I chose to observe the practices at Cuesta College for Track and Field. I primarily focused on the distance team with Matt Sherman as the coach. When I arrived at the first practice I observed Coach Sherman talking to the team at the beginning of their practice. He was going over what they should focus on during their first track meet, which was coming up. His positive attitude stood out the most. He put his emphasize on having fun. He stressed the importance that they work as hard as they can to achieve their best performance but his final words were, “Have fun!” I started to realize what he stressed most for his team and that was to achieve the goals they set for themselves.
For both practices I attended the athletes started out with a warm-up run. They then met as a group and had the team captain (Chris Schachter) lead in their stretches. I noticed strong team cohesion as they stretched talking about their activities from the previous weekend and the work out that they were going to have. After the stretching Coach Sherman gathered them together to explain the workout (both days a speed workout). As he explained he made sure each of the team members understood the exact instructions for the speed drills. One of the athletes (Karen Maas) had a question and he patiently answered it and encouraged more questions to make sure the team knew the exact workout. He had the lone male distance runner do 2 sets of 4x200 meter sprints on the track. He had the women’s distance team go out to the pond’s to run a 20-minute fartlek in which they ran a minute hard and a minute easy. I observed the male distance runner and when he finished his second set of 200’s, Coach Sherman suggested he run one more set of 200’s. Chris was tired and was hesitant to do more but he ran them without incidence. When I talked to Chris after his workout I asked him if he agreed with Coach Sherman’s decision to make him run the extra set of 200’s. He said, “I was tired but I knew it would help me in the long run for the end of my races. Coach Sherman was my coach in cross-country and I noticed an incredible improvement during the course of the season. He really knows what he is doing out on the track.”
As far as athlete behavior and interaction with the coach, I noticed nothing but positive things. Coach Sherman is a young coach (24) and a student at Cal Poly, but despite the closeness in age he manages to uphold a great deal of respect from the athletes. They not only respect him as a coach, but also as a runner, and they know he empathizes with them. They talked to him about their personal lives as well as running and also had questions about nutrition. I could tell that the athletes felt comfortable asking his advice in different areas of their lives.
Coach Sherman showed me a training schedule for this season and I could see that he was very knowledgeable in his skill development. I asked where he got all of his information for each of the detailed workouts and he talked of numerous books and articles on running. I could see that he put a lot of time and effort into coaching and that he was very enthusiastic with his job.
I attended the first track meet at Santa Barbara City College. The women’s 1500-meter run was up first. Coach Sherman was out on the track giving the female runners advice on their first race of the season and reassuring them that they were physically as well as mentally prepared to run this race. The girls looked a little more relaxed as they got to the starting line, but were still very nervous as to be expected. The top runner from Cuesta got 4th place in a very talented field of runners. Immediately after the race Coach Sherman was there giving splits, constructive criticism and praise. In the men’s 1500 meter, Chris Schachter was the lone runner for Cuesta. Coach Sherman gave Chris some good words of advice before his race. He placed 2nd in a very good race. Again, Coach Sherman was at the finish line giving Chris his splits, and regurgitating the details of the race. Overall the Cuesta team did not perform as well as they hoped. But, I was very impressed with their attitudes and their sportsmanship towards the other teams.
My interview with Coach Sherman consisted of six questions.
1. What were the characteristics of your favorite coach?
Coach Sherman talked about his high school coach, Bob Messina. Some of the characteristics he listed off were he worked well with the athletes; he showed that he really cared about them, he was very involved with the races and he was very knowledgeable in the area of running. He didn’t just concentrate on the number one runner. He pulled you aside and recognized how you felt on the runs. Coach Sherman said he had had coaches before who had favorites and that made him feel alienated but this coach did not.
2. What made you decide to coach?
Coach Sherman said he loves sports. He has been playing sports since he was four years old. He used to want to do engineering but did not see it as fun. When he helped out as a counselor at a running camp he said it felt like second nature and he was able to apply everything he had learned. He also stated that he loves to interact with people and loves to help them do something they want to do. He loves to know that he has helped somebody out and the highlight of his jobs is when previous athletes come back to tell him what kind of impact he has made on their lives.
3. What is a challenge in coaching that you did not anticipate?
Coach Sherman said that there were many challenges he did not anticipate. For one, everything is new but he kind of likes that challenge. Another is when athletes get injured. It is a challenge trying to figure out how to keep their spirits up. Another was all the various roles that he has to play. For example, a counselor, a teacher, an athlete, and even a parental figure. Lastly, he talked about having an athlete with a bad attitude that contaminates the attitudes of the rest of the athletes.
4. How do you see the differences between you and more experienced coaches?
Coach Sherman said that when he started off he was pretty intimidated. He didn’t have the background of athletes to show the effect his coaching had on their performance.
5. What keeps you motivated?
He said that first off he just enjoys coaching. Secondly the athletes need to be motivated, so he needs to be motivated in order to keep them motivated. He also said that its numerous other coaches who see something in him as a coach and comment on it. That inspires him to keep coaching.
The main point of Coach Sherman’s coaching philosophy is to have his athletes come into the season with a set of goals and to help them accomplish their goals. He wants to work towards their goals and make running fun. He said this because 95% of the athletes at the junior college level are primarily out there to have fun and meet new people. He wants 110% effort from all of his athletes. He wants to see them have a good workout and get as much out of it as they can. This also carries over to other aspects of life. He wants a successful team but one that can have fun. He wants to work with up and down cycles and is prepared to lose. He knows the line between a coach and a friend and he recognizes that there needs to be a level of respect from the athletes.
Reflecting on my interview with Coach Sherman and comparing and contrasting his stated philosophy on coaching and what I have observed from practices and meets I saw that his goals as a coach are being met at practices and his interactions with his team. He knows what he wants to get out of his coaching experience and he achieves that by working hard at demanding respect and hard work from his team while still ensuring that they have fun.
From what I have observed from Coach Sherman it seems as if he has taken this class. He knows so much about performance strategies as well as athlete motivation techniques and coach and athlete issues such as respect, safety, and personal relationships. Overall I was very impressed with Coach Matt Sherman’s coaching strategy, and his team performance.