As the end of the year approaches it is common for athletes to start planning for next season.
Athletes begin to think about races, joining a team, equipment and gear needs, performance
goals, and possibly hiring a coach. While this may be an exciting adventure, it can also be an
overwhelming time of year, so I compiled a list of a few things to help you with this process. I
have personally used this list and seen other athletes find success using it, as well.
1) Don’t procrastinate!
Whether you need a coach or want to join a team right away or in a few months, start
doing research immediately. Begin by simply asking your friends, teammates, the local
run or bike shop, or even try Google. Some coaches and teams might have a limited
amount of space on their roster so don’t assume there will be an open spot in a few
months. It is also important to remember that the first 2 to 3 weeks starting out with most
new coaches will likely serve as an orientation phase where both parties are still learning
about one another (i.e. schedules, strengths, weaknesses, and developing a system with
communication), so consider this in your timeline. Athletes waiting until the final 2 or 3
months before their “goal race” will likely not receive the full benefits of having
coaching as a resource compared to those that have been working with a coach for 6 +
2) Define your goals
As a coach, one of my first questions is “what are your goals?”. How the athlete answers
greatly determines how I move forward and what I might recommend as the next steps to
take. Does the athlete need one-on-one, hands-on coaching? Strength training? Nutrition
guidance? Or maybe just a training plan that the athlete can follow without the day to
day guidance from a coach? Based on your individual goals as an athlete, the coach can
prescribe the estimated amount of time per week that might be needed to train. This will
also help determine how many weeks or months of commitment it might take to obtain
3) Determine what training and coaching style will meet your goals
Do you prefer to train on your own or with a small group? Or does a personal training
style with “one on one” coaching sound best? There are no wrong answers, but your
answer will help determine the type of coach, training plan, and/or team you choose. It is
also important for you to evaluate your needs and areas you want to focus on. For
example, if you are a beginner triathlete with no swim background, you might want to
find a coach to help you with your swim. Another example is someone new to running
who is wanting to work on basics. This person might want to seek someone who can
evaluate the running form and prescribe the appropriate drills to help improve this area.
Once you determine your preferences and needs, you will have a better idea of what
might be the best fit for you!
4) Do your research!
Remember you are HIRING a coach. As in any hiring process, you should do your
research to confirm that the individual you are hiring is someone you can trust and are
confident in their abilities. Make sure to check on a candidate’s previous experience,
expertise, education, background, references, and certifications. There is a wide variety
of options when it comes to coaches and you have every right to get the best option for
Wouldn’t you love to hear first-hand experiences from athletes who trained with the
coach before you? Ask the coach if they have an athlete of theirs they could reach out to
as there might be questions you have that would be better answered by an athlete.
Lastly, I always suggest working with someone who has obtained a certification from
their sport’s National Governing Body. This means that the individual has proven his or
her expertise in the field, has passed background checks, is CPR certified, has obtained
the appropriate liability insurance, and is committed to maintaining up-to-date knowledge
of the field.
Make sure you are in good hands!
5) Make contact!
The final step before hiring a coach is reaching out. Whether it is face to face, Skype,
phone, or email interaction, make sure you get all your questions answered before you
dive in! What are the coach’s strengths or areas of expertise? Do you coach just local
athletes? Do you have open water availability? What are your fees, etc?
Once you have your questions answered and determine what coach and/or team is the
right fit for you, move forward and get started!
Now it is finally time to train!