Tuesday, June 16, 2015

On Coaching and Being Coached

Let me preface by saying this is not about me trying to toot my own horn. But as a coach for endurance athletes I'm seeing a trend that quite frankly makes me sad. These days it seems like I get more and more athletes contacting me who've had previous experiences with coaches and the story will be something like:

"He or she gave a cookie-cutter plan and had no interest in my personal development." (sigh)

"I found out he/she was giving the same exact workouts to my friends and training partners." (who does this?!)

"I'd get a month of workouts at a time." (red flag)

"He/she was copying and pasting workouts, which I verified through other athletes working with that coach." (again, who does this?!)

"My coach put pressure on me to achieve a certain time in a race so he/she (the COACH) could boast about it and use it as a testimonial for services." (Seriously, WTF. Makes me want to cry.)

"I didn't hear from him/her for weeks at a time."

"I was only allowed one email a month." 

"Barely any communication." 

"I was overtrained, my health tanked and was chronically fatigued because of my coach's plan." (sadly, this one is all too common)

"It's like he/she didn't even know who I was."

"There was no guidance on nutrition or strength training." (ok, I don't expect all coaches to be an expert on nutrition, but nutrition/diet is a discipline in itself and part of an athlete's overall success. so if the coach doesn't "do nutrition" then have someone to whom you can refer your athlete, or at least a philosophy to make recommendations. Same for strength training.)

"He/she didn't even address my injury past or trying to fix my biomechanical/injury issues; just got workouts."

"I didn't get any guidance before my race; no race plan." (Wait, aren't we teaching athletes to kick ass in racing?!)


Seriously. I've heard all this from athletes (whether they were seeking my services or just speaking casually about their experiences). It makes me wonder who's out there coaching and what sort of education and/or experience they have?

Granted, I've often heard even worse stories from self-coached athletes who usually fall under the category of "more is better;" "my competition is out training so, therefore, I must be too;" "rest is for wussies" -- and they have no one to objectively tell them to say, "wow, scale back and rest! It's ok!" But to be honest, the self-coached athlete "doing too much" is actually more understandable in my opinion and it's very common because competitive people have a drive to just go for it! At least you can only blame yourself, not a "trained professional." In fact, I don't blame athletes who fall victim to this, but I do urge them to seek (the right) guidance ;)

In looking for a coach, all I ask is that athletes be really, really tough when you're interviewing the person who you want guiding you in sport! This is your well-being and health at stake, not just a shiny new PR. Hire someone who will pay attention to you as a person, not just the data or weekly schedule. A coach who does more than just write s/b/r workouts. A coach who's willing to stop everything to be there for your needs and to answer your questions in the days leading up to a race or otherwise (within reason, lol). A coach who helps you be a better person, helps you develop good habits (in life and sport), and helps you train/race smart.

That is all.

Wishing you all happy, healthy, fulfilling and fun training+racing!


  1. I had one of those coaches. Then I found out what was happening, and I found a better one. Another aspect of this issue that you didn't address is the coach attempting to balance coaching effort out against $ coming in. It's all very well to spend lots of time coaching because you love doing it, or you love your athletes and want to do everything to help them succeed. But in the real world, you can spend a lot of time coaching and not make any money. Or if you have a day job, coaching can eat your free time. I can understand a coach trying to define what services they offer an athlete because otherwise their services become an all you can eat buffet.

    I don't mind a coach saying "this is what I offer and this is the price". If that's what you agree to, and that's what's delivered, you have no cause for complaint.

    But if you're trying to portray your coaching as a detailed, personalized plan for each athlete, and they find out other people are getting the exact same plan (those darned athletes, they WILL talk to one another!) then you are defrauding them.

    1. Great point Keith! I agree, the coach must disclose what kind of plan it's going to be and the athlete must understand that going on. And as long as those expectations are met, that's fair. The athlete can't expect to get that which was not promised. Thanks for pointing this out. ~T

  2. Hi Tawnee,

    I just heard you on Abel's podcast and I can't wait to listen to yours! I'm kind of new to triathlon and I'm really questioning the overall health of the sport. Especially with the volume of training and nutrition issues that I see with so many people. So I'm really interested to get more info.

    I'm also excited to tell my wife about you, who is also a triathlete.