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More than a juggler - What is a performance coach?

Interview with Dávid Horváth, Fit4race's leading performance coach, about performance, learning, and support.

What is the task of a performance coach? As an outsider, you can see at F1 races coaches making competitors juggle and press reflex lights, and in return carrying the helmets of the competitors.

Performance coaching is about a little more than that. Its name also shows that its activities are aimed at improving performance. Performance can be very diverse: sports, other physical, mental, business performance. Unsurprisingly, they are based on the same performance dimensions, only in different proportions.

Fit4race and the Best of You program are about determining the performance levels necessary to achieve them, taking into account the goals set by our customers.

With our tests, we can determine exactly what is hidden in the client. From the measured data, we can see which areas need improvement in order to achieve the goal. We monitor the changes during the process, so we are aware of where we are in the work.

One of the main tasks of our performance coaches is to carry out this development, in which a group of experts supports their work so that they can be even more efficient.

At Fit4Race, we work in many areas of sports science. Our performance trainers are also experienced in the fields of physiology, biochemistry, biomechanics, physical therapy, and psychology. They can summarize the data, interpret it, and thus follow the development plan, which is essential for the client to really reach his or her best and to be able to maintain this high performance.

An essential part of performance coaching is not only to achieve the best in us, but also to make it sustainable.

You joined Fit4Race in 2018 as a performance coach. You are now the head of this department. How have these 5 years been?

Adventurous, with lots of challenges, work and learning. As a coach and head coach, learning is an important part of my everyday life, and I place a lot of emphasis on ensuring that this also plays a role in teamwork. We hold professional meetings on a weekly basis, where we discuss new, innovative ideas and solutions so that our professional knowledge can deepen even more.

In addition to our work, many of us also conduct external training. I myself am a 4th-year PhD student and I am currently working on writing my dissertation. J My research topic is also naturally related to my work: cognitive ability development among car racers.

In my managerial work, it is an advantage for me that I have gone through the donkey ladder, I know the organization and the team well. I will summarize the area that I know well and I have the opportunity to incorporate my own ideas, which is very motivating. Of course, the new role is still a challenge, and along with the growth of Fit4Race, the implementation of new projects.

Personally, I think it is very important for a coach to set a good example. In this spirit, I adopted the Fit4Race "Best of You" model. In other words, I pay attention to sleep, nutrition, exercise, and overall health, which also includes paying attention to the kind of people I surround myself with.

I have improved tremendously in this area since working at Fit4Race. I am much more confident, I have much more energy, I have learned how to fill up my energy stores as quickly as possible and also how not to drain them completely.

A stable family background is important for all of this. Here, since 2022, I have also held another very important position: our little girl, Lili, was born at the end of 2021. As his father, I learn a lot and constantly train myself to balance work and private life.

She is my performance coach.🙂

Performance coach - competitor relationship: tell us about your experience?

Dani Nagy (former WTCR competitor) and I trained a lot and traveled to competitions, so we spent a lot of time together and a friendly relationship developed between us. So much so that even though we no longer have a working relationship, we talk on a weekly basis.

All of this is the result of the fact that I managed to establish a relationship of trust with Dani. I think this is one of the main elements of performance coaching. The competences and skills of the performance coach should allow him to easily connect to the client's wavelength. I knew exactly what Dani was thinking and how she was feeling from Dani's small movements. You have to understand both people and sports. This is how you can create a relationship of trust so that your client feels that you really care about him and that you also understand what you are doing. This is the only way he can trust you, this is the only way he can feel that he is in good hands.

For example, car racing is important to Dani Nagy, then car racing becomes important to me as well. If you want to achieve some kind of goal, then it becomes important to me as well. I outline for him the path he will follow to reach his goal. We break it down into sub-processes and move towards the goal.

In addition to the exact instructions, in many cases we don't tell the competitor what to do, but instead, observing his expressions, we ask him the right questions to guide him in the right direction. The questioning technique is also a very important part of coaching.

From all of this, it seems that it is very important for a good performance coach to have adequate emotional intelligence.

It is absolutely true, it is important to be able to see the big picture, to understand a situation from the outside, and to be able to support the competitor in a human way. Of course, this is a delicate balance: it is difficult, for example, if we get too close to our competitors: in such cases, feedback can trigger negative emotions, diverting objective processes to an emotional level.

But here is a positive example: in the first days of the Olympics, Zsombor Berecz had to work very hard for good positions, so that he could "always come back" from worse situations. This was extremely stressful for him.

Then came a day of rest, which Zsombor really wanted to spend just resting, but Zsolti Matics (head of Fit4race, Zsombi's performance coach at the Olympics) was able to convince him why it is very important to follow the already proven, planned protocol. In addition to mutual trust, this also required an appropriate level of EQ on the part of the coach.

If the coach observes the expressions of the competitor entrusted to him, is it possible that you might learn from them as well?

Not only do we learn from them, but they can also challenge us. I now e.g. I also work with Michelisz Norbi and maybe few people know about him, but he is extremely competitive even on weekdays. He is constantly looking for challenges, and challenges me in each of our training sessions. I have to prepare for joint training in such a way that I know that I will also be measured.

This kind of competitive spirit is not alien to me either, it has accompanied me throughout my sports career (I played table tennis competitively for 13 years) and also helps me in my coaching profession.

When I was a child, every game where you could win was really a bloody competition. Whether it's a basketball game in the yard, an innocent game of foosball or a card party.

What does working in the Fit4race team as a Performance Coach and leader mean to you?

I feel that I work in the best place in Hungary. What I have learned and continue to learn here is a continuous advantage for me in all other areas as well. Professionally and personally, I was able to experience enormous development during the five years.

No matter what happens in the future, no matter where life takes me, I feel safe because what I received and learned from Zsolti Matics and Fit4Race enables me to take my place anywhere, personally and professionally.


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