Mark Richardson started working with Courtney Conlogue (USA) in 2011 when she was a rookie on the Championship Tour (CT). He says his best moment as a coach was watching her compete in her first elite event, the Roxy Pro Gold Coast. Now, four years later, Richardson reflected on his relationship with Conlogue as she makes headway in that same contest.
World Surf League: What does a surfer's "pit crew" look like?
Mark Richardson: The athlete needs a whole support crew behind them ranging from trainers and coaches to, most importantly, family: a team of people all helping the athlete achieve all their goals.
WSL: How do you watch Courtney's heats? Is it hard to watch the whole thing play out from far away?
MR: As coaches we can go through a whole range of emotions just like any competitor would. I try and stay as calm as I can when watching Courtney's heats so I can really focus on the performance she puts in. That really helps in the long run to spot any mistakes and improvements that can be made for future heats and events. Yes, we can sometimes get frustrated with the athlete if they are making silly mistakes that you know that they know better.
WSL: Not so long ago there were few "surf coaches." How has that changed?
MR: The attitude towards having coaches and trainers on Tour has changed dramatically over recent years. It was a rare thing to see a coach at an event in the '90s but these days it's much more common. Coaches are best used as a sounding board at an elite level and to boost the athlete's confidence and provide support.
WSL: After seeing Courtney's injury and recovery process, what advice do you have for maintaining a high level of performance over a long period of time?
MR: Modern-day surfing is becoming extremely dynamic and progressive, almost to the point to where surfers are pushing the limits of what the human body can handle and on a daily basis. So it's inevitable the increase in injuries comes along with that. The best formula for maintaining elite performance is find a good balance between your training and surfing: having your body best prepared to deal with the day-to-day stress surfing athletes are going to deal with.
WSL: Do you coach your pupils on other aspects of surfing, such as diet and fitness?
MR: I deal mainly with competition strategy and preparation and technique. I believe professional advice from specific trainers is the best place to get all your dietary advice, which is really important when it comes to fueling your body for performance.
WSL: Can you teach how to be a World Champion? Can Champions be "made?"
MR: I definitely think there is a specific formula needed to becoming a World Champion. But it's important whilst taking that into consideration to do it your own personal way.
Pit Crew is a new series that will spotlight the behind-the-scene members of professional surfing: coaches, trainers and other support staff. Catch Conlogue in the Roxy Pro and upcoming women's CT events all year long LIVE at worldsurfleague.com