Pro athlete Matty White has always been a bit of an Aussie favourite, and now the South Australian has turned his hand to coaching. He took on your coaching questions to give an insight into the how's and why's of his latest venture.
Who is Matt White?
I am a Pro Triathlete based in SA, I have been competing in Triathlons for about 20 years, with the last 17years racing as a professional
Where are you based?
How did you come to the sport?
I was introduced during my school years as it was provided as a subject.
How did you come to coaching?
I started coaching last year as I felt that I have enough knowledge and practice to start giving back to the sport that has provided me with an amazing life experience and I feel it would be good to pass that on to the numerous beginners that are taking up the sport currently.
What type of coaching do you do? Face to face/ internet/ squad based?
I am primarily internet based at the moment, but I am looking at intermittent squad coaching as time progresses and I can somehow find more time!
Do you have a favourite distance to coach?
Not really I raced short distance as a junior and then progressed to LD later on so I have a feel for both distances and enjoy the challenges that both offer.
Do you have a favourite discipline to coach?
I am heavily run focused, especially in the age group ranks as I believe that is where you get the most gains in a race situation.
What is the one thing that you think is unique about your coaching or squad?
I keep my client base exclusive and have turned people down due to keeping my numbers manageable, I don’t have anyone else writing the programs for me, and my athletes can contact me when they need to.
Do you think it is important for a coach to have competed in triathlon/ competed at a high level in triathlon/ competed at the distances they coach?
I actually think its important for sure as this sport is so complex and needs a greater understanding of the different impact levels each discipline can have on training, its not essential to have competed in the sport but it certainly does help I believe.
How many people do you coach?
I am currently around 15.
Qualifications? (theoretical and/or real life experience)
I am a level 1 TA accredited coach, but my main experience comes from getting things wrong….and right as a young professional triathlete and eventually finding out the right formula that works.
As a young man I had the opportunity to train with world champions and great triathletes and work with fantastic coaches and squads, taking a huge mental data base of training sessions, I have used these sessions a lot as an athlete and now I am passing my secrets of the trade to my athletes.
As a coach what are your goals?
I would love to coach a young aspiring athlete who is trying to break into the sport at a pro level, also I have a heap of athletes (Agers and first timers) looking at qualifying for Kona or a 70.3 World Champs so getting them to reach their goals is my main goal.
How would you describe your coaching style?
I use what worked well for me during my career, simple hard work but letting the body absorb the hard work by ensuring recovery is tempered in at the right time, obviously being an online coach my style is interactive and I like to talk with my athletes to get a feel as to what they can handle and how they cope with the workload and I adjust accordingly.
Do you follow a general philosophy or influence, e.g. Friel, Lydiard, etc.
I follow the Matt White philosophy and it seems to work ok.
What method do you use to communicate with your clients (phone, email, face to face)?
I am primarily email and phone
How do you gauge performance improvements? (Races, training, tts, power analysis)
I am a big believer in power now as it’s a true guage of performance, but not everyone has or can afford power, I use HR TTs a lot now, where instead of gunning for a time over a set distance, I like to set a strict HR zone and see how far they can go in 60min for example (the HR zone being the specific race zone for their particular race), within time and revisiting these sessions I see the distance increase in these TTs and hence the improvement gains are seen, but instead of being an all out TT it’s an improvement gain in the zone they need to be in for race day.
Do you believe in/use gadgets? (Pace watch/PM/hr monitor)
Anything they have is fine with me as I am familiar with all.
How much feedback do you give your athletes on workouts? (Daily/weekly/as needed)
Mostly after key sessions with an overview at the end of the week, but I am available for advice when needed
Do you use training peaks or something similar?
I am looking at moving over to training peaks in the next few months
What's your experience working with people who work extreme hours and how do you adapt their programmes to that?
I totally understand the whole work/life/Triathlon balance as I juggle this myself and compete as a pro triathlete against athletes who don’t work, so in order to succeed I had to manage my time and be smart, that is why I work my programs around rosters and any other family or travel commitments, I have athletes who are firies and shift workers and also FIFO workers in mines where I structure everything around there schedules
How individually tailored are your programs?
They are totally individualized as I coach the way I would want to be coached, for example if I am on a nightshift I would like a coach to have that in my program so my next day is easier or a rest day to counter the lack of sleep.
Do you have a holistic approach?
Not really I will leave that to the Vegans.
Do you offer advice on diet, vitamins, supplements and alternative therapies (such as chiro, accu, yoga)
My main problem with a lot of coaches is offering advice into things they are not qualified in especially at the moment with things like diet and paleo etc. My understanding is that people go and do 5 years at uni for a nutrition, physio, chiro degree for example and they are qualified to give advice in these areas. I am neither of these and I don’t give advice for this reason, if my athlete needs help with anything I have a great network of professionals that we can tap into and get the right advice.
Matty likes to communicate with his athletes by phone! image: mattywhite.com.au
What attributes do you think make an athlete easier to coach to their desired results?
Feedback is important especially being an online coach, trust is also a big one.
Do you specialise in or have a preference for novice athletes or seasoned athletes.
Novice athletes are actually some of the easiest to train, as they are so enthusiastic and they are willing to listen to everything you say, hence the big improvements. I recently coached a complete novice do his first 70.3 in Sunny Coast where he went 4:20 after year of correct specific training, this was awesome for me as a coach to know that the training works for people that listen and are diligent.
Would you be honest with me in regards to my goals and aspirations?
Yes definitely, I set limits and times within the realm of your abilities, then once I have worked them out I like to train within these realistic pace ceilings.
Have you ever sacked a client who didn't follow your advice?
Have you coached mature athletes? How do you treat them differently?
Most of my athletes are mature athletes and they are great to coach, as I find a lot of them are established in their careers and have good life experience which makes them easy to communicate with and very mature in their approach to training.
Do you understand the recovery needs of older athletes?
Yes I do as I am reaching that mature age myself!
What percentage of your athletes survive the training injury free?
Most of my athletes have been pretty good considering the increase in their work load, probably 10% have had some sort of injury, and that is mainly because they did the sessions in the wrong zone at the start of their programs. I work in specific zones so if you go to hard in certain sessions it can have a detrimental effect in other sessions.
Do you practice what you preach?
Certainly do as its worked for me for a long time
How do you look at intensity vs volumes?
Their needs to be a good balance between the two, not only for a physical benefit but also for a mental break. I have KEY sessions where intensity is measured and also Volume for my LD athletes.
Everyones idea of success is different. Tell me a couple of your success stories both as a coach and with athletes you train.
I haven’t been coaching a long time, but having an athlete do 4:20 in their first ever 70.3 and get a world AG spot was satisfying, I also have Renee Baker (first year pro female) with me at the moment and we have done big things in improving her FTP in only 4 months of specific work which was great to see. Overall a simple PB is a success story for me as a coach and as I coach a lot of beginners I get to see a lot as their improvement scale is exponential in the first 6 months.
Cost and what do I get for this?
I have different packages available which you can see on my website www.mattywhite.com.au, the service is structured specifically around your schedule and needs.
Thanks to Matty White for taking the time to share his toughts and philosophies with us and we wish him luck in his coaching career.