How to Select a Coach

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Getting proper coaching — whether it’s taking an off-the-shelf training plan or having one custom-built for you by a coach — shortens and flattens the learning curve in triathlon. You no longer need to resort to multiple cycles of trial and error to find what works for you to achieve your goals.

From just starting out with your first race to trying to qualify for a spot in a world championship, having a coach on your side will only benefit you. So how do you find the best coach for you?

Here are my top considerations for selecting a coach to work with.

The coach gets on well and communicates with you. You’ll want a coach whose personality will work well with yours. Sure you want a coach who can be assertive and can push you, but that should happen within a respectful, supportive environment that the coach creates when they interact with you. They also have to be able to make you understand how the sessions they assign for you will help you achieve your goals, and take on your feedback so that you can optimise and maximise your training.

The coach understands your goals and objectives, and your physical strengths as well as your psyche. Being on the same page about what you want to achieve is key. For some people, they may say they just want to finish a race, but their coach can suss out an underlying unsaid objective — for instance, the desire for a new PR or a podium position.

There are some coaches who are easily able to size up how well an athlete responds to training stimulus, simply based on visual examination. Other coaches go off data. Whichever kind of coach you encounter, they should know how to tailor-fit the program to your physical capabilities, and make adjustments along the way as you develop under their tutelage.

Finally, a coach who understands the way you think and what motivates you will be best suited to keeping you on track; they know what to say to get you going, and when to back off.

You, the athlete, should be part of the process with them and “be the CEO of your own company”. This doesn’t mean you should question what the coach has you doing. Good CEOs do not micromanage; they find a person who is qualified for the task, and then gives them the time and opportunity to do it. They may periodically check in on them to see how things are going, and offer feedback and support.

This requires a long-term relationship. Don’t be caught up in results. I see a lot of athletes jump between coaches because Coach X trained last year’s age group ironman world champion so he must know some secret answer, and that’s not the case.

When you see athletes jump from coach to coach, they’ve lost faith in themselves. A lot of times they’re looking for answers in other places; pros are renowned for that.

The most successful professionals have long-term coaches who because of this grow even better at understanding what their athlete needs. Find someone you want to work with for longer than the build-up to just one race. Great athlete-coach relationships are built over a long period of time.

Chris “Macca” McCormack is a four-time triathlon world champion with the biggest winning percentage in the history of the sport. He is a co-founder and partner in Super League Triathlon, CEO of the Bahrain Victorious 13 team, board member of the Pho3nix Foundation, and CEO of MANA Sports & Entertainment Group.


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