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Choosing your triathlon coach: How to find the right triathlon coach for you

If you are reading this and thinking about hiring a coach, we would hazard a guess that you’ve gone and done it. You’ve got the bug for participating in triathlon and multi-sport events! Perhaps you’ve done your first event and would like to improve on your performance or maybe you are a seasoned athlete aiming to podium at a competitive event, or perhaps you are a complete beginner, with a love for training and you would like some support, guidance and want to optimise your time and the training sessions you do.

When it comes to choosing your triathlon coach, it goes without saying that you should be confident and comfortable with their coaching philosophy. Some coaches will be a great match for some athletes and, for others, the shoe simply won’t fit.

There are many factors to consider when it comes to hiring your coach, no doubt budget, experience, location, training approach and communication preferences will all be crucial elements to consider before working with a coach. However, is there anything else you should be thinking about? How can you whittle down the numerous coaches out there to make the best decision for you as an athlete? After all, working with an unsuitable coach could not only lead to decreased performance in races, it could lead to burnout from the sport and have a negative impact in all aspects of life.

So, what should you be prioritising when it comes to working with a coach?

We have put together this handy guide to choosing the right triathlon coach for you:

Steps to deciding on your new triathlon coach

How do I choose a triathlon coach?

Make sure you have an initial meeting with your desired coach, this is also sometimes referred to as a “chemistry meeting”.

We would encourage you to meet as many coaches as you can. It is really important to get a gauge of what the triathlon coach has to offer and how you feel when you communicate with them.

Before you enter the meeting, make a note of exactly what you want to achieve from it.

You should not be obliged to sign up straight after the meeting. Make sure you take time to make considerations and explain that you are talking to other coaches before making your final decision.

Don’t forget, the coach is also assessing you as an athlete and whether they feel that the relationship will be successful. Some coaches have very strict criteria that they would like athletes to fill. The chemistry meeting is a great time to find out the types of athlete the coach tends to work with and whether you think you would work effectively with them.

What should I ask a triathlon coach?

Great. So, you’ve set up your chemistry meeting, you’ve got a date and time booked in, you’ve taken a look at an event you can’t wait to get training for, now you might want to think about what you’d like to ask your prospective triathlon coach.

Of course, these questions ultimately lie with you and the outcome you are hoping for after your meeting with the coach. However, here are some questions that we often get asked in our chemistry meetings and some questions that might help you find out a little more about your prospective coach:

· What are your communication preferences?

· How do you prescribe training?

· Could you tell me more about your coaching philosophy?

· How many athletes do you coach?

· How (and how often) will you feedback on my sessions?

· What distances do you tend to coach athletes for?

· How many weeks of training will you provide me with at once?

· Do you have a network around you (of physios, nutritionists, sports psychologists etc.)?

· Do you have the capacity to analyse my technique?

· Are you able to provide testing?

· Do you allocate time and resource to keeping up to date with relevant research and updates within the sport?

· Are you a member of the governing body British Triathlon?

What are the signs of a good coach?

While all coaches will differ in their approaches and philosophies, and perhaps there are some “bad” coaches out there, we believe that the majority of coaches have something to offer an athlete. When asked this question “What do you think makes a good coach?”, we believe that a coach should:

1) Consider the person they are coaching and all aspects of their life. Life should be the priority and endurance training should be layer on top of life. You can read more about our philosophy on our website.

2) A good coach is a good listener. It is really important to listen to the athlete and work both from athlete feedback as well as the data.

3) Organised. A coach that is disorganised raises red flags to us. Working with an organised coach, that has a good eye for detail and planning, will be a much calmer and a more consistent leader of your training. A coach that is late to meetings, last minute to upload training, untimely with feedback and often missing meetings completely without notice or just a minute’s notice, would just be annoying to work with. After all, it is just rude, they could have a doctorate degree in an aspect of sports science, but if they don’t have the basic manners to show up to a meeting, then (in our opinion) you are better off with an alternative coach.

4) Knowledgeable. A good coach will understand the sport of triathlon and how to help athletes improve. A good coach will accept that they don’t know everything and take time for their own CPD and research.

5) Be interested in you. A good coach should dedicate themselves 100% to their athlete when they are meeting with you. Okay, if they are in an online meeting and their cat makes a quick appearance on-screen for a minute or two, then we might let them off, but otherwise, your coach should be totally dedicated to you.

Likewise, if you spot on their website that they begin their coaching introduction with a dedicated ¾ of a page to themselves as an athlete and only written a few lines as to what they can offer you as a coach, we’re confident that you’d be better off finding someone investing more of their words in what they can offer their athletes, rather than their own athletic endeavours.

6) Will avoid fads. A good coach will, in our opinion, avoids fads and “quick fixes”. Most coaches know that in order to achieve success, you need to put in a decent, sensible effort, over a sustained period of time. If a coach is advertising an unrealistic get-fast-quick scheme that does not look like a healthy approach, for example, “drop a few pounds to run faster” or “this supplement is the gem of the sport”, we’d advise you to steer clear. Of course, a coach is going to help you get faster and will make improvements to your training and performance as soon as they can but anything that seems unrealistic or dangerous is a no-go.

So, the above is just a slice of what we think makes a good coach. However, we understand that our approach does not suit everyone. Ultimately, the most important thing is for you to decide as an athlete what you would like from a coach and to make sure you feel listened to by your coach and you feel comfortable with them.

What is the 80/20 rule in coaching?

The 80/20 rule in coaching is essentially where you prescribe 80% aerobic or (low intensity/easy training efforts) and 20% higher intensity work within a training programme. This is generally the approach we take at PeteWilbyTriathlon. We would be happy to discuss this in more detail with you in a coach consultation.

How do you know when to switch coaches?

The final question we’re writing about is knowing when to switch coaches or perhaps just end your coaching journey all together.

While some people prefer to take a break and then go back to their coach, this can cause issues as it means that your training consistency is broken. In fact, some coaches don’t offer this at all since it doesn’t fit with their philosophy.

If you are thinking of switching coaches, it may be because you aren’t making progress, you don’t feel the relationship with your coach is positive, your coach doesn’t give you the time you feel you deserve, you’d be better off investing your finances elsewhere or you’d like a change in approach.

Ultimately, if you feel like leaving your coach or switching coaches, remember to be up front and honest with your coach. All coaches understand this situation and have gone through it with other athletes. Most coaches would, no doubt, like to round-up your training and discuss your achievements when you decide to bring the coach-athlete relationship to an end.

We hope this blog has been useful to you in some way, you can find out more about our online coaching and training plans on the website. Please do reach out if you feel that we can support you in your sporting journey.


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