Being coached – our advice for parents and children
26 October 2013
Do you need a cycling coach?
If your child has been inspired to race by Britain’s Olympic success, Team Sky or you just feel they should improve their cycling skills then you might ask “do they need a coach?”
Well, yes and no. Their first step should be to join a cycling club. The club should provide the coaching sessions and opportunities for your child. However an Under 14 doesn’t need a single dedicated coach but a range of opportunities.
A club member aged Under 14 is likely to work with a number of different coaches who will develop their skills and tactics. A good club will have a number of different coaches with different specialities. However there may be a coach who oversees an age range or squad within the club setup.
An Under 14 shouldn’t need a detailed training programme but just an idea of which sessions they can access and suggestions of suitable races to compete at.
As a rider progresses into the Under 16 category they may start to work more closely with one particular coach who will set a training programme both for skills and physiological development. The coach may attend some of the rider’s races to observe and provide feedback on skills and tactics.
What does a cycling coach do?
As in all sports, cycling coaches work at all levels in different ways and on different aspects. At the very highest level a Performance Director like David Brailsford does very little hands on coaching but provides an overall strategy for how his team of riders and coaches develop and compete.
A rider working with Under 16s will have a very different approach and be very hands on. A good coach of young people will:-
- Introduce how the sports works (e.g. the different types of races)
- Coach the techniques of the sport
- Suggest suitable local race events to tackle
- Introduce basic race tactics
- Introduce team working where relevant
- Monitor skill and physical development of the rider
This will mainly be done through activity sessions which may be delivered on grass fields, playgrounds or at discipline specific venues (e.g. velodrome or BMX track).
As riders develop, a coach has to spend less and less time with them and rely more on their feedback, whether verbal or written. For example, a football coach can be there for every training session and watch every minute of every match. However, a cycling coach, whether through time or fitness, may not be able to take part in a 15 year old’s training ride. It’s impossible to view the entire course at most MTB or circuit races so much of the action occurs out of sight. It’s important that an Under 16 learns how to fill in a training diary and analyse their own performance.
Finding the right coach
It’s simple enough finding the right coach for an Under 14 if you have found the right club. If the club is the right one then they will have good quality coaches. However, you might want to check some details with the club:-
- Are the club coaches British Cycling qualified? (see the table below for details of the British Cycling qualifications for activity coaching)
- Are they qualified in the discipline they are coaching?
- Do they have up to date First Aid qualifications and CRB checks?
In addition you need to consider if your child enjoys being coached by them and relates to their style of coaching.
British Cycling Coaching Qualifications
Level 1 Award in Coaching Cycling
Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Cycling
Level 2 Discipline Specific Awards
Level 2 Road and Time Trial Coaching Award
Level 3 Certificate in Coaching Mountain Bike
Level 3 Certificate in Coaching Road and Time Trial Cycling
Level 3 Certificate in Coaching Track Cycling
Your Under 16 (Youth A) rider may want conditioning guidance in addition to skills coaching. In this case they will need to work with a coach trained to Level 3 (note that not all disciplines have a Level 3 Award yet).
Use the British Cycling coaching directory to find a relevant coach.
Don’t just dive in and contact the nearest coach. Ask around for recommendations. Ask the coach for a copy of their coaching philosophy which they should have written as part of the course.
There are a number of professional cycling coaches now available to hire. The main problem is that most tend to work remotely via email and text and therefore don’t get to see their riders in action. If they don’t see their riders in action it’s more difficult to provide feedback about skills and technique development which are vital for a youth rider. Some do provide practical sessions at a further cost.
Professional coaches can be found via internet searches but once again go for a recommendation. Beware of coaches that use cut and paste training plans. Just because they have worked for one rider doesn’t mean they will work for all.
How much does being coached cost?
Attending club coaching sessions will cost between £2 and £5 for a one to two hour session. This fee is usually used to cover the costs of the venue, the club’s running costs or to provide a club fund for additional projects such as buying equipment. Most cycling club coaches work as volunteers and will provide coaching advice and training programmes free of charge. Professional cycling coaches charge between £65 and £150 per month to set training plans.
Additional Coaching support
1. Core stability, weight training and circuit training
Some core stability advice and training can be useful for teenagers developing their cycling skills. However most cycling coaches are not qualified in training core stability or weight training. When approaching an expert in these areas it is important to explain that your child is competing at cycling and therefore the exercises need to take this into account.
2. Nutrition and Sports Psychology
Whilst they may not be experts, most British Cycling Level 3 coaches should have sufficient understanding of these areas to assist a youth age rider. Obviously if more detailed help is required then consult well-qualified individuals.
- For nutrition advice, use the Sport and Nutrition Exercise Register or Sports Dieticians UK.
- To find Sports Psychologists look up the British Association of Exercise Science website directory.
Mark Wyer has worked in Cycle Coaching and Development for over 15 years. He currently works for British Cycling as a Go-Ride Coach in the Eastern Region and is a Level 3 Road and Time Trial Coach as well as holding various Level 2 awards. He is also a Regional Cyclo-Cross Commissaire, judges at races and regularly organises cycling events.