Before we launched UESCA, we looked at a variety of website builders, as well as web developers to build the website. Website builders that are user-friendly (and not technical for non-developers) have come a long way since the time we launched UESCA and in our opinion, they are awesome for basic business websites or personal websites.
For example, you can now drag-and-drop text/images/videos to where you want them versus knowing how to code this manually.
However, if they could do everything that a web developer could, there would be no reason for web developers.
The primary reasons why UESCA didn’t go with a website builder is as follows:
- We needed functionality that didn’t exist with website builders
- We wanted a point person that could troubleshoot any issue that came up (and there were plenty!)
- They had to know how to code cleanly and have a experience building a site like ours
- Our website didn’t fit into the templates that website builders offered
- We needed a developer that would be responsive both in terms of availability and professionalism.
SO HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO COACHING?
There are a lot of pre-formatted training programs out there, as well as program builders that function like the semi-customizable website builder noted previously.
As an athlete, these pre-formatted offerings may very well work for you. However, as a professional coach, terms like ‘pre-formatted’ and ‘semi-customizable’ should never be a part of your practice.
Anyone with access to the internet can find free (or paid) training program templates. Some might even be event-specific like how to hit a BQ for a particular qualifying race. However, as a coach, you must appreciate why a client would hire you versus using a generic program builder or training program.
Why do you pay a doctor versus just going to WebMD and self-diagnosing/treating? Because you know that they went through years of schooling and training to become a doctor and are experts.
- My heart rate won’t go up despite pushing hard
- I was sick for 3 days… what do I do now?
- What muscle is this that hurts?
- Why does delayed onset muscle soreness occur and how long till my legs won’t hurt?
- How can I add strength training to my program without taking away from my runs?
While you will never have all the answers to your clients’ questions, it’s imperative to have a general understanding of how the body functions in regard to anatomy, physiology and biomechanics and more specifically, how it applies to the sport you are coaching.
There is no substitute for experience… period. The more exposure to athletes you have, the more evidence-based information you will acquire to assist in making the (hopefully) right training decisions for other clients.
While coaches often set parameters regarding how often and/or when they can be contacted, the constant is that clients are able to effectively communicate with their coaches in a way that works best for them.
This is perhaps the biggest reason to not be a ‘drag-and-drop’ coach. You clients hire you for a custom program and if they are hiring you for a templated or semi-customized program, they are wasting their money – there, I said it! Here’s the thing when it comes to coaching – there is NO one size fits all training program… doesn’t exist.
For example, a pre-formatted program might have you take Tuesday and Sunday off – but what if you work a double shift on Tuesday and have family obligations all day on Sunday?
I don’t care if you’ve coached hundreds of runners for the same race – people respond differently to the same training stimuli. Yes, with hundreds of data points from prior clients, you have a great evidence-based platform to make training assumptions upon but they are just that – assumptions. At the end of the day, your decisions that you make for a client must be solely based on that client.
Let’s face it, no matter how good or bad a generic training program is, it’s not very motivating. A coach can and should be a constant source of motivation, honesty and assurance.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
It’s important to understand that there is no barrier to entry to becoming a coach. Therefore, anyone can call themselves a ‘coach.’
Check out the bio’s of coaches online and you’re likely to find that many of them list of their PR’s and race placings. I get it… it can look impressive but if you get anything from this article, let it be that a coach’s own ability has zero translation to being a ‘good’ coach.
So… what to look for:
- Working knowledge as it applies to the sport in anatomy/physiology/biomechanics – your coach should know how the body works!
- Coaches experience
- Fully customized program and every detail of the program should have a reason why it’s there
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding the program design
- Coaching philosophy (ps. If it’s ‘no pain, no gain’ – this likely isn’t a good idea!)
- Personality – does the coach have a personality that motivates you
- Professionalism – they MUST be timely in communication and conduct themselves in an overall professional manner
- How do they respond? While it could seem a bit tricky, ask them a question that you know the answer to that would demonstrate their knowledge.
- For example, “I have had episodes of biceps femoris tendonosis in the past, what things might you integrate into the program to possibly prevent it from becoming an issue again?” This question in particular likely solves the knowledge of anatomy question – but it also tells you if they are honest or not. Sidebar, the correct answer if the coach doesn’t know should always be, “I’m not sure, let me check into this and get back to you,” or, “I’d feel more comfortable if you spoke to a specialist about that as it’s outside my scope of practice.”
Coaching is a very personal business and should be treated as such by the part of the coach. Rarely is a coaching client just looking for a program. They are looking for support, motivation, on-going guidance and program modifications if need be and most of all, they are looking for someone they can trust. As you can see, none of these aspects are part of a ‘drag and drop’ program.
Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science/evidence-based endurance sports coaching education company that certifies running and triathlon coaches.
To learn more about our Running Coach Certification and to get a code for $50 off, click here!