How to Pick The Right Coach for You

Two people running on a road in front of a fence.

By Coach Lindsay Zemba Leigh 

You’re ready to hire a coach to help you achieve your big dreams. But, how do you pick the right coach for YOU and YOUR goals? Start by asking yourself some questions about what you want from the experience. Then, you’ll know what questions to ask when you interview coaches, and who will be the right fit for you.

Do you want a local coach so you can meet in person for swim lessons or group sessions if they offer those? Keep in mind, even if you have a local coach, it may not mean you meet or workout with the coach unless your package includes that – most coaching is set up to be remote, even if you’re local to the coach. 

Do you need accountability and motivation? Or are you pretty self motivated? Do you want a coach who is more of a cheerleader or a drill sergeant–or something inbetween? Consider the type and tone of accountability and motivation you want. When you interview potential coaches, ask them how they keep athletes accountable, and what their motivational style is like. 

Is a heavy focus on data analysis and training metrics important to you? And what training technology is important for the coach to use? Coaches won’t be experts with all of the new gadgets available, but you may want them to be familiar with the tech that’s important to you. Are they using Training Peaks? Are they analyzing power metrics? Heart rate? Are they using WKO? Are they familiar with indoor training platforms, such as Zwift? Determine what matters to you, if any of these platforms.

What about the coach’s knowledge base? Determine if certifications from governing bodies, such as USA Triathlon, NSCA, USA Cycling, and the like, are important to you. You can also consider how the coach keeps up with continued education, so they are aware of the most recent research and best practices. Lastly, how important is it that the coach has done the races you are training for or has had athletes do those races? 

Coach Maria with No Limits Team Athlete Timur Couture, at Ironman Lake Placid.

When trying to pick the right coach, It may be tempting to pick one who is a professional athlete, or a very fast age grouper. But, it’s wiser to look at what types of athletes the coach works with and the success of those athletes. Consider how similar to them you are. For instance, if you’re a masters athlete, you may want to find a coach who is familiar with the needs of masters athletes. Or if you’re an elite athlete, find a coach who works with elites and has success with them. Likewise for beginners, find a coach who works with beginners. 

Do you want unlimited communication with your coach where you can set up regular phone or Zoom calls and text often? Do you want daily feedback or is weekly or monthly review ok? Some coaches limit the type and amount of communication, and the pricing is based on this estimated contact time. So, be sure to sign up for the package that meets your expectations. 

Do you want a coach who offers a team or community? Some coaches have local teams, with in-person group workouts. While other coaching companies have a virtual team community, with some in-person events and opportunities. Still other coaches don’t have a team structure at all. 

One of our team pre-race breakfasts. We go with the classic: suns out, tongues out pose.

You can also ask your prospective coach how many athletes they work with. Whether it’s in the 20s-30s doesn’t matter as much as if it’s way above or below that. A coach may not have the coaching experience you are looking for with a limited number of athletes, or with a large roster, that coach may not have the time to give you an individualized plan–and more importantly, useful and insightful feedback. When you hire a coach, that feedback and communication is the most valuable part of the relationship.

Some coaches coach full-time, while others coach part-time. If this is a criteria that matters to you, ask those questions to ensure you are working with a good fit.  

Coach Zach with No Limits Athlete Donna Grocki.

Do some research – there are plenty of coaching directories including Training Peaks, USAT, Trifind, etc. Ask your friends about their coaching experiences. Interview several coaches before picking one, and ask what their training philosophy is and how they can help YOU. Have a list of questions ready to ask so that you can better decide what you need to set up a successful relationship and winning season! 

When it is time to pick the right coach, we’d love to be on the list of coaches you interview. We offer free consults, which you can set up by clicking this link.

How to Pick The Right Coach for You
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