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Maintaining a Relationship with Your Coach During COVID-19

BY Carson McQuarrie

Managing your relationship with your coach can be challenging in times of crisis, but it's worth it. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

Whether you get guidance from a pre-purchased training plan or monthly personal coaching, the connection between an athlete and a good coach is founded on the certainty that the athlete will achieve their goal. But as humans, we know life doesn’t always go to a plan. External circumstances ranging from minor injuries to global pandemics require us to adjust. Fortunately, there are lessons and practices that help the athlete-coach relationship weather inevitable uncertainties, allowing both parties to benefit from their vested interests. 

Figure out What You Can and Can’t Control

Whether you’re in the very beginning stages of a training plan or halfway through a season, athletes are often faced with uncertainty. It’s in these brief moments that athletes may feel overwhelmed, unsure of what to focus on. In these moments, psychology teaches us that humans tend to live more congruently when they stop focusing on what they can’t control and instead focus and act on what they can control. 

In practice, this looks like: 

  1. Observing without taking personally the obstacle that’s arisen the uncertainty.
  2. Accepting how this makes you feel without becoming reactive.
  3. Assure yourself that how you feel is ok and you can move through it when you choose to. 
  4. Learn what you can control and choosing to focus on that.
  5. Choose to act on what keeps you on the trajectory of success towards your goal. 

In the athlete-coach relationship, there are two sides to the coin in how the athlete and coach separately deal with uncertainty. Athletes may be focusing on whether a specific obstacle has jeopardized their long-term training, or finding space to complete a workout on any given day. For the coach, the focus may be on figuring out how they may best support the athlete through their obstacles and assuring the athlete that a solution is possible. 

Maintain Communication

It is through transparent, supportive communication that relationships last through obstacles and uncertainties. In the athlete-coach relationship, communication serves the purpose of allowing the athlete to communicate what they’re struggling with, verbalizing their need. This allows the coach to meet an athlete’s need by communicating understanding, empathy, and offering pragmatic solutions to achieve either the existing or a new definition of success. The lesson here is communication can only exist when it involves both people.

The practice of what this may look like in times of obstacles and uncertainties is:

  1. An athlete has been presented with a new obstacle to navigate. 
  2. Communication occurs between the athlete and the coach over what’s occurred/occurring.
  3. Coach communicates understanding, empathy, and actionable guidance.

Show Up for the Relationship and Goal

Similar to most things in life, you get out what you put in. The same applies to the athletes and coaches working together. Coaches have a vested interest in making money and feeling rewarded when their athletes succeed at goals. Athletes have a vested interest in seeing their goals come to fruition. However, when obstacles arise, athletes may devalue their goal, have difficulty continuing, and as a result, may not achieve their goal. It’s important for both parties to show up for themselves and each other, which greatly increases the chance of the partnership working and goals being achieved. 

For the athlete and coach, this may look like:

  1. Choosing to focus on what your long-term goal is daily. 
  2. Choosing to focus on why your goal is important to you daily.
  3. Choosing to prioritize communication with your coach or athlete when obstacles arise.
  4. Choosing to act on what you and your coach agree to control on a daily basis.

The old adage, “experience builds resilience,”  couldn’t be more true in times of uncertainty, such as the current epidemic. Fortunately, both athletes and coaches can learn through experiences like the current crisis that we can rely on each other—making it easier to rely on each other when times are smooth sailing.  Let’s remember these lessons and apply them to our relationships with our coaches, and each other!

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About Carson McQuarrie

Carson, from British Columbia Canada now living in Tasmania Australia, is a proud member of Thomas Endurance Coaching and is Cycling Canada and TrainingPeaks Level 2 Certified. He specializes in ultra-endurance cycling having biked across Canada in 25 days, unsupported, and America in 17 days, supported, on a healthy plant-based diet. Carson’s coaching practice is a qualitative and quantitative blend of his extensive background in customer service, adventure sports, and ultra-endurance cycling. To learn more about Carson and personal coaching visit

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