Team work

Published 4th March 2021 by mymo

Photo credit: Darren Wheeler @thatcameraman

From the outside looking in, it can appear that professional athletes have it all. They are often paid, at least in part, to do a job that we could only dream of. Elite and professional runners are able to teach us a lot in how to manage ourselves as runners and get the most enjoyment out of our sport. One of the main things the pros seem to have is a team: a circle of skilled individuals around them that help them perform to the best of their (often brilliant) ability.

So what can we learn from the pros about having a team?

Why do we need a team?

Elite marathon runner Hayley Carruthers juggles full time work with the demands of being an athlete with the help of a supportive team. She told us, “We can’t expect to know and understand everything ourselves. Having a team allows us to focus solely on putting one foot in front of the other as best as we can. Additionally, it makes sure that you stay on the right path when things are difficult and encouraging you that it’s all going to be okay.”

Who makes up a team?

For an elite or professional athlete this will vary depending on the level they are at and the sponsorship opportunities they have. Few British athletes are able to access funding that allows them to completely stop working although this varies in other countries. 

Elite runners often have kit sponsorship which gives them access to shoes, apparel and some training and travel expenses, so perhaps the first part of the team is the sponsor.

For Hayley, the support of her sponsor Hoka is a huge positive. She said, “I generally make all my decisions (especially the final say) but I have a few friends I discuss things with first to see what they think to get an unbiased opinion. I always run my ideas past Hoka to see if they have any advice that may inform my decisions though. They are an incredible brand in many ways and support me as a person first and foremost.”

One of the most important people in the professional team is the coach, followed closely usually by a physiotherapist, a strength coach and massage therapist to keep the athlete as fit and strong as possible. Athletes also often have in their team: a nutritionist, sports therapist, sports psychologist, biomechanics specialist, podiatrist or osteopath. How much athletes lean on members of the team will vary throughout the year depending on the phase of training or competition they find themselves in.

Hayley’s team isn’t complicated. “The main three members of my team are my coach, S&C coach and physio generally. But my friends and family are the main motivation that helps drive me every day. The main quality they all have to bring is a positive attitude. Easy to say, difficult to do.” This is where we can draw parallels with the everyday “average” runner- there are generally people in the list above that you would also class as your ‘team’.

For every runner, Hayley suggests her ‘top three’ of coach, S&C coach and physio should form the main heart of the team, adding “You have to trust them 100% as they are key to being successful and happy.”

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