I’ve been using training journals on and off for the last 10 years . I’ve experimented with a variety of forms; everything from free form writing to formulated spreadsheets. Part of the challenge has been to understand the value of a journal and the ways it can actually help in training and in the long term development of a player.
A journal can be a valuable source of information for me as a coach. The format I use to day has two sections a check-in and a check out. I ask a few simple questions to find out how players are doing mentally and physically as we start the session. It’s helpful in adjusting things like volume or intensity and even just helping me adjust my focus and expectations. I’m more aware of the range of things they’re bringing into a session from the bruise or strain they picked up at practice to the pressure or success they’re experiencing at school.
Checking out helps me see things like how their level of percieved exertion is matching the intensity we were going for and where they’re feeling both successful and challengedin the training. It helps me work more and more with the whole person and the bigger picture over time.
But, as helpful as it is in providing me with information I’ve learned it has another, even greater value. It’s a tool for self awareness and learning for the athlete. It asks althetes to pause before and again after a session and notice what’s standing out both physically and mentally.I can provide feedback and data about the training and what I’m seeing But, good coaches know good information or feedback isn’t enough. The player’s thinking about that information and their ability to apply it to them self matters more. The training journal gives them an opportunity to begin to pull that thinking together and make it their own. What they’re taking is much more likely to stick.
Coaching is a conversation. To borrow Daniel Coyle’s phrase , it’s “ a long intimate conversation, a series of signals and responses that move toward a shared goal.” One in which the coach offers a piece of information or feedback and then engages the players thinking about it. A training journal is more than a source of information for either the coach or the athlete. It’s a starting point for that conversation and a tool to improve the qualilty of it by creating awareness for both and helping us think better together and individually.
Do you have ways you engage your players and that promote self awareness and make for a better coaching conversation?