Neil Featherby: Why changing coaches or clubs needs careful consideration

Changing clubs or coaches won't necessarily see the improvements many runners want in the long term,

Changing clubs or coaches won't necessarily see the improvements many runners want in the long term, says Neil Featherby. Picture: Mark Hewlett - Credit: Archant

As the weeks are now closing in on April and for so many marathon runners that can only mean one thing and that is that the big day is nearly here, be it Manchester, Brighton or indeed London.

Needless to say there is the concern and worry about what effects the coronavirus may have on these three big races what with possible cancellations, but in the mean-time let's all keep our fingers firmly crossed hoping that all does turn out okay.

What is sure is that if you are doing Manchester, then this is a month for finishing off your preparations before winding down or if it is London at the end of next month then it is a case of now being full on.

It is crazy how the time flies by when one moment it seems that you are months away and then before you know it, you are on the start line.

This is why I will always say, even when you are weeks out and the weather outside is awful and you have a long run or really hard session to get through, just keep reminding yourself that the day will come and when you are standing on the start line, you know in your mind that you have ticked all the boxes.

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Being strong in mind is key for which this can be a huge psychological factor, especially if and when the going gets tough or you go through a rough patch.

Nevertheless and what of course is now so very important is that full on focus is maintained for this final run in irrespective of any outside potential coronavirus issues or indeed if for whatever reason the training plan has taken a blip at some point due to injury or illness.

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Providing it was only short term or minor, then the most significant effects will only be psychological and always bear in mind that even the elite will have had to amend here and there.

The subject of coaching …. having recently had a little bit of minor success with one of the younger athletes who I advise, I have during the last few weeks been approached by a number of other very keen runners asking me to look at their training and racing plans with the possibility of helping them push on to a level which they feel they can achieve.

Needless to say I have no issue with this or indeed never have in the past, but first and foremost, I will always ask if they already have a coach and if they do then why do they think I can help them any further?

I always make it clear that there are no magic wands or if there are then I certainly don't have one.

I have seen it in other sports which I have been involved with too such as when a boxer loses a fight, where he then changes his trainer or when a football team suffer a few defeats and they get rid of the manager.

Very often there is an initial upturn in performance, but at the same time there is also the fact that when changes are made, it is not just the boxing coach or football manager who comes in with a new broom and perhaps make changes, but the boxer and the footballers themselves who also up their game with new found enthusiasm and energy.

Yes, sometimes it does work for the better, but at the same time on many occasions once the honeymoon period has worn off, things end up going full circle where it all ends up back at where it was before.

The truth is, before any break is made, everyone needs to look at themselves in such a situation.

For me coaching is all about looking at what the goals are, particularly long term and then look to plan ahead to meet short term and medium term aims along the way.

However and at the same time, it is also about being totally realistic about firstly are these goals achievable and yes we can all achieve more than perhaps we think we can, but then secondly, how realistic is the athlete about a long term commitment to really being able to apply and dedicate themselves to what will be a long disciplined journey, because consistency is undoubtedly the key to success in everything we do.

As mentioned earlier, I have seen it so many times before that once any new found enthusiasm has worn off and the realities of what it really is going to take kicks in, then so does and for the want of a better word the same old reasons as to why it has not happened up to now.

In other words, sometimes it is better to sit down with your existing coach and tell him or her what you really would like to achieve and then ask them what their thoughts are and of course how they think you should both go about it.

If it all sounds like a good plan and both parties are fully realistic and honest, then it is just a case of perhaps moving on or of course just knuckling down to the challenge ahead with your current coach who will most certainly only want what is truly best for you.

It is the same when changing clubs too. If your new club has a set up which perhaps fits in with your goals better than what you think you can achieve with your current club, then once again this has to be discussed.

However and at the same time, just by changing the colour of your vest isn't going to make you a better athlete.

At the end of the day, know yourself, be honest with yourself and of course be one hundred percent honest with all those around you.

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