If you check out multiple coaching websites, it’s likely that some of them will denote races that their coaches have participated in, and in some cases, they may list their placings and PR’s for various distances. I get it, doing so demonstrates experience, credibility, competence, and fitness/athletic level – or does it?
There are quite a few factors that make up a ‘good’ coach. One of those is relatability. There is perhaps no better way to relate to a client than to have also participated in the same sport. Let’s face it, you can read all of the journal articles that you want but unless you have actually participated in the sport, you’ll lack the things that you only really learn by doing.
For example, try finding a research article on why it’s damn near impossible to run and drink water out of a cup at the same time – while not gagging and getting more water into your mouth than down the front of your shirt!
While experience matters, notice that I didn’t say that you have to win every race you enter. More on this later…
Student of the Sport
Intrigue and curiosity are much more important to being a good coach than one’s personal race results. A great coach looks at every instance as a potential learning opportunity, whether it be their own training run, researching an article online, or reviewing client files for trends. The desire to learn and understanding that the learning process is on-going is critical for success. Lastly, the ability to acknowledge when you are wrong and take constructive feedback is also critical to be a great coach – in fact, that’s likely how you’ll learn the most!
It’s awesome that a coach can run a 4:57 mile and that their marathon PR is 2:47! These race results are certainly something to be proud of but before they post them to their coaching website, they should understand how their stats might be interpreted. While the coach likely posts them to advertise their competence and the fact that they are a fast runner, they need to appreciate that while some potential clients may be impressed by this, others may be intimidated. For example, a potential client whose mile PR is 9:12 may correctly or incorrectly assume that the coach only works with ‘fast’ runners and they will likely look down on them for being ‘slow’ and therefore treat them with less focus than their other clients.
Just remember, the effort level and training that a coach puts toward achieving a 4:57 mile for themselves might be the same effort and training that another coach puts into running a 7:37 mile PR. This variance has nothing to do with their coaching ability!
No judgment as to whether or not you put your race times on your website. Just know that your race stats will likely be interpreted differently based on the individual viewing them.
Elite Does Not Equal A Great Coach
I’m pretty sure we all know a person that without much or any training, can go out and run a crazy fast time (yes, we hate them too!). Would this person make a good coach just because they can run fast? No. What makes a good coach has nothing to do with how fast one can run. In fact, one could hypothetically argue that ‘fast’ runners might make worse coaches because since they are naturally fast, they don’t understand the process by which to get faster and can’t relate to a ‘slow’ runner.
It’s Not About You, It’s About Them!
At the end of the day, do prospective clients really care about how many marathons you’ve run or that you can run 800 meters faster than a cheetah that just drank a case of Redbull? Probably not.
What they likely do care about is you have a history of clients that reached their goals in a safe and progressive manner, after all, that’s why they’re hiring you! Therefore, if you’re looking to advertise stats on your website, it would be advantageous to advertise the results your clients have attained under your guidance, rather than your own personal race resume’.
What Traits Equate To A Great Coach?
While the list is probably endless, here are 10 traits that we believe are important to being a great coach:
- Understands how the body functions in relation to the sport
- Stays current on recent training developments and research
- Relatable and patient
- Professional behavior
- Experience in the sport
- Tailors a training program for each client
- Willingness to accept constructive criticism
- Only accepts clients they feel they can get to their goals
- Appreciates their scope of practice
While there are some coaches that are both fast and great coaches, these two things are not synonymous. From a marketing perspective, focus on your education/knowledge, overall sport background and most importantly, your track record/results with present and past clients as well as client testimonials.