Coaching: An interview with Sarah Mitchell

Coaching: An interview with Sarah Mitchell


Name: Sarah Mitchell

Age: 23

Club: Glasgow Cycle Team and Glasgow Riderz

Occupation: Physiotherapist, part-time MSc student and voluntary coach with Glasgow Cycle Team and Glasgow Riderz

What got you into cycling, and how long ago was this?

Since I was little my parents dragged me on family cycling holidays every summer, however in 2007 I caught the cycling bug! Initially I trained with Glasgow Riderz and Johnstone Wheelers but I was soon spending every weekend at bike races –track, crits, mountain-biking and cyclocross races – the ethos was very much on giving every discipline a try! I stopped racing when I started university with every intention of racing competitively again, however I haven’t quite caught the bug again… there’s still time to get back to it!

When did you start coaching and why?

I began coaching when in 2010, shortly after giving up racing. I was passionate about giving something back to the sport that had offered me so much as a youth. I’ve since completed the level 2 and 3 Track DSUs. Although coaching can be challenging at times, I get such a buzz from coaching both on Saturday morning Go-Ride sessions and on the velodrome.

You have just completed your Level 3, how did you find the course?

The level 3 course syllabus is totally different to level 2, as the focus is much more on how to coach a rider season to season, week to week, day to day, something not covered within level 2. I found adopting a new mindset difficult, but enjoyed the challenge and reassurance of observing my rider [one rider coached for 12 consecutive weeks] progress through the different training cycles before the season took off. However, paperwork is not my forte and I was given a 6 week deadline by BC and that was just the kick up the backside I needed.

You did a Level 3 in track coaching – is this your preferred discipline?

As the other coaches as Glasgow Riderz all know, I’m not the biggest fan of mud, rain or cold weather, so I’m much better suited to coaching indoors in a warm, dry velodrome. I do however enjoy coaching different disciplines from grass roots Go-Ride sessions (weather permitting!) to roller sessions, however I particularly enjoy coaching, riding and watching track racing

So firstly you are the youngest level three coach in Scotland – does this surprise you?

I am surprised that I’m the youngest because there are a few level 2 coaches my age scattered around Scotland.

Secondly, you were the first female Level 3 coach in Scotland – why do you think this is?

I am again surprised that I am the first female Level 3 coach, particularly in a time when cycling is so popular and so many women are getting involved in recreational cycling and beginning to race. You just need to look at the Scottish Cyclocross scene to see the change within the past five years! It is only a matter of time before more women complete the Level 3 qualification across the disciplines offered by BC.

What would your advice be to other young people looking to get into coaching?

Go for it! There’s lots of opportunities to get involved with and lots of youth clubs around Scotland to do a bit of shadowing to decide if you like the coaching side of things. I’ve certainly learned a lot about cycling and racing from coaching different disciplines. I’ve appreciated gaining a perspective into cycle racing behind the scenes and by getting involved you’ll learn a lot about yourself!

What would your advice be to other women who may want to get into coaching?

Again, just give it a shot. The women’s cycling scene is developing across Scotland and it is such an exciting time to get involved. There is lots going on with women’s coaching sessions being coached by women and lots of camps and training days to get involved with. These range from grass roots level up to national level racing!

Now you have passed Level 3, what comes next for you?

I look forward to continuing to coach performance under 23 cyclists with my team Glasgow Cycle Team. We’re lucky to have a great set up and an enthusiastic team and we look forward to developing young cyclists onto the podium.