You’re passionate about running, you’ve run a bunch of races, you’re the ‘go-to’ person that all your running friends turn to for advice and now you’re thinking about taking the next step and becoming a running coach. Great… now what?
Before we get into the specifics, it’s important to know what makes a great running coach. For starters, having a passion for helping others is a must! Additionally, being a ‘student of the sport’ and always looking for learning opportunities is critical to the growth of a coach whether or not you are a beginner or expert. Lastly, as a coach, it’s never about you! It’s not about your PR’s or what training methodology personally works best for you. Your clients are all individuals and as such, they must be treated as such.
Now that we got that out of the way, here are seven things to take into consideration:
To get a certification or not to get a certification… that is the question. While we’re admittedly a bit biased towards being a certified coach as we our business (United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy) is certifying coaches, there are a lot of great coaches out there without a certification. A benefit of becoming a certified coach is that you not only learn about running-specific information, but how the body functions and how it applies to running. It is important to reduce individual biases when coaching others. Things to look for in a certification are:
- Principles are grounded in evidence and science-based information, not personal opinion
- Teaches safe and progressive programming methodologies
- Contains current training data
- Information is directly applicable to your desired coaching practice
If you coach runners, you need to have liability insurance. While there are many insurance companies that cover the sports and fitness industries, make sure that the policy you’re considering covers runners. For example, just because a policy covers personal trainers, it may not cover running outdoors. It is advisable to get a minimum of a 1M per occurrence policy. You should be able to get a 1M policy for between $200-500 annually. Most polices will allow you to select between 500,000-2M per occurrence. Be aware that if you think that you’ll be using a facility such as a gym, they often require a minimum of a 1M policy and they also often require proof of CPR/AED.
Lastly, if you train at a facility that requires insurance, you’ll also likely be asked to add the legal name of the facility as ‘additional insured’ to your policy. There is usually no additional fee for doing so and with quite a few policies, you can administer your own ‘additional insured’ online.
Coaching athletes takes time. For most coaches, coaching is a side-gig to their day job and as such, time spent coaching athletes is often in competition with other things such as spending time with friends/family, training, relaxing, etc…
So before starting up a coaching practice, make sure that you’ll have the time to commit to your future athletes. This pertains not just to starting a coaching business but also deciding how many athletes you can effectively take on while still providing 100% to each athlete.
Online or In-Person
Is your coaching practice going to be online, in-person or both? One is not better than another, it’s purely based on what type of practice you want to have. However, in the current COVID state of the world, virtual coaching is more popular than ever. The one area that in-person vs. online influences is equipment/technology. Below are some of your potential needs:
- Camera with slow-motion feature
- Website with scheduling software
- Online coaching platform (ex: TrainingPeaks)
- Dropbox account to share large files (if video-based)
Your marketing choices may be based around if you coach in-person or online, although there is a lot of carry over between the two. Below is a very non-comprehensive list of marketing avenues, with word of mouth being the best:
- Word of mouth
- Facebook business page/group/ads
- Search engine optimization
- Work with local businesses/organizations like running stores and clubs
- Partner with influencers
- Local mailings
- Sponsor and/or partner with a local running race
- Make sure your blog is part of your website for SEO purposes
Stay In Your Lane
To keep everything legal, you must know what you can and cannot do as a coach. For example, as a running coach, you cannot diagnose or treat an injury or illness. Additionally, in this same light, you cannot tell a client to take a particular medication – even something as seemingly innocent as Advil or Tylenol. Lastly, in regard to nutrition, you should not prescribe a dietary plan or supplements. While you can educate your clients on nutritional and supplement information, leave the ‘prescribing’ to a registered dietician or a certified nutritionist.
Website / Email
I’m pretty sure we’ve all come across those websites that look like they were made by a toddler. You know the type… a free template with terrible misplaced graphics and fonts with missing links (if you’re even brave enough to click on a link!). This is akin to a run down storefront with graffiti on it in a terrible part of town.
Would you shop here? Probably not.
Invest in a good looking and functional website that is easy to navigate and looks professional. Free isn’t always better.
Make sure that your email is professional and different from your personal email. As it’s free to create one at gmail (and most all other places like yahoo, hotmail, etc…), there is no excuse for not having a separate email. Lastly, keep your email related to your coaching practice and not something vulgar or immature – because you likely won’t get a lot of interested clients when your email is: johndoe@bestmuthafu#kingrunningcoach.com (yes, I’ve seen something close to that!).
While these are just a few things to consider before becoming a running coach, they are important as disregarding them can at best result in an unsuccessful running coaching practice and at worst, land you in legal hot water.
Rick Prince is the founder/director of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science-based endurance sports education company. UESCA educates and certifies running and triathlon coaches (cycling and ultrarunning coming soon!) worldwide on a 100% online platform.
Click on the one of below links to learn more about our certifications and to get $50 OFF the purchase price!
Click here to download the UESCA Triathlon Course Overview/Syllabus
Click here to download the UESCA Running Course Overview/Syllabus
Click here to sign up for information and launch alerts for the UESCA Ultrarunning Certification.
Click here to sign up for information and launch alerts for the UESCA Cycling Certification.