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Selecting a Coach

By Jonathan Siegel
Certified USA Cycling Expert Coach & Owner, JDS Sports Coaching

Why do you need a coach? What should you be looking for?

Athletes turn to coaches for experience and motivation, among other reasons, and they don't always get what they're looking for. Most athletes are also looking for a training plan that fits them, and is personalized to their needs. Whether you’re looking to compete on a national level, or merely improve your "game" for personal reasons, there are many choices among coaching services.

Below are some useful suggestions and questions for selecting a coach, in person or through an online service.

1. Customer Service. How available is your coach? Is the coaching package restrictive of contact? If you can’t get prompt return of e-mail or phone messages, a wait may not only irritating, but potentially costly in terms of ones own performance or motivation. Hey, it's great if your coach is off at the Ironman with a couple of studly finishers, but does it always feel like you're second fiddle?

2. A high profile/successful athlete in a coach’s portfolio does not mean that person can do the same for you. Likewise, successful athletes don't necessarily make successful coaches. Relevant experience can be important, but don't overrate it.

3. Chemistry counts. Is the coach interested in your performance and responds accordingly to your training feedback and concerns? Is your training program personalized for you, or is it "off the shelf?" Your coach should be willing to provide changes and request feedback on your training regime. If not, you'll do just as well (if not better) with buying a training guide.

4. Did your coach interview you thoroughly? If a coach isn't asking you as many questions as your doc, then how does he/she get to know you, your relevant sport history, etc....?

5. How many athletes does a coach work with? More is not better. If they are too busy, how can they effectively spend time "with" you? If they have over 15-20 athletes, ask questions to assess how busy they are, and how many more athletes they plan to coach. A good coach knows his limits and refers athletes to others when his practice is full. A good coach may also specializes in a number of sports, but doesn’t handle all.

6. Ask other athletes and friends about their experiences with coaches.

7. Beware of credentials. Are they relevant to you and your sport?

8. Contracts. Don't sign a contract that you might not be able to afford, or get out of. If in two months, you might decide this coach isn't for you, you want the option to go elsewhere.

9. Communication. You're getting yourself into an important relationship. Do you talk about goals, are you comfortable telling your coach you need more rest, or that you're having trouble following his/her guidelines? Are you comfortable asking "why"? If not, you can give yourself the same coaching from a book.

10. Goal Setting. A good coach will help you through a goal setting process. The value of goal setting cannot be underestimated, especially if you’re not interested in competition. If you want to raise the level of your personal performance, or compete at a national level, your coach should be able to help you set intermediate and future goals.

Remember, the success of any relationship depends on the synergy of the participants as much as the training and technical information exchanged.



Jonathan Siegel is a Certified USA Cycling Expert Coach who works with cyclists, runners, skiers, and multi-sport athletes. He resides in Denver, Colorado. To find out more about Jonathan, and his JDS Sport Coaching program, please go to BicycleCoach.com and visit his Professional Profile page: http://www.bicyclecoach.com/profile.php?id=jonathan@jdssportcoaching.com


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