In the second of our series about the pathways of female cycling coaches we are profiling Holly Seear.
Holly is mentoring two female coaches within the Ignite community, and is owner of Spring Cycle Coaching.
A Level 3 British Cycling Coach, MTB Leader, Bikeability Instructor, Training Peaks Coach and Personal Trainer, Holly is also Head Coach at her local cycling club.
Holly works with riders of all abilities both in the UK and overseas including young riders, new cyclists and novice racers through to riders racing at national level in MTB and Road as well as time trial riders, multiday endurance racers and sportive riders. Her wealth of group and team training experience even includes training an all-female team for a 100km ski trek in the Arctic Circle! Holly spends most of her time now on long-term planning, analysing training data and writing training plans for individual athletes.
Despite having a lot of competition under her belt and still enjoying racing MTB cross country and endurance events, Holly feels she is “a far better coach than athlete!” And we are glad in the Ignite community that she maintains her passion for getting more women on their bikes, working not only with us but also Strongher and HSBC UK Breeze.
What motivated you to become a cycling coach? With a desire to get fit and lose weight after having my children I fell in with the ‘right crowd’. My new friends entered me for an open water triathlon despite me being unable to swim a length and not owning a bike or running shoes, and I went on to complete my first half ironman that year! It was passing people on the bike which surprised me, and having fallen in love with cycling, I joined Twickenham Cycle Club.
I got so much out of my cycling experience – a new world of friends, events and skills. Other people were so encouraging and inspiring to me when I started, I wanted to replicate that and share my passion and enthusiasm with others. It was great that the club saw this when I started helping out at coaching sessions and kindly part-funded my Level 2 qualification. My passion quickly spiralled and here I am doing this as my full-time job. I love the sharing of knowledge and the sense of giving back and I continue to be motivated by supporting and inspiring others.
What strengths from other areas of your life did you bring to your coaching career?
I never would have said 20 years ago when I was a chemist at ICI before moving to sales and marketing at GSK that I would be a full-time cycle coach! My science background means I am a bit of a nerd. I spend 80% of my time now digging around in client’s data, analysing data from their competitions or training files and writing plans. I really love it and think most athletes don’t have the time or skills to get the most from their power meter. I can look at the data without any emotional bias, we all love to work on our strengths, but it is often identifying and working on weaknesses that make the biggest difference.
My corporate career gave me the interpersonal skills and confidence needed to coach and particularly work with groups. Even when I am at my desk the relationship building is critical and I need to do that remotely or semi-remotely with many of the athletes I coach. There’s lots of chatting, but I need to know what works for them – Skype, text, WhatsApp – there are so many routes to communicate but the majority of communication is through Training Peaks.
The 20% of my time I spend in face-to-face coaching matters to me because you get real rewards at the time – whether it’s coaching a skill or watching your athlete compete. With the data and planning, it’s a long-term investment you have to be in it for the impact 12 months later or more.
Being a mum has definitely helped with my organisational skills and means my multi-tasking abilities are solid!
What have you achieved since you have been on your coaching pathway?
I’ve now been self employed as a cycling coach for seven years. The achievements and successes of my athletes have been numerous, but sometimes the biggest sense of reward comes from the smiles on people’s faces when they achieve something for the first time -whether that be clipping in for the first time or winning their first race - and knowing I played a small part in that.
What does your support team and resources look like?
My husband and children have been enthusiastic supporters of my career change, and my husband is also bike mad! I had wonderful support from Twickenham CC in my early days of coaching and have had the opportunity to work alongside, and learn from, experienced coaches like Graham MacNamee, my local Go-Ride Coach and Ruth Eyles, a level 3 coach and BC Tutor.
I am always continuing to learn, networking with other professionals, working alongside others and always doing some kind of continued professional development. I’m constantly reading around the subject, watching professional cycling, going to events - it is my world.
Where are you heading now on your coaching pathway?
I would love to gain experience with a team racing nationally or internationally, both to take my understanding to the next level and to learn from people working at the top level of the sport. That particular ambition hasn’t been achievable with young children, but now it is getting easier to be away I would love to go along and shadow, be basically useful and ask a few questions. I have been really lucky to work with the GB Junior Academy recently which has really inspired me.
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman thinking about coaching what would it be?
Volunteer to support or shadow other coaches, ask lots of questions and try different things – even if you suspect they may not be for you. I did quite a lot of Bikeability initially and, while it’s rewarding, it was repetitive in nature and made me realise I wanted more variety. Saying yes to lots of things will also help with the risk of being pigeon-holed; I never felt like people thought I should just coach children or beginners, for example, but I recognise it’s sometimes a pressure as a female coach. If you gain experience in lots of different environments then you develop breadth of experience and others see it.
If you could use three words to describe your coaching pathway so far, what would they be?
Fulfilling, dynamic and fun