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Many beginner athletes have great intentions and motivation but lack the knowledge to put their ideas into action. Many experienced athletes have learnt a great deal about how to prepare themselves but lack the perspective to see things clearly when immersed in training. A coach is not a dictator; a coach is a light in the dark. The coach highlights issues and provides a path to follow.
The business of sport is growing and so too are the business opportunities. The coaching industry has flourished in the past decade. This is generally a good thing as the quantity of quality information has increased significantly. Unfortunately, with opportunity comes the opportunists, those who see profit before they see a service. It can be very difficult to spot these under shiny marketing tactics. Beginners and experienced athletes alike are bombarded with options which claim to be the best for them.
When choosing a coach there are a number of things which you should consider to find the best option for you. By considering the following, you give yourself the best chance to find a coach who is not only suitable to your needs but who can also ensure gold standard support.
A good coach may not need to have a degree to coach. Many coaches come from competitive backgrounds and put their experience into practice. They can deliver exceptional coaching services based on a wealth of experience and exposure to top level support.
A professional coach will always invest in themselves. They will ensure they keep up to date with industry standards and constantly look to grow their knowledge and understanding, not only for the job, but also to satisfy their genuine interest to make a difference to an athlete’s performance.
Top level coaches will have relevant qualifications from regulated bodies which ensure they are current with good coaching practice. While qualifications do not guarantee quality they are a good indication that a coach is committed to delivering the best service they possibly can. Those who do not stay current or continue to develop themselves will fall behind. This should be a red flag.
When choosing a coach it is important that they have experience that is relevant to your needs. An Olympic level coach may not necessarily be the best option for a beginner. A coach who has a stable of competitive international athletes may not be available to fully support a beginner who may need regular communication to manage their program. Coaching credentials or past success should not always be the first thing to look for.
Background is important when choosing a coach. Those who have experience working in major organizations usually have had to answer managers and other support staff. They must be organized to survive the scrutiny of others and still deliver results. These coaches are often quite measured and consistent under pressure and can offer a calming effect with their coaching style.
In some cases specialist coaches are needed. This is especially the case for technical disciplines. There is no harm in having multiple coaches when their responsibilities are clearly defined. Many runners may work with both a physiologist and a run coach. One is responsible for monitoring and programming training load and intensity, the other might be responsible for running mechanics and race strategy. Multi disciplinary teams can be effective. Specific needs may require quite specific input or skillsets etc.
- Formal education
While formal education such as a University degree is not essential, it is a good start. Coaches with formal education have been assessed and reassessed critically to hone their knowledge base. They may also have been involved in research. This means that the standard of their knowledge has been established and meets industry criteria. Those with a strong education tend to be very useful when it comes to athlete education as they can provide good reasoning and explanations for things. An inquisitive or sceptical athlete may work well with a coach who has a scientific background.
Coaches need to be flexible. The best program is the one you can follow. If a coach becomes a dictator or starts to make demands which you cannot commit to, then things will not be effective. The right coach will be flexible in finding a balance that makes progress and is something you can adhere to. To find this balance they must be patient and flexible enough to put some time in experimenting to find what works for you. Some top coaches have been known to make demands based on their past results and reputation. No athlete is the same and just because they have proven success does not mean their approach is suitable to you.
The right coach will make sense to you. If you can’t understand the purpose of your plan or you cannot understand any of the information communicated to you then you will always question what you are doing. Even the worst programs can work with commitment and consistency. Some of the best programs fail when there is little understanding or buy in. A good coach should display a logic that makes sense to you. If you have a question, they should be able to communicate a satisfactory explanation. Developing trust is important in developing an effective working relationship.
There is no perfect template for a coach. The key thing is that you realize there are many different approaches and personalities. The best coaching relationship comes after time. A coach must “learn” you, to be effective. You need to give them some time for this to occur. This settling in period can only be a success if you understand why and what you have chosen this coach for. In some cases a coach may literally be there to help you decide what your goals are, or direct you to what you are likely to have success in. This can only work if you can buy in to their approach. By ensuring the above is considered and satisfactory, you significantly reduce your chances of making a poor choice and wasting time.
In the event you do have a poor experience with a coach, don’t lose faith. Sometimes things don’t work due to timing more than anything else. Often you can learn more from mistakes than you realize. Not all coaches are the same so don’t assume that because you have not seen success it was because of your talent, or the coach’s ability. Often what decides success is a combination of variables which are hard to get right.
If you feel you need a coach, all of our coaching services start with a consultation to discuss ideas and approaches that may or may not suit. We let the athletes decide if our services are then the right choice for them. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you feel you are in need of some advice or coaching.