coach summit

Athlete Takeaways from 2024 CTS Coach Summit


By Darcie Murphy,
CTS Pro Coach

I have never been more excited to be a professional coach, and that’s because there’s never been a better time to be a coached athlete. I recently spent a long weekend at the CTS Coach Summit in Bentonville, Arkansas, which was a combination of classroom seminars, in-depth discussions on best practices and emerging science, and hands-on activities for fun, demonstration, and exercise. As coaches, we came away inspired and ready to dive into the busy summer season of events, but there were also some valuable takeaways that can benefit all athletes.

AI Is Making Coaches Better

Artificial intelligence has already entered more aspects of your daily life than you may realize, and it is affecting the coaching profession as well. There are some time- and labor-intensive tasks related to training data that AI can perform faster. As a result coaches who are working with AI tools have more time to focus on the areas AI doesn’t address as well, namely relationship building, interpersonal communication, and the art of coaching.

AI does a lot of things well, but athletes inherently understand that AI doesn’t care about them. People who have spent their entire adult lives striving to be anything but just another number recognize that to AI, you are literally just a number (or a collection of numbers). So, we’re not turning away from AI, but we’re finding ways to leverage it for dispassionate tasks so we can leverage human attention where it matters most.

Are there athletes who will turn to AI-driven programs that auto-correct and provide feedback based on data inputs? Absolutely. And we may end up developing something along those lines, too. Either way, the better AI-backed programs become the more professional coaches need to up our game so that athletes looking for genuine expertise and a human connection can clearly differentiate the experience of personal coaching from app-based programming.

Event support can make a meaningful difference in performance

As coaches, we love going to events to support athletes, but we didn’t have any data to know whether showing up at events actually leads to a measurable improvement in athlete performance. According to our analysis of CTS Athlete performances at major events, it does. We looked at events where we’ve had many participants, meaning 50 to several hundred over the course of several editions of the event. This included races like the Leadville 100 Run and MTB, Western States Endurance Race, Unbound Gravel, and SBT GRVL. When coaches are at events, the finisher rate for CTS Athletes consistently exceeds the finisher rate for the event. This even holds true for subsets of finishers, like sub-9-hour Leadville MTB finishers or sub-24-hour Western States finishers.

There’s good research to back up the idea that a positive support network improves an athlete’s chances of achieving event goals. A review study on the psychological indicators of success in ultrarunning found that although endurance athletes are motivated by goal achievement and personal achievement, social support was a prime motivator for finishers compared to non-finishers (Owen 2023). One study included in the review found, “…the most beneficial motivation for ultrarunners can come from a coalition of their families, friends and followers, from their teammates, and the general public” (Harman 2019).




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Practical tips for supporting athletes

If you’re going to support an athlete at an event, particularly in aid stations, here are a few practical tips we’ve learned over the years:

  • Designate a crew captain or someone who will be the athlete’s primary point of contact. That way, the athlete isn’t bombarded by too many competing voices and decisions.
  • Keep it simple. From a motivation standpoint, you shouldn’t need a “Braveheart” rallying speech to keep an athlete moving. At an aid station, less is more. Come prepared with a short message that will connect to the athlete’s deeply held, personal values around the event. But don’t use it unless you need to. If things are going well, don’t overdo it.
  • Be honest. Athletes know when they’re not having a good day. They don’t need you to sugarcoat it. Be honest and realistic and then help them find a positive solution that gets them on their way.

Athletes Still Sell Themselves Short

Almost every athlete who signs up to work with a CTS Coach starts with a Free Coach Consultation. We all have these conversations with athletes and some of their most frequent comments include “I’m not really an athlete” or “I don’t know if you coach people like me”. There is still a persistent misconception that athletes must first achieve a certain level of fitness/skill/result/devotion to be “worthy” of coaching. Nothing is farther from the truth. A desire to improve is the only prerequisite for coaching and nearly every CTS Coach has a roster of athletes that includes non-competitive athletes, novice competitors, age-groupers, and elite athletes. And nearly every CTS Coach is currently working with athletes ranging from teenagers to senior citizens.

As we said in the Instagram post below, “We coach beginners and we coach the best pros in the world. If you’re somewhere between those two extremes, you’re exactly who we coach.”


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Harman B, Kosirnik C, Antonini Philippe R (2019) From social interactions to interpersonal relationships: Influences on ultra-runners’ race experience. PLoS ONE 14(12): e0225195.

Owen R. Thornton, Sophia Ly, Isabella Colón et al. The Psychological Indicators of Success in Ultrarunning – A Review of the Current Psychological Predictors in Ultrarunning, 15 March 2023, PREPRINT (Version 1) available at Research Square []


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