The Importance of Educating Athletes

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I remember sitting through most of my classes in high school with extreme boredom and for lack of a better word, hatred. Math, physics, chemistry, you name it – I hated it. As a result, I was an average student at best whose goal was just to pass and move on to the next grade. The subject matter was never interesting to me as the way it was presented was about as dry as week-old toast and there was never any sort of applicability to the information.

For example, there was never talk about using math to develop video games, or how physics is involved with space shuttle missions. It was just learn XYZ for the sake of learning XYZ. That said, I take full responsibility for my less than enthusiastic approach to learning and my less than stellar grades which I’m sure made my math and computer science college professor parents proud 😉

It wasn’t until I took an athletic training elective in high school that I ‘woke up’ and actually cared about what I was learning. The thought that I could go to college and learn this stuff as possibly have the chance to work with pro or Olympic sport teams/athletes was quite attractive. As a result, I chose the college that I went to based on my experience in this one class and I could say that to some degree, this class indirectly shaped my future career path to present day.

Understand the Rationale Behind The Program

While you don’t have to present a detailed dissertation to an athlete regarding why you had them do 4 x 800 meter repeats versus 6 x 400 meter repeats, you most definitely should explain why they are performing a particular workout and how it relates to the overall goal. The more vested and involved an athlete is in the training process, the better than chance for positive results.

Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO)

The quality of a training program is largely based on the feedback from athletes – specifically, how detailed the feedback is. GIGO is a computer science term that essentially states that poor quality inputs will result in poor quality outputs. In terms of coaching, if an athlete doesn’t provide factual or high quality feedback (or feedback at all), there is no way that a program will have any value or quality, as there is nothing of substance to base it on.

This is where education comes into play. As noted above, an athlete doesn’t have to have the same level of knowledge that a coach does about the training process, but they should have a working knowledge of how the body functions in respect to training adaptations and why particular workouts are being implemented.

This is akin to a race car driver and the pit crew chief. A race car driver must be able to communicate to the chief about what is happening with the car so that the chief can communicate the pit crew regarding the necessary adjustments to the car when it pits (yes, I grew up in the Poconos where NASCAR makes several stops during the year!)

Have High Level Conversations

As a coach, you shouldn’t have to dumb down your conversations with athletes because they aren’t knowledgable about the training process. When you dumb down your communication with athletes, you likely miss out on communicating details which are likely are important to the training process.

Therefore, educating your athletes so that they can communicate with you on a high enough level that any and all details are communicated and most importantly, understood is of paramount importance.

Share the Wealth

Many coaches don’t want to share their knowledge with others – whether it be other coaches or even their own athletes. Believe it or not, there are some coaches who believe that they have some sort of proprietary training methods that they don’t want to divulge the ‘secrets’ of. Other coaches fear that if they educate their athletes on the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ of the coaching process, they will leave them to coach themselves.

Better Outcome

Educated athletes that generally understand how the body functions and the processes behind training methodologies are likely to have better outcomes than those that do not. This is because these athletes are likely more in tune with their body in respect to what the physiological purpose is of specific workouts. Therefore, they will likely adhere to the correct pace/duration of workouts due to their understanding of the purpose of the workout. Additionally, should the expected physiological adaptation(s) not occur in totality, or to a lesser degree than expected, an educated athlete will likely seek out a reason why and take action (i.e., more rest, change the training stimulus, etc…)


Whether you’re a coach, coached athlete or are self-coached, it is always advantageous to learn about the body’s functionality as it pertains to athletic performance, and what training stimuli elicit the desired adaptations. Once this occurs, you will reach an elevated sense of clarity in respect to the process as a whole.


Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science-based endurance sports education company. UESCA educates and certifies running, ultrarunning and triathlon coaches (cycling coming soon!) worldwide on a 100% online platform.

Click on the one of below links to learn more about our certifications and to get $50 OFF the purchase price!

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Rick Prince

Rick Prince

Founder/Director of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA).

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