Coaching fees aside, coaches can only work with a limited number of athletes at one time because there are only a certain number of hours in a day. Over the years, I have been privileged enough to participate on various teams and work with many coaches, so 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 understand what a privilege it is to work with a good coach. It is truly wonderful to find someone that is willing to take the time to teach others what it has often taken them years to learn.
Over many years of competition and coaching I have particularly found it enjoyable to work with athletes that treat me with respect and understand the value of being coached. 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 selective when it comes to accepting athletes that I will work with for a long period of time or have on my team (Team Blonde Runner – TBR). There are several main qualities I look for when I choose athletes:
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. Not all accomplished athletes are willing to teach others what they know. Their advice will most likely help you reach your full potential much quicker than you might have on your own. Even world class athletes listen to their coach.
Do the Work & Trust Your Coach
Coaches will often see potential in athletes that they don’t see in themselves. So, if a coach takes 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 and earned an athletic scholarship. Running in college and over the years I have come to an in-depth understanding of training and exercise physiology. This didn’t happen overnight, it developed over 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 work-out 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 spouse, family member, friend’s etc. Trust your coach and allow them to guide and help you. Sometimes you may not understand every reason behind the workout. A good coach can offer an “outside” perspective to help maximize your potential and be the supportive cheerleader needed to boost your confidence.
Have a Desire to Learn
It is absolutely delightful to work with athletes that are really engaged 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 tips and advice. This shows that they respect the coaches’ opinion. It also allows the coach to assess your understanding and pinpoint concepts you are struggling to learn.
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 20 minute conversations with various athletes each day can add up quickly and fill their day. A sincere public or private “thank you” for the time and effort a coach gives you is always appreciated.
Value Customized Training
Online programs are a dime-a-dozen and can provide some needed structure, however there is nothing that can replace live in-person coaching. Online 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 training should be adapted individually. 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 training in real time and customize lactate threshold and/or speed work training sessions as well as give diet feedback and specific nutrition tips. They can also assess form and technique flaws and suggest improvements. Customized training should be valued.
Beginners Should Hire a Coach
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 helping them develop the “advanced athlete” I saw in them. 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 aka Blonde Runner is a competitive runner, nationally ranked triathlete and USATF certified running coach. Coach Lora works with individuals as well as offers group team training programs and various community classes. To learn more visit BlondeRunner.com or contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org