My Coaching Philosophy Explained

Michael Guilford Coaching, Diary, library

“The best thing as an athlete is to know that your coach understands and supports your unique viewpoint. This synergy is integral to my coaching style.

I believe consistent results in cycling are achieved by intentional work on the fundamental areas for each athlete. This has led me to develop my unique coaching method, ‘The Progressive Groundwork Model‘. My coaching process begins with drawing out the rider’s underlying motivation and attributes. These form measurable personalised goals for training and racing, spanning: psychology, physiology and tactics. In turn, I give riders effective training plans and relevant guidance.

I maintain high standards for my coaching and professional development by building experience through face to face, group and 1-2-1 coaching, expanding my knowledge through research and developing my coaching personality through reflection and mentoring.”

This is my coaching philosophy in a nutshell, but how did I get there? And why do I think that it’s the right philosophy to base my coaching on?


Authentic  Engagement

I believe that when coaches and athletes are engaged effectively, they feel that they are working together, in a parallel direction.

Robin is an older athlete who loves doing long/hard group rides and road races, which makes up the majority of his training. Racing and group training makes him feel fit and fast. In the race season, he races twice a week and does at least one club ride, but is often very tired and ill. I believe he is chronically overtrained and would benefit from being more selective and varied in his choice of training.

In a situation like this, I feel responsible for Robin’s well-being. From my perspective his current approach to cycling is having a negative effect on his life and his cycling performance, but what’s Robins perspective? How can I direct him on a different course, while still maintaining engagement?

  1. See things through the rider’s eyes – imagine how the rider feels when they are cycling, find out what motivates the rider most. Why do they gravitate towards this cycling regime?
  2. The rider’s knowledge & judgements are valuable – it can be tempting to ignore the rider’s judgement’s, but eliciting the knowledge behind those judgements is the key to building trust.
  3. Suggest a path that will improve motivation and trust.

Robin is motivated by the social element of cycling and he enjoys feeling like he is race fit. He trusts his current training method because he can compare himself to other riders. So my coaching should be focused on helping him to feel fitter and healthier and provide evidence that he is improving, based on his criteria.


Customised Coaching Tools

Coaching tools are repeatable methods which I can use to make my coaching more effective and consistent, such as my Progressive Groundwork Model, (which I will write about at another time).

After 5 years of coaching groups & individuals, I have started to see the limitations in the tools that are currently available.  I see tools as an addition to good coaching practice, not a replacement, they help me to focus time and energy on key coaching tasks such as building a rapport with athletes and observing them.

I am modelling my work on people like Andrew Coggan, Joe Friel, Phil Burt, Steve Peters, David Brailsford, Nick Littlehales, Nigel Mitchell. They have all produced unique methods that can be repeated and used with different individuals.


Discipline Specific Knowledge

Coaching & communication skills
Cycling specific knowledge
Knowledge of behaviour & psychology


Knowledge is the foundation of my coaching discipline.  Knowledge is any memory, skill and information, which inspires my coaching. In the same way that cycling training needs to be discipline specific, (a downhiller is unlikely to succeed by only training on the road), my coaching knowledge needs to be specific to the field of coaching.

How can I build knowledge? (in order of priority)

  1. Coach – nothing is a substitute for coaching experience
  2. Reflect – reflecting on coaching practice consolidates knowledge
  3. Other coaches – being mentored & observing other coaches
  4. Learn from others – non-practice specific sources, science, maths, art

Creative insight – this is specific to me, and I can’t really put in order of priority. Being creative for me is fuel for learning & progress.


Knowledge forms the basis for decisions, actions, biases and drivers of judgement, trust and confidence. Here’s an example:

Alice is an XC mountain biker who has had a successful year in expert and is moving up to the Elite category. She has said that her goal for next year is to get podiums in Elite the following year, and she wants me to help her do that. However, racing is her tertiary priority, below family and career.

Decisions & Actions: Is this goal realistic and helpful to Alice? What’s the probability that she will achieve this goal, even with the best preparation? Therefore, should I challenge her choice of goal or go with it?

Biases and drivers: If the goal is too hard then Alice may become demotivated, get ill/injured, I may lose the fee (financial driver). If my coaching works and the Alice succeeds I will share in her success.

Trust & confidence in my choice: I could use cycling-specific knowledge to analyse the event demands and work out what Alice would need to do in order to achieve that goal. I may look over similar case studies of similar personalities to help make a decision. I may calculate risk vs benefit, to both the Alice and myself.

Get in touch!

My blog is all about gaining insight on performance and learning, in a forward-thinking way. So if you have a different viewpoint, or want to discuss the topic, find me on Twitter @rideaboutuk