Coaching Philosophy

Dan Proulx – Coaching Philosophy

My aim is to consistently produce cross country mountain bikers who have the tools and attributes necessary to be the best in the World. I look for positive and inspired athletes who are driven to work hard and realize their potential through competitive performance – eventually climbing to the top step of the podium at World Championships and the Olympic Games.

I am a genuine and down to earth coach who is highly approachable.
I am willing to share my knowledge with others so that all may raise the level of our sport.
I work extremely hard – sport is my passion!
I am innovative and willing to challenge the status quo in our sport.
I am creative. I see competitive opportunities in many areas of the sport.
I am always learning – looking for new ideas and approaches.

I look for athletes who have a high work capacity and work ethic. I believe that hard work always trumps talent.

I teach athletes the HOW and WHY behind their training – so that they are empowered and well informed about the training process. It’s important that athletes learn to become strong and independent decision makers when it comes to their training and racing.

I use a holistic approach – helping athletes to be better people on and off the bike.

I believe that athletes need to stay grounded and focused on fundamentals if they are to be successful – an ego is a very heavy thing to carry uphill.

I believe in mastering World Class fundamentals before brainstorming marginal gains.

I view fellow coaches as colleagues.

I teach athletes to have respect for their competitors on and off the bike.

I believe we can and will win!

Athletes with a negative attitude or poor work ethic will not be tolerated.

I have a high ethical standard in my coaching practice.

Sport has no room for dopers! Race Clean. Own Your Victory.

My job, above all, is to create an environment where Champions are inevitable.

I believe there is much to be gained through shared hardship in training – the best must train with the best in order to achieve success in World Class sport.

Working in a team environment brings out the best in everyone and accelerates the development process for World Class athletes.

A World Class training environment is FUN with a purpose. The environment must be engaging and motivating if it is to be successful.

I believe in building an athlete’s overall training capacity throughout their career. I want athletes to have a solid foundation of aerobic fitness/endurance that is continually evolving and improving. This training will build a tough and resilient athlete who is able to dig very deep when it matters. I want to produce athletes who can ride extremely fast even when focused on volume work  – athletes who improve by leaps and bounds when exposed to deliberately planned blocks of intensity and rest that sharpen them for specific performances. I aim to build sustainable training levels in the 20-25 hours per week range – similar to the training levels found in other elite endurance sports. What you do with those hours, however, that is crucially important. Workout compliance is one of the most important factors in creating success – you’ve got to get the work done! – there is no getting around it.

Confidence comes from knowing you did the work – and having the evidence to prove it. My job is to help athletes improve their mental performance by intertwining physical work with mental performance in the daily training environment – insuring that athletes improve their belief and resilience each workout. When athletes have more complex mental performance concerns, I work in tandem with a mental performance consultant to insure these concerns are addressed.

I believe that mountain biking is a complex sport with unique technical problems to be solved in each event and training session. My expertise is in teaching, breaking down a skill, analyzing, comparing, questioning and discussing the skill with the athlete to improve performance. I believe that skill development must come early in an athlete’s career – and be enhanced throughout their career. There is no room for complacency when it comes to technical/driving skills. Mountain Bike is “technical skill and tactical fundamentals, at speed, under pressure, when fatigued.” – Goldsmith. In every workout, I focus on one of these qualities – choosing challenging features and courses – adding demanding competitive scenarios for the athletes and the team to advance.

Mountain bike tactics are very much “World Class fundamentals”. My strength, in terms of tactics, is in reading a race course and predicting the likely tactical outcome of a race before it happens. This is a key component in the development of tactically savvy racers – teaching them what to look for. This tactical sense must be deeply ingrained in the early stages of an elite athlete’s career. There is much to be gained by analyzing past performances of each competitor and the intricate details of each course’s profile. All of this must be taught in a way that reinforces instinct and split second decision making – allowing them to innovate in the most demanding tactical situations. If they have to think….the opportunity has likely passed….this tactical sense must be intuitive and instantaneous.

In the sport of mountain bike, we must balance lightness with reliability. The aim is to have the lightest bike possible that will get you to the finish line reliably. In my opinion, there is much advantage to be gained here. Every ounce counts.

We must constantly be asking ourselves “is this High Performance?” and we must constantly act in the best interests of the athlete. The system is athlete centred, coach driven and IST supported. There can be no tolerance for mediocre or status quo thinking within an effective World Class sporting system. Every communication and every action is an opportunity to communicate our level of commitment to being the best in the World.

“Hard work doesn’t make us tired. A bad attitude makes us tired. Stay positive.” – Bill Bowman

“A teacher is never too smart to learn from his pupils. But while runners differ, basic principles never change. So it’s a matter of fitting your current practices to fit the event and the individual. See, what’s good for you might not be worth a darn for the next guy.” – Bill Bowerman

“I respect coaches who have the passion to pursue high performance and find a way to make it happen with or without any external support. The best find a way to do it, and do it for the right reasons. They don’t wait around for a job to be offered to them, but are out creating these environments and doing it their way, and show their work through the consistent performance of their athletes over time.” – Joel Filliol

“But if we stay in process, within ourselves, in the joy of the doing, we will never choke at the finish line. Why? Because we aren’t thinking of the finish line, we’re not looking at the clock, we’re not watching ourselves on the Jumbotron performing the very act we are in the middle of. No, we’re in process, the APPROACH IS THE DESTINATION… and we are NEVER finished.” – Matthew McConaughey

The next section is an older version of my coaching philosophy that I articulated while coaching at the Olympic Oval in Calgary and pursuing my diploma in High Performance Coaching at the National Coaching Institute – Calgary.

Sport teaches us about ourselves. Discover what you are capable of. Pursue your dreams and push your limits. Be inspired. Be Dedicated. Persevere.

Be an athlete for life.

Core Values

Honesty and Integrity

The Athlete and Sport
The pursuit of excellence in sport should be focused on the needs and development of the athlete. Coaches have a professional obligation to provide an environment, which recognizes and meets these needs. Sport is an athlete-centered endeavor.

The coach has a responsibility to ensure that athletes are developed in a way that will enhance their life beyond sport. The coach must work to instill several qualities in their athletes. These include (but are not limited to):


– setting and achieving goals


– resourcefulness and confidence in one’s ability and experience

Athlete for life

– understands that sport is the beginning of a life long pursuit of health and physical fitness. Fitness is a lifestyle, not a chore.

Positive outlook

– help athletes to create a positive frame of mind when faced with challenges and difficulties

Athlete as an Active Participant
The coach has a professional obligation to encourage the athlete to be an active participant in the training environment. Much of this responsibility centers on educating athletes in the fundamentals of the training process. The athlete must be able to reciprocate this communication in order to make the coach-athlete feedback loop effective.

Athletes should understand basic training concepts. This should include a basic understanding of energy system training; loading and recovery principles; competition preparation; mental training skills; nutritional skills; self-monitoring skills. Through knowledge in these areas, athletes should be able to provide informed feedback to the coach. The athlete should also be able to make informed training choices in the absence of the coach.

Athlete and Individual Potential
Every athlete has unique talent and ability that can be developed to its maximum potential. Athletes must work hard to identify their specific talents and weaknesses in each area of the sporting endeavor. Athletes must pursue these areas of development with commitment and purpose. Athletes will experience success at their own level.

The Role of the Coach
In order to achieve success, it is important that the athlete and coach work together in a cooperative and positive environment. The coach has a duty to be:

  • Approachable
  • Highly motivated and creative
  • Knowledgeable & Confident
  • Professional
  • Punctual
  • Delivers on promises
  • Fun – energetic
  • Coaches athletes as individuals
  • Creates strong team identity through creation of strong individuals
  • To improve each person and him/herself
  • Sees coaching & sport as a passion – not a job
  • Willing to show as much or more commitment to sport than athlete
  • Does not try to live through the athletes results
  • Acts as a role model as much as possible
  • Interacts in a positive manner with other athletes, coaches & officials
  • Treats athletes fairly
  • Supports athletes as much as possible in sport, life, career etc.