirely. I remember the sadness in her voice when we talked on the phone. Looking back, I am not sure how I could have handled that situation differently. I do know this athlete is in a better place, with a coach she likes and is excelling in her sport.
There was an entire other group of athletes, drawn from a Facebook group. They had their own Training Peaks account. This group were pre-builts. They paid a smaller amount each month and got a pre-built schedule with limited feedback. My boss started the group but I can tell you someone else did the majority of the work and did not get paid for it. I did a handful of schedules, but the bulk fell to another coach. Why did we do it? Social media. We still worked for the company, and we could not let there be any bad press. Not to mention, we knew these people. Cared about them. They deserved to get the training plan they had paid for. The group, to my knowledge, was for a limited time. If it has been renewed, I do not know.
When we left, our athletes were all given a choice. They could stay, or they could go back. I was accused to "taking" clients, but of course they were given a choice. At the time, I was terrified. I had not idea what people would do, no idea how leaving so abruptly would come across. I was thankful that every athlete wanted to stay. Except one. The one who said that if it were only about the coaching, he would come with me. But he had history with my boss, and felt loyalty to him. I understood. I was sad to see him go, but I understood. Athletes come and go in this business, and you can't take it personally. What upset me was the progress we had made. When I first started working with him, he was just getting back into running. We built slowly. I wrote specific strength workouts for his needs. We worked around a changing work/life schedule. He was progressing at a fantastic rate. We had planned on the year being a build year, but there was an opportunity to train for a marathon to support my boss. We agreed that he could train for the marathon, but it would be easy, for fun and support. That he was not ready for the weeks of intense speedwork that comes with going for a BQ or a PR. I knew a BQ was something he wanted. It was my feeling that the following year would be the wisest course of action. Build up a good base, get strong, stay healthy and then go for the BQ the following year.
When this athlete went back to my boss, one of his first workouts was ten Yasso 800s. I saw this as a Daily Mile post on Facebook. I was livid. We had been doing some short speedwork like progression runs but this person was not ready for the track. Not Ready. And he sure as hell wasn't ready for ten Yasso 800s. My suspicion is that he was told by my old boss that he could go for the BQ, and gave him the Yassos to boost his confidence. Before this athlete left, I suggested a more conservative goal pace. In my professional opinion, he was not ready to go for the BQ. There is more to this story, but I will end it by saying that he got hurt doing those Yassos. I was angry that he was being given a cookie-cutter approach. After all our hard work together, after the amazing progress that was made...it was all wasted.
Podiums, BQs, PRs. My boss cared mostly about these things. Often he would put goals on someone when it was not in their best interest. Some people felt left out. The big guns always got the attention, all the bragging. And sometimes their times were inflated. What he posted didn't match official race times. He often would say "Rebecca is a 3:15 marathoner." I am NOT. My PR is 3:26, which is nowhere near 3:15. The inflation and the bragging was hurtful and honest athletes do not lie about their times. And you know what? Each accomplishment is valuable. Each race teaches us something. Each individual is important and every athlete is worth recognizing.