By Coach Lora Erickson, BlondeRunner.com
So, what does it take to be a coachable athlete? As with most coaches, I don’t always work with all the athletes that want to hire me. To be a good coach it is very time-consuming, so I am very selective when it comes to accepting athletes that I will work with for a long period of time or are accepted onto my team (Team Blonde Runner – TBR). There are several main qualities I look for when I choose to work with an athlete. Here are some general rules to follow when working with a coach:
Be Willing to Listen
As a coach it is important to me to work with athletes that are willing to listen to suggestions and accept advice. There is nothing more frustration than trying to teach a “know-it-all-athlete” that is just too stubborn and proud to learn. This defeats the purpose of hiring a coach. Often coaches are accomplished athletes themselves, so be willing to listen and learn. Their advice will most likely help you reach your full potential a lot faster than you might have on your own. Keep in mind; most world class athletes have a coach.
Do the Work & Trust Your Coach
Coaches will often see potential in athletes that they don’t see themselves. So if a coach decides to take the time to train you, you should be willing to do the work. As an athlete in high school I remember not always understanding exactly why my coaches had me do certain workouts. I simply did the work without “second guessing” them, and you know what, it worked. I got faster and faster. Running in college and over the years I have come to an in-depth understanding of training and exercise physiology. This didn’t happen over night, it happened over many, many years. It’s often hard for a coach to impart in a short period of time what they have learned through years of experience. The athletes that just trust their coach and stick to their training schedule often excel far more than the athletes that “second guess” every workout and try to do their own thing believing they are somehow making it better. This usually leads to overtraining and injury. On occasion I will get an athlete that can’t decide whose advice to follow; their husband’s, family, friend’s etc. Trust your coach and allow them to guide and help you. Sometimes you may not understand every reason behind every workout but a good coach will offer the “outside” perspective to help maximize your potential. Coaches can also offer the support and the “cheerleading” needed to boost your confidence.
Have a Desire to Learn
It is absolutely delightful to work with athletes that are really engaged in the sport and are “hungry” to learn. I love it when an athlete comes to practice with lots of questions and is ready to soak up any new advice or tips to improve their training. This also shows that you respect the coaches’ opinion. This allows the coach to assess your understanding and what concepts you are struggling to learn. I have often scheduled additional clinics based on my athlete’s particular needs at the time.
I highly value communication and love to work with athletes that keep in touch with me on a regular basis. I want my athletes to share their daily successes; their workout highs and lows, goals and racing pitfalls, so we can work together to improve and achieve success. Reporting how a workout goes allows a coach to adapt training schedules to better meet the needs of an athlete. With me, the “squeaky wheel gets the oil.” I can help the athlete that communicates with me better because they simply give me more information to give them feedback on. To me, a high level of communication indicates that an athlete is ready to be coached.
I always appreciate working with athletes that understand that I am a person, an athlete and mother as well. As I mentioned before, coaching is time consuming and is often something that lends itself to odd non-ending work hours. Coaches often take time away from their own training and family to help others and are willing to share their expertise. So when a coach takes the time to talk over the phone with you or message you training advice outside of practice hours, please show your appreciation. As individual athletes we are consumed with our own training needs and often don’t take our coaches’ needs into consideration. Coaches often work with many athletes at one-time and several 30 minute conversation with various athletes each day can add up quickly and fill their day. A sincere public and private “thank you” for the time and effort a coach gives you is always appreciated.
To be Coached is a Privilege
Coaching fees aside, coaches can only work with so many athletes. They only have a certain number of hours in a day to coach so there are limited spots. I have been privileged enough to participate on many teams and work with many coaches over the years. I think it is fair to say that I have learned what to expect from a coach. As a coach myself that often works with beginners, I find that many people don’t really understand what a privilege it is to work with a coach. It is truly wonderful to find someone that is so willing to take the time to teach others what it has often taken them years to learn. Over the 30 plus years that I have competed & coached, I have learned a lot. I especially love to coach and teach people that understand the value of being coached and treat me with respect. Not all accomplished athletes are willing to teach others what they know. It’s also important to remember that not every good athlete is necessarily a great coach. Choose a coach that has a true passion for coaching so you can be sure they understand how to teach you. And remember that all good coaches don’t take every athlete that wants to hire them.
Value Customize Training
On-line programs are a dime-a-dozen and can provide some needed structure, however there is nothing that can replace live in-person coaching. Even on-line coaching with a real person/coach is much better than a general one-size-fits-all program. Simply put, we are not all the same and a training schedule should be adapted and changed for each individual. There are very few, if any, athletes that can stick to a training schedule and not have to adapt something. A rigid schedule does not allow for an unplanned “please-join-me-race” or account for illness or unexpected family difficulties that alter training. A real-live coach can adapt your training for these needs and customize lactate threshold and/or speed work training sessions as well as develop customized racing nutrition plans. They can also assess form and technique flaws and suggest improvements.
Beginners Should Hire a Coach if Possible
There is a common misconception that if an athlete is “slow” they don’t need a coach or that only “advanced” athletes need a coach. That could not be farther from the truth. Most “slow” athletes need coaching the most. They often don’t have the knowledge needed to get faster or train safely. I particularly love to work with beginners and have coached many “average” athletes to the top of the podium after having help to develop the “advanced athlete” I saw in them. As I have said before, a good coach will see you for your potential. There is nothing more rewarding to a coach than seeing an athlete reach his or her true potential!
Coach Lora Erickson
Coach Lora Erickson is a competitive runner and nationally ranked triathlete with over 30 years of athletic experience. As one of Colorado’s top distance runners, she was recruited to Utah State University where she ran on scholarship and was honored as an all-conference runner graduating with a degree in Health Education with dual minors in Nutrition & Chemistry. She is the owner of Blonde Runner Health LLC in Bountiful, Utah where she currently resides with her husband and four children. Lora has a true passion for health promotion, her enthusiasm is contagious. As a USATF certified run coach, USA Triathlon Certified Coach & US Masters Level 1 & 2 swim coach, Lora works with individuals as well as offering group/team training programs and various community classes. To learn more visit BlondeRunner.com or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.