The Role of a Track Coach On The Day Of A Race
To be an effective coach on the day of a track race, you need to have many different attributes and adapt your coaching to suit the individual requirements of each rider. Flexibility in approach and excellent communication skills are essential; in particular, the skill of listening to the needs of each individual rider. A good race-day coach also knows when to give riders time alone, as too much attention from the coach may be perceived as overpowering or interfering by the rider.
In short, to help your riders reach their maximal potential on the day of a race, you will need:
- good listening and observation skills
- an ability to deliver clear and concise information
- an ability to read non-verbal language
- an ability to maintain a positive attitude and motivate your rider
- an excellent knowledge of the rules, techniques and practices of the event.
Effective communication is the most important of these skills. Most coaches who have worked with individual riders prior to the event will already know their learning preferences and the best way to help them on the day of a race.
Your role may also change from one event to another for example if you have a track sprint rider your main role may be performance analysis of both your riders and your rider's opponents. Whilst in the case of an individual pursuit or team pursuit you may be required to walk the line for the riders
Walking the Line
During individual or team pursuit events where a race can be won by one 100th of a second, you need to be able to communicate with riders to help them control their pacing via lap split times that are compared to a pre-planned lap time schedule. As the riders are travelling very fast and lapping often inside of 18 seconds, the method of monitoring and communicating this information to riders must be simple and effective. The most effective method is to walk the line. These splits can be relayed to the riders either physically, verbally or by using a combination of the two.
When walking the line, you should:
- stand next to the track beside the pursuit line where the rider is starting
- start your stopwatch when the rider starts
- record a split time each time the rider crosses the opposite pursuit line
- compare the lap split times to the pre-planned lap time schedule for each lap
- ensure the rider can see you and take one step forward (parallel to the track) from the pursuit line for each tenth of a second that the rider is behind schedule
- ensure the rider can see you and take one step backwards (while still facing the rider) from the pursuit line for each tenth of a second that the rider is ahead of schedule
- stand level with, and point to, the pursuit line if the rider is on schedule
- only move forwards or backwards when the rider is exiting the banking so he can see the number of steps that you take
- return to the pursuit line each time before giving the next split.
When walking the line (including verbal communication), you should:
- walk the line as described above
- call the time to the rider as he approaches you (when the rider is approximately five metres in front of you)
use an abbreviation of the time (eg if the lap split is 16.7 seconds, call ‘sixteen, seven' - this keeps communication to a minimum).
Getting drawn into watching the riders and the race rather than focusing on the stopwatch and recording the split times.
Top coaching tips
- Ensure both you and the rider understand the signals that will be used.
- Ensure physical and verbal signals are clear.
More information on the role of a track coach on a race day can be found on within the British Cycling Level 3 Track Handbook available on the Level 3 Track Course.