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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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‘A coach needs to touch an athlete’s heart’

Belgium relay team coach Jacques Borlee talks about the key aspects of training an athlete for major events.
Belgium Relay Team Coach Jacques Borlee Talks About The Key Aspects Of Training An Athlete For Major Events
Belgium relay team coach Jacques Borlee (left), with the mixed relay team members, his sons Kevin and Dylan, and Camille Laus. Photo Vinod Divakaran

A trainer focuses merely on an athlete’s technique but a coach’s role goes beyond that, says Jacques Borlee, the 2011 European Athletic Coach of the Year and a former Belgian sprinter.

Borlee is in Doha for the World Championships as the relay coach in the Belgium athletics contingent which includes three of his children — Kevin, Jonathan and Dylan.

According to Borlee a coach needs to provide a solution which will fetch the best result for an athlete. And how does one do that? “You need to touch the heart of an athlete,” he said.

“To do that you need to be very careful with what you say. And when you say something do it in simple words which is one of the most difficult things to do for a coach,” said the Belgian.

Borlee also coached the Belgium 4x100M women’s relay team which finished second at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but was later awarded the gold as the Russian team, who originally finished first, was disqualified for doping. Incidentally, his daughter Olivia was part of that Belgian team.

So, how does Borlee get the best from an athlete at major events such as the Olympics or World Championships?

“When an athlete takes part in a major athletics event, the stress levels are very high. And a coach needs to help the athlete control his mind and body. You need to ensure that the alpha and beta waves in the athlete’s brain are in control. Only then will you get a good result,” he said.

Borlee, who has been coaching for the past two decades, found training his children a tad easier than coaching other athletes, simply because they are part of the family.

“You know what they are thinking, you know their likes and dislikes and you interact with them on a daily basis. But training other athletes is difficult because I need to first know what kind of a person the athlete is. I need to know what they are thinking — what motivates them, what puts them off. This is an important aspect of coaching,” said the coach.

Borlee said with a new athlete things don’t happen immediately. “You need to talk to your ward constantly. It’s a difficult process but that’s a very important one.”

But no matter how tough the journey is, coach Borlee has kept going. A few rewards have come his way, and certainly, more are on the cards.