Coaching Association of Canada

Matthias Ahrens, ChPC - Biathlon

The Biathlon Cook Book

Wins and losses in the sport of biathlon are measured in millimeter and tenths of seconds. Once an athlete has acquired the technical aptitude to perform consistently well in competition, coaches need to “cook-up” new ways for their athletes to rise above the rest. National team head coach and 2015 Petro-Canada Coaching Excellence Award recipient Matthias Ahrens shares the three key ingredients for cooking-up a successful biathlete.

Capacity to be “in the race”
Being fully immersed in one’s performance is key. Athletes need to be aware of changing light, snow, wind, and terrain conditions as these can mean the difference between podium and mid-pack finishes. Being mindful and aware of these factors for the length of a race, usually 30 to 60 minutes, is mentally and physically taxing and is something for which you, as a coach, can prepare your athletes.

Ability to change gears
Having the ability to finish a race is one thing, but having the physiological capacity and skill to attack and respond to attacks in competition is another. Working towards being able to close a five-second gap, or clean a bout of shooting on demand is important. Equally important is knowing when to pull back because of changing environmental or competitive conditions. The awareness and capacity to be “in the race”, as discussed above, are essential to being able to adapt and change gears.

Ability to hit the target
Shooting efficiently demands accuracy and speed and while this may sound simple, it seldom is. The ability to overcome the physiological and mental challenges and perform under pressure can only be assured if the athlete has been exposed to this in training. Insist and ensure that their shooting training includes exposure to near maximum heart rates and aggressive time constraints. Do not compromise when it comes to training stimulus, but do ensure that the athlete regularly achieves the desired hit percentage.

Attention to detail when it comes to planning and periodizing the near 800 hours of annual physical training and 15,000 bullets of shooting training is essential. As a coach, every minute, and every bullet of training is important and it has to be planned, executed, and monitored in the best way possible. Ensuring the three above ingredients are cooked into your plan will make all the difference. My final coaching tip: Take even the smallest detail seriously.