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Dan Herron Shares His Coaching Philosophy: Values to Shape Your Practice

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Dan Herron works in coaching, fitness consulting, and marketing for VisionQuest Labs, a startup human performance lab and cycling training center in Indianapolis, IN.

VisionQuest Labs’ metabolic tests, fitness and athletic consulting, and cycling studio can help everyone improve their fitness and performance– from beginner to elite athlete. Dan Herron has assisted with various aspects of starting this new business. He’s spent time building relationships with individual athletes, fitness studios, and companies looking to incorporate this testing into their wellness packages while also planning and coaching cycling camps and indoor structured rides. He enjoys consulting with clients on the next steps in applying the data from their assessments into their workout plans.

Dan Herron also works as one of the instructors for the new online cycling training platform, Velocity. You can learn more about VisionQuest Labs at vqlabs.com and Velocity at vqvelocity.com

In addition to his work in coaching and entrepreneurship, Dan loves competing in Ironman, endurance cycling events, and merging endurance sports with philanthropic pursuits. Dan Herron’s future plans include pursuing certifications that will enable him to provide professional coaching in triathlon and the individual disciplines of swimming, cycling, and running.

Dan Herron recently shared his coaching philosophy, which includes the core values to shape your own practice.

“Philosophy”. Two Greek words: “Philo” = “Love”, “Sophia” = Wisdom.

So, what does “love of wisdom” have to do with coaching athletes?

When a coach considers what her “coaching philosophy” is, we’re not talking about how she might apply lessons from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics on an athlete’s marathon pacing strategy. A “philosophy” of coaching has more to do with a coach’s unique approach and perspective, i.e. her aggregate wisdom that’s been accumulated through education, experience, and reflective practice over the course of time, and how this is all expressed in distinctive values that might form the heart of that coach and her approach.

When an athlete considers which coach to work with, not only should he look at training plans and the history of successful athletes produced by that coach. A key priority also ought to include a brief conversation about that potential coach’s coaching philosophy.

Why is this? Because it’s not just the coach’s plan that will be guiding and forming that athlete, it also is the coach herself, who she is as a person, and all that she brings to the table, including those subtle and non-tangible dynamics, that will be formative for that athlete’s process of development.

This is a facet of coaching that shouldn’t be skimmed over by either an athlete or by a coach. If you’re an athlete, ask about this, look for signs of what values are overtly communicated and values are covertly communicated. Consider whether these values align with what you think is important for your own athletic and personal development to be impacted by. A process of discernment such as this will help an athlete determine if that athlete-coach relationship is truly going to be a good match.

If you’re a coach, you need to pause and take some time to consider all the various experiences that have shaped you as a person and a coach. You need to think about your process of athletic and personal development. You need to think about some key values that articulate who you are as a person, what you consider as priorities, and how these relate to and are inevitably translated into any coaching situation and relationship you may be involved in. Whether you take the time to discover these values or not, they will still be clearly communicated to your athletes whether you realize it or not. So, don’t allow your philosophy of coaching to be communicated without you even realizing it!

How can you do this? Take the initiative to slow down, reflect, write some keywords that might serve as headings for possible values. Just start writing down 5-10 themes. Consider what you mean by each, write those considerations down. Merge ideas together into one or two headings, cut some ideas out, and hone your collection of values until you’re able to settle in to 3-5 core concepts. Here are some possible values-headings you might see as vital to your approach to coaching: Intervals, Recovery, Play, Technology, Drive, Fundamentals, Drills, Team, Kindness, Harmony… Don’t think that you’ve got to find the perfect headings. Just like we grow and change as people, philosophies of coaching (and, of life) change and grow over time as well. The philosophy you develop today will likely not be the philosophy that guides your practice 5 years from now.

Once you’ve developed these basic headings, you need to invest some time writing out 1-3 sentences that describe what each particular value-heading means to you, how this specifically applies to your coaching, and how this might shape any athlete you work with. You need to see how a value plays itself out in the life of your potential athlete in order to determine if it will actually work in a positive way. By the end of this process you should have 3-5, succinct, well-described key values that not only define what you do as a coach but should also provide a good picture of who you are as a coach as well. Our athletes certainly need the work that we provide, but they also need the people that we are. This is the entire point of living in healthy relationships with others.

The next step in shaping your philosophy is the practical— connecting everything you do in the coaching process back to your 3-5 values. You should be able to quickly explain to any athlete how an activity, drill, workout, or diet emerges from your particular values. The practical, then, will always be the lived expression of the intangible. And the intangible will also always be formed by the practical. They work, over time, in a giant feedback loop shaping one another as your coaching career progresses. This is how anyone grows in “Sophia/wisdom”.

I’ve included my own coaching philosophy for you to check out and maybe serve as a template for the creation of your own.

JOY
This top priority is to encourage a joyfulness about life, training, and competition. Joy does not mean happy. Joy is something that is produced over time, that can weather pain and suffering, that expands and deepens with mature commitment.

HUMILITY
Another priority is to emphasize the value of knowing yourself rightly. This means that we understand that everyone is in process as a learner, that perfection is something to work toward and pursue, yet is something that can’t be fully complete in this life. This, therefore, makes each one of us, no matter our skill or athletic ability, a learner and receiver. As a result, humility looks like a persistent teachability.

PERSEVERANCE
This value emphasizes the priority of self-discipline, self-control, self-regulation, and personal grit. Grit is a muscle that needs exercise. An excellent athlete (and, mature human being) is one who has learned how to endure suffering and not to quit. Talent, genetics, superior gear & tech—these are all great, but none of these can lead to consistent excellence. Only the character quality of grit/steadfast endurance/perseverance can produce true greatness no matter what ability one has.

RELATIONSHIP
No matter who you are, how great you might be, and what sport you might engage in, we all need relationships with others. Collaboration, team, mutual support, mutual respect, and care—these are all part of developing greatness. Individuals are not great by themselves, we all require a team of others supporting, cheering, coaching, pushing, carrying, and encouraging us. And, to be truly excellent, one will not merely be a consumer of relationship, but an active contributor and giver as well.

DATA-SHAPED
I don’t want to blindly apply generalized training plans to every athlete I work with. And, I don’t want my athletes trying to set personal goals without any kind of solid foundation to build from. So, all that we plan, train for, evaluate, and compete in will be based on each athlete’s unique physiology. We’ll pursue the best assessments and approaches for athletes to know the unique way that they are made, what their capacities are, what realistic goals they might achieve, and what their progress looks like as it is measured and quantified.

Athletes—in addition to identifying those competitive goals and sticking to a training plan, also work to identify some of your own values and priorities so that you can find a coach who matches up with or compliments those core values that intrigue you, that you yourself possess, or that you see you are in need of developing. Seek the wisdom that can come from a coach who has a finely-tuned philosophy of coaching.

Coaches—learn to love and utilize that expansive background of knowledge, practice, and experience in both victory and defeat in order to form a philosophy for the entirety of your coaching. Our community of athletes and fellow coaches can greatly benefit from your novel contribution of wisdom.

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