• How to pick a coach

    Group of triife coachesAs the season ends perhaps you have decided that a coach could help you in many areas of your training and racing.  The crucial next step is to select the right coach for you.  At thetrilife.com we are always looking to create win win situations between our athletes and coaches.  By that we mean that the relationship between a coach and an athlete should be positive and enjoyable for both parties.

    Rest assured we will help everyone who approaches us to find the right coach, even to the point where we will tell you if we don’t think we have the right coach. So what should you do to help identify the right coach, and create that win win relationship?

    The first and most obvious thing you need to establish is if the coach would be interested in coaching you – this is not the same as asking if they are available to coach you.  The point of your question is to find out if the coach has a particular talent or interest which includes or excludes you.  Perhaps the coach has a long-course, elite squad whereas you are a sprint distance beginner. This isn’t to say that coaches cannot handle several different types of athlete – far from it – after all, no two athletes are identical.  However the key is to understand whether the coach would really be interested in your needs and goals, or would simply accommodate you.

    Another relatively simple question relates to the geography of the relationship.  In this age of internet, Skype and e-mail, you don’t even need to be in the same country as your coach.  Or do you?  It depends on what you require in respect of technical coaching. From the outset coach and athlete should have worked on a gap analysis – just what is holding the athlete back – if the gap is technique, and the remedy is 1-2-1 technical coaching, then you might benefit from selecting a coach who can be poolside or trackside for some key sessions.

    A third area to think about is whether or not you need to get on with, or even like your coach?!  Do you need a metaphorical cuddle, or a kick up the pants?  If your coach is simply going to provide you with a training program of planned and balanced sessions then the question of whether you like each other may never come up.  On the other hand, if you spend some time discussing the meaning of life and some of the problems you are experiencing, then it is probably quite crucial that you don’t bore, baffle or annoy one another.  It is frequently the case that lasting friendships develop in these situations, but that isn’t a prerequisite.  The important thing is that for whatever time you agree to spend together, you are both relaxed, engaged and, however tough the season, having fun.

    Having established that the coach would be interested in helping you to achieve your goals, that they are situated in the right place, and that you can stand the sight of each other, there remains a very significant issue.  How do you know if the coach is any good?  Strange as it may seem, this is possibly the easiest of all the criteria discussed so far.  Experience and results speak for themselves.  A coach values nothing more than his or her reputation, and should be ready to give you a very factual rundown of his or her qualifications, techniques, results etc.  In addition to a direct conversation, it can be very helpful to ask politely if you can speak to any past or present athletes.

    Armed with all this information, you should be in a good place to make your own win win decision.