By Adam Muys, Head BMX Racing Coach with Cycling Canada

The BMX season started earlier than normal in 2020 with two UCI World Cup events in February. With a compact early season, plans were made with a focus and a destination. Strategies were developed and reviewed, and then everything went blank. Race after race got postponed and/or cancelled and we kept training for a couple of weeks before more events got cancelled and our schedule became clear. A small break and then weeks of solo training.

We removed the gym equipment from our gym and delivered it to the local athletes so they could set up gyms at home. I monitored the athletes’ training the same as I would with athletes that aren’t in the local CTE (central training environment), by following their progress over text and WhatsApp. The athletes sent some videos and we talked through challenges.

Finally, on June 23rd we were able to return to training together at the track in Abbotsford, BC. When we returned, training looked slightly different with regular health checks, surfaces constantly cleaned and hand sanitizer bottles around for everyone to use while everyone kept their distance. I filmed with the iPad and would airdrop the files to the athletes in order to avoid contact.

Training began to look a little different as well. Normally our sessions are very focused on speed work – a set number of reps all leading to peaking for an event. Now we are focusing more on skills and pushing our boundaries on the bike. I started to ride more with the athletes to keep the sessions more casual. Our current goal is to build up the skills to a higher level so that our athletes will be able to do more on the bike and go faster.

With this shift in focus, we have been trying new things such as riding different tracks, finding different lines and playing games off the bike. This break in events is an opportunity to put some time into developing new skills or making changes that take time. Some examples have been learning to hit the pro rhythm, trying the pro section or learning to be more efficient in the air. Challenges can also be found by trying different types of cycling or another sport.

When the last two events on our calendar were cancelled, I scheduled a bunch of “training” races in Abbotsford. The athletes were excited to compete and prepare for an event. As their coach, it was great to watch the athletes compete and review on how to improve. The training events have also been huge for our development pathway with many young athletes gaining experience on the Supercross track.

Be positive and build motivation

It’s important to be positive in the training environment, but not over-the-top cheerleading. I am excited to see the athletes and support them to see positives in and out of their training. At the end of training sessions, I’ve asked athletes for their highlight. It’s a fun game to get the athletes to reflect on their session, find a positive and leave on a good note.

As a coach, I find that the more I work with an athlete, spend with them and can see them in the competition zone, the more I can help them to perform. Understanding an athlete’s stress and concerns makes it easier plan and prepare and likewise, the athlete learns what to expect from the coach.

This has been a year of challenges and has taught us how to be flexible. I think being flexible is definitely a Canadian advantage – we constantly train in bad weather and are often exposed to last minute delays. We’re used to change and I find we excel when the conditions are challenging. Long term success doesn’t happen overnight, it happens in small increments every day.

Highlights to coaching during COVID-19:

  • Being positive, bringing the passion and motivation
  • Taking the time to work on skills, the building blocks of success
  • Spending time with the athletes in order to build relationships
  • Taking a break is OK, try doing something different
  • Highlights of the day after training sessions
  • Embracing that being flexible is an advantage

This week is National Coaches Week across the country. Join us in saying #thankscoach to all the amazing coaches at every level of the sport.