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The Coach/Athlete Role

by John Wakefield


When choosing a trainer or coach, the athlete needs to consider a few things before going out and spending vast amounts of time and money on a coach/trainer. I’ve seen many athletes make the big mistake of hiring a trainer who in fact has little or no knowledge about the sport for which they are training. Below is a short list of items to look for when hiring a coach/trainer.


The role of a coach/trainer is to have a sound understanding of the sport and physiology of athletes for that given sport and be able develop and bring out the best in that said athlete and direct them to their best at certain events that suit the athlete. A good coach/trainer will not only be certified in strength and conditioning but also be able to apply that knowledge specifically to motocross.

Identify Athlete Personality

Of extrememe importance is the ability of a trainer to identify and adapt his training methods to the personality type of the athlete. This is very important as no two athletes are the same and one program doesn’t fit all. A coach will need to identify what type of personality, whether it is A or B type and adapt training accordingly as well as their approach to the said athlete.

  • A – Type athlete
    • Huge over achievers
    • Strong personal drive
    • Enjoy Structure
    • High expectations and goals
    • Unrealistic goals
    • Second Guess everything
  • B –Type athlete
    • Less competitive
    • Have personal drive but not like A-type
    • Don’t always like structure
    • Procrastinate
    • Absorb Knowledge
    • Form Emotional bond

The two different personalities and physiological profiles will require two totally different approaches when building training programs. Individuals recover at varying rates and different physiological profiles also require different tapering regimes. 
Two examples I find is that A-types always set their goals way too high. As a coach you will need to help them lower the expectation and achieve smaller goals on route to the bigger main goal. B-type athletes I find don’t always like structure in their training program. By overcoming this you can build in sessions that they enjoy which will help them complete the structure while obtaining the physiological adaptation you looking for during certain mesocycles.


A coach/trainer has to be a great communicator with his/her athlete and must be able to listen and give correct feedback in any situation. This applies to race or training sessions as well as the basic facts of life that will help improve the athlete. It is vital that they have the ability to listen and give correct feedback while transferring knowledge effectively to the athlete, regardless of the situation.

Implementation and Prescription

A coach/trainer must be able to implement skills and prescribe training based on the athlete’s gender, age and specific goals. While implementing the training program the coach/trainer must be able to assess the program while motivating and keeping the athlete focused on achieving their respective goals.


Once a good relationship is formed with the coach/trainer the role of a trainer goes beyond the call of duty and is also not just performance related. A coach/trainer will also be an instructor, assessor, friend, mentor, facilitator, chauffeur, demonstrator, adviser, supporter, fact finder, motivator, counselor, organizer, planner and often the shoulder to cry on when things don’t go in the favor of the athlete.

The coach/trainer will also often be the communication line between athlete, parent and sponsors or potential sponsors. The coach/trainer will need to give feedback to the relevant parties on the progression and faults of the particular athlete and what is to be done to improve both issues. Often a coach/trainer also has to know when to tell the athletes parents and/or sponsors when they need to possibly step back and not interfere with the athletes’ daily training and goals. Often when there is too much interference and pressure the athlete under-performs and in some cases gives up on the sport they love.

Final Thoughts

Over and above the criteria mentioned above, I believe these are some key traits a trainer should have.


  • Able to adjust quickly to situations
  • Is not phased by changes to training environment
  • Listens to athletes and adjusts accordingly.
Well organized
  • Well prepared
  • Plans appropriately for all activities
Knowledgeable and up to date
  • Responds quickly to current issues/changes
  • Actively seeks new up to date literature in terms of science and performance
Safety of athletes foremost
  • Caters for any changes in training regime
  • Considers all aspects of training and competition

Role of the Athlete

With all that being said, the role and pressure can’t all be on the coach/trainer's shoulders. The athletes themselves need to show the commitment and dedication that they are receiving from the coach/trainer. The athlete must also realize that should things not go according to plan, all blame does not necessarily fall in the lap of coach/trainer. Both the trainer and athlete must work together to overcome the problems or issues the athlete may have.

The coach/trainer can only make changes to the athletes training program from the feedback the athlete provides. The more information with regard to the athletes training and riding the athlete passes on, the more information the trainer has to make regarding improvements to the training program. The reverse is true as well. The less information the athlete passes on, the less information the trainer has to fix problems that may exist. This often leads to both parties being dissatisfied and is commonly where the relationship ends with neither party getting what they want out of the relationship.

A relationship between athlete and coach/trainer can be an incredible bond that can go on for many years. I personally have a few athletes that I have been working with for the last 15 years. Together we have been to hell and the top of the podium and the trust we have in each other is, as they say, “beyond the call of duty.” I believe that with this type of relationship, anything is possible.

Some tips that you as an athlete can close with are the following:

Don’t look for a quick fix

  • You need to be in it for the long haul. It takes 3 years of structured training to reach your potential.
  • All those athletes you look up to have been dedicated to their craft for years or in some cases decades.

Discuss your goals and limitations

  • Targeting two key areas of information: what are you trying to achieve, and what has prevented you from achieving this in the past?

Set small goals

  • A series of smaller, more attainable goals otherwise known as successive approximations are easier to achieve and keeps you motivated.

Prioritize your program

  • The biggest barrier to exercise year after year is lack of available time.
  • Train each session with a purpose or goal.
  • Consistency is king & there is no such thing as a quick fix no matter what anyone says.

Enjoy yourself

  • If you do not love your sport and process you will not enjoy the experience.
I hope this gives you some insight as to the role that is required of both the coach/trainer and athlete. If you are thinking of hiring a trainer to help improve your program, remember these tips to help you make a good decision.

About the Author: John Wakefield lives in South Africa and is the owner of PeloTrain racing. PeloTrain is a full time professional performance coaching and training facility that has the ability to put together coaching plans from absolute beginners to top level professional, providing long-term training and management plans from one-on-one and group sessions. What ever your requirement, whether it be sport orientated or just general fitness, Pelotrain is more than able to cater to your needs.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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