As many of you know, each athlete is inherently different. The founders of Sailing Performance Training, Mike Kuschner and Fred Strammer, know what it takes to train each athlete different. As a remote training organization, they strive to provide their athletes with individualized programs and support to ensure their athletes are properly progressing. They do this by forming deep relationships with their athletes so they can understand the needs and concerns of a variety of athletes who they might never be in the same room with.
Forming meaningful relationships can be seen as one of the hardest aspects of remote training. How can you get to know your athlete when you never get the chance to be eye-to-eye with them? Fred answers this question for us; by establishing a great amount of trust and being able to understand their lifestyle, which can be done through a number of ways...
First, through consistent communication.
Whether they are chatting on Bridge’s team stream or having their monthly 1 on 1 video call, Fred and Mike are tuned in on their athletes.
“What we really have to do well as coaches is gain a tremendous amount of trust with each of our athletes and really dig deep in terms of the lifestyle component of coaching. We need to understand what they're going through on a day-to-day basis.”
As former athletes, Fred and Mike feel especially connected with their athletes because they understand the process each may go through. However, each athlete is different so they try to make as few generalizations as possible. So, in order to get inside the head of their athletes they sit down for monthly check-ins where they go over the athlete's travel schedule, daily schedule, priorities, goals and general mindset to always be sure that he/she is enjoying the process.
Second, tracking biometrics.
When a coach can’t see if their athlete is fatigued or dehydrated that day they begin to rely even more on their athlete's daily assessments. This is how Fred and Mike are able to better track their athlete’s day-to day. They track hydration, nutrition, sleep quality and duration, stress, mood and soreness to then provide their athlete with an overall readiness score. This allows for trends to be more easily noticed when apart from an athlete. One key factor this team looks for? The athletes adaptivity. This allows them to better prepare for the work ahead, as well as indicates when stressors (training or otherwise) might be impacting progress.
“Going to a deeper level with each of these athletes is critically important because just giving them a program to use in strength and conditioning is not going to allow that athlete to succeed at the highest level.”
Accountability can often be difficult for athletes, especially when your goal is the 2028 Olympics. Your goal is far in the future, and what you are doing today may not seem applicable to your success down the road. Interest and motivation can drop. The solution at SPT is a high performance plan that helps their athletes visualize the path to the end goal, leaving less of the journey up for the often times harmful imagination.
“I've found 99% of the time if I can show a long-term plan to an athlete and help them understand where they are within that long-term plan, we're way more likely to succeed. Their accountability goes through the roof because they know what they're doing and the reasons why they're doing it."
Keeping your athlete focused, while also teaching them about the process lets them take control of their training. Putting their goals in focus allows them to remember why they choose this difficult path. They'll be able to see the different steps and stages of the workout plan so both you and they can better anticipate and prepare for what is coming next. Fred advocates for long term planning, "it helps to redirect their focus and figure out what their current priorities are."
Travel backed by data
A unique aspect for sport sailing is the frequency athletes travel. Athlete’s will travel across seas to race in different regattas. To keep momentum, training and traveling plans need to compliment one another rather than interrupt. A key factor, Mike brings up, is how an athlete travels. Again, each athlete is different. While some may be more susceptible to jet lag or become more dehydrated during long travel, all will be required by the SPT team to log their daily health so that the team can more accurately build year-round training with these unique traits in mind.
“We’re in this together” programming.
In addition to communicating about any challenges an athletes faces while traveling to competitions, the coaches at SPT ask for feedback on the assigned workouts while traveling.
“Feedback from them during each of these competitions allows us to build a program together where it's most successful for that athlete because no one athlete is going to peak in the same way and no one athlete has the same schedule. So it really becomes individualized program for each one of our athletes.”
SPT has also started to gather data on their athletes to create strategies to help them recover better and faster when traveling. These are some of the questions about their athletes they consider in preparation for travel:
1. What is their energy rhythm like on a day-to-day basis?
2. Even before they travel, do they have a sense of what a circadian rhythm is?
3. Where does their circadian rhythm lie relative to the sun-moon cycle?
4. How do they react to different environmental, physical or nutritional intakes, whether that be sugar, lack of sleep, or different climates.
The Future of Sailing
One of the key benefits of remote training? Knowing your coach is always at your side. Fred and Mike both describe the age before sports technology as one that negatively impacted routine during travel and competition. However, now a sailor can quickly access his/her unique training, crafted for the needs of that regatta and supported by a team of experts.
SPT seems to have found many of the answers surrounding remote training. With their impressive backgrounds, Mike and Fred make the perfect team to best teach, train and prepare sailors of all ages how to perform in and outside of the water.
Keep an eye out for our next blog post where we discuss SPT's unique training methods for youth athletes and how they successfully establish buy-in.