"...Can you take a look at something for me?" I limped toward my local running specialty store proprietor, Paul, as he walked up the front stretch of the track. "I'm watching one of my athletes and something looks a little unusual."
He says, "Sure. Don't tell me what you see, though," and watches the two female runners running along the back stretch.
Paul turns and mentions a couple of things about both of the ladies, then returns to his group of youth runners and their stretching routine.
"Thanks. I must be reading too much into what I see," I call.
Coaching, like teaching and other disciplines where science and art intersect, can either be a solitary or a collegial endeavor. Whether coaching is their vocation or an avocation, the odds are good every coach doesn't possess an encyclopedic knowledge of 'everything there is to know about training runners.'
Most coaches know what we don't know, but there are times we don't know the degree of what we don't know. I can research and learn more about those things; sometimes the learning curve is smoother if I make a phone call, make a visit or send an e-mail to a friend who's had a little more experience with the topic. If they are in a profession (or a business) in which their knowledge of a topic means the difference between success and failure, why should I over-work myself?
I can refer my athlete/s to "the smartest person in the room."
A 19th century German writer and politician coined the term 'realpolitik,' which described the acquisition, maintenance and application of power or authority in a practical, goal-oriented manner. My friend Paul occasionally refers interested adult runners to me; I point runners in need of good shoes to him. It has not always been an equitable state; I do not have to depend on coaching to place food on the table and keep a roof over my family. But, we both are well-aligned in our goals: We both want to help people become and remain lifetime athletes.
And that's the smartest thing we both can do.