The Olympics give us a marvelous, first-hand glimpse into a world that we do see that much of: the partnership between athlete and coach. Sure, during non-Olympic years the TV carries many images of football and basketball coaches on the sidelines– cheering, shouting, cajoling, and standing by every play and call as the athletes they train are performing. But what about individual athletes? We almost never see their coaches except at Olympic time. When the gymnast dismounts the coach is right there with a big bear hug (“You did an amazing job!”) or a consoling arm-around-the-shoulder (“I believe in you”).
One of the most most talked about coaching relationships is the one Michael Phelps has with Bob Bowman, his coach since Phelps was 11 years old. As ESPN reported, thei relationship is not just athlete-coach, it’s also “parent child, business partners, best friends.” What makes this relationship so unique? Phelps put it this way: “We both love what we do and we want to be the best we can.” Notice how the greatest Olympic athlete of all times twice uses the word “we.” The relationship between an athlete and his or her coach is definitely a “we.” One exists but for the other. The athlete has to train and perform, the coach has to guide, challenge and encourage. Both are full-on jobs. Both require constant attention to an every changing landscape (for the athlete individually and within the particular sport). Both are about getting better at what each one does. It’s a very heart-felt relationship, summed up in three words that Bowman said to Phelps when he passed the all-time medal mark: “I love you.”
When you want to perform at you best give yourself the gift of a supportive, challenging coach to be the other half of your team. The next time you have to face a high-stakes test or performance consider how coaching might help to put you on the medal stand.