Coaches Corner

Coaches Corner – Data and technique – Part 1

In the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” from 1798, English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes, “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink”. With the amount of information that we can collect on athlete performance and the number of technical nuances a paddler can display, it can be really difficult to know where to focus a coaches’ time and energy. Data, data, everywhere, but not a piece of use!

It’s hard to make data and technique analysis sound exciting in this installment of Coaches Corner. When looked at well, it can add a lot to your athletes’ development. I like to really keep things simple, as this means I understand it and so will the athletes I coach. We have some amazing performance analysts available to us at the top end of the sport who can really add a lot to the performance development and tracking athlete progress. The majority of paddlers and coaches don’t have this luxury, and nor do they need to in order to progress a long way. When I was a young athlete winning Junior World Champs and through to my first Olympic medal in Sydney 2000, I had an Ironman Triathlon watch, distance marks painted along the river bank and a coach with excellent communication skills, brain and technical eye. Simple. 

Now we have access to highly accurate, reliable and relatively affordable GPS watches and heart rate monitors. I really encourage using these simply, yet effectively with almost any level of athlete (except very new paddlers of course). Understand the limitations of the information they provide and learn how to get the most out of this great resource without relying on it completely. For example, use speed or pace to reinforce the feel of race pace, VO2, threshold and aerobic work. If you train alone, your watch is your training partner. Find a pace that feels right for the given water/weather conditions and try and hold as close to that pace for the duration of the effort. If you don’t have GPS, learn how long it takes to paddle between certain fixed landmarks on the bank and use that as a guide to your pacing and consistency. 

Nelo have a really good training app which can transmit from an android phone on the athletes’ kayak to an android device the coach has nearby. This will give real-time speed, stroke rate etc. 

When talking technique, this is a really broad area that I can’t cover adequately here. My one piece of advice is to watch many different paddlers, both in real time and on YouTube. CRNZ have developed a great technique workshop and resource, by bringing together collective experience from several elite coaches. My coaching colleague Craig Mustard delivers CRNZ technique workshops and I really recommend attending one of these. I’m always thinking and learning every day about how to better the technical coaching I deliver.

CRNZ Coach Tim Brabants.

Look out for Part Two coming later this month.

Image: Vera Bucsu