Coach Tip Tuesday: Coaching is More Art Than Science

Posted On:
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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Here we go again - Coach Tip Tuesday!!

This week’s Coach Tip Tuesday is inspired by some of the athletes who I am currently working for.  Fairly frequently, similar recurring themes pop up with various athletes simultaneously.  I’ve always been fascinated by this phenomenon because none of the athletes who I coach are the same.  And yet, similar threads pop up at the same time all the time.  This past week, the theme that kept popping up was something that went like this:

An athlete would ask me what The Plan looks like for them.  I’d answer in a way that wasn’t as satisfactory for them, because it didn’t give great details.  From there, I’d launch into an explanation of how my coaching brain works.  And as this kept coming up, I realized that it might be useful, interesting (perhaps scary?!?!) to give you all a glimpse into how a coach’s brain works.

Here’s the deal, my friends.  I do have a lot of endurance sports knowledge.  I have a pretty good sense of what works, what doesn’t, and why something will work or not work.  But, at the end of the day, I am human, and I need to learn from experience.  

What my experience has taught me is this: I coach humans, not sports.  No matter how much I try to science something to death in the world of endurance sports coaching, at the end of the day, I am coaching athletes.  Humans.  And as such, there is far more art to my job than most people realize.

If it were on paper, my coach’s brain would probably look like the image attached to today’s post.  Threads of “truths” swirling around in a bowl of other thoughts, experiences, and truths.

When I go to plan things out for an athlete, I start to “paint” my “canvas.”  This canvas is tangible - it’s either a Google Document or it’s Final Surge.  As I start to lay down this path on canvas, I realize that some ideas I had don’t look as great on paper as they seemed in my head.  And so, I delete them and continue to tweak, shape, and mold until I have a final product that I’m satisfied with, and that’s what I deliver to the athlete.

I say this often: an athlete’s goals are cast in stone.  The path to get there needs to be laid out in sand.  It needs to be changeable, moldable.  Why??  Because along the way, I get input from the athlete, I learn from the athlete, we learn together, and then all of the swirls in my coach’s brain “explode” into what I feel is my best piece of work that will set the athlete up for success.

So yes, what I do is rooted in science, and it’s rooted in certain universal coaching truths.  But a lot of what I do is based on the athletes who I work for.  The work is deeply personal, and it’s why I love it so much.  No two pieces of art are ever the same.  No two athletes are ever the same.  And, in my humble opinion, that’s what distinguishes me and my colleagues at Team MPI from other endurance coaching companies.  We do not apply the same protocol to every single athlete we coach.  We strive to constantly be learning, to constantly be bettering ourselves so we can do our very best work for the athletes who trust us with their goals and their dreams.

So, in short, coaching is science.  But coaching is also art.  In fact, my experience tells me that you need to have the art in order to make the most of the science.  So really, coaching is more art than it is science. :)


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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