Coaches are always looking at athletes with something of a critical eye. ‘How could I help that person?’ Watching and participating in races is a great chance to see how many people could really use the help of a coach. Most triathletes probably think that coaches are just for the professionals, but then look at how many coaches our kids have each year. We certainly don’t expect them to learn a sport and become better without help and guidance. Why would we expect it of ourselves? Also we need to remember that to complete a triathlon you need to be able in 3 sports, all the more reason to feel good about asking for help.
A coach can help you in a variety of manners. If you are looking to take your racing to the next level, they have the expertise and tools to help you get there. Coaches can work with you to become more efficient in the four disciplines (swim, bike, run and transition). Some people need someone looking over their shoulder to give them a little nudge to get in the water or out on the road. A coach can do that in a supportive manner. Some coaches are also certified in other areas and can help with nutrition and weight loss. Good coaches who are not certified in those areas will be able to guide you or help you find the appropriate support. Some athletes want to be part of something bigger. Very often coaches will have trainings where they get their athletes together for workouts and camaraderie.
Just as your kids (and professionals) gel better with some coaches you will as well. While there are some people who never have coaches because they can do it themselves, some are just uncoachable. However, the vast majority of athletes would benefit from some level of assistance and expertise. The coach and the program you choose depends on a few variables including your personality, your goals, your pocketbook and your timeframe.
Roch Frey has a video Active.com where he says ‘listen to the coach’. This may prove difficult for some athletes. You need to talk about communications and coaching styles with your coach. Do you want feedback, do you want an open framework, will you do the workouts provided, do you need the opportunity to ask a lot of questions about each workout, do you have a large knowledge base and just want to be accountable? Is this someone you can get along with. Do you feel they will listen to you? Do they care about you as a person and an athlete? This is important because the last thing you want is a coach who is going to push you through an injury or to do something that you don’t want to do because they want to say – ‘I trained X for a 70.3’.
Think about how you like to work with others. Does email work best or do you want to have phone access? You may be someone who needs face to face contact every once it a while or even on a weekly basis. This will determine the geographical distance from your coach.
You want to research coaches with your own goals in mind. Ask about the other athletes they are training. What races are they doing, how old are they, are they all age group winners? Look at the coaches credentials – are they USAT certified, are they racing now or have they in the past, do they have additional certifications? Where do they train and of course what is their reputation?
As you think about your goals and your timeframe you also need to look at what a coach offers and how flexible they are willing to be to meet your specific needs. Ask for examples of how they deal with athletes who get sick or injured or athletes who need to travel (for pleasure or business). Try to feel out the coach on how they would react if you ask for less or more volume. Make sure you are as clear as you can be with your timeframes and expect feedback. For example if an athlete say I want to do 2 sprint races over the second weekend in June and then compete in a 70.3 on the third weekend in June a good coach will quickly say, ‘not on my watch’. It is OK to toss a couple of scenarios out to a coach to see how they will help you meet your goals.
A big determinant for most folks is the budget. Be open with the coach and ask about tweaking a particular program to better meet your needs and budget. You can ask about moving from one program to another. Find out upfront how they handle one on one sessions, videotaping and other services that might be offered as add on.
Anyone can benefit from some level of coaching. The intrinsic reward of improvement is what it is all about. Most of us are in the sport to be healthy, compete at our own level, meet new people, and have fun. As you feel better in training and competing the higher fun quotient.
As a coach I am always hoping someone says to me – ‘hey did you know you have a weakness in the catch in your right arm or if you try X on the bike it will do wonders’. Track me down and feel free to comment!
Now is a great time to look at coaches. Maybe you want someone to help you stay motivated in January, maybe you have big plans for 2012, maybe you just want to feel better in the water. Whatever you need a great coach is out there willing to help you attain your goals.
There are some great places to research coaches along with word of mouth:
You can get in touch with Coach K here.