Updated: May 10, 2021
Watch the vlog and/or read the blog below for 5 easy steps to finding a coach
Step 1: Why do you need a coach?
Think about it. What do you want to achieve? And what do you need help with? Write it down! Make a list! Be specific. Make it SMART if you can (Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-Bound).
Step 2: What qualities do you want in a coach?
Coaches are humans. Most of the time ;-) Like humans, coaches have strengths and weaknesses. Just like no two athletes are the same, no two coaches are the same. You need to be clear about what qualities are important in a coach that will be best for you. How do you like to work with people? What motivates you? I suggest that you think about the qualities you want in a coach under four general headings.
(1) Hard skills: cycling-specific knowledge and expertise
(2) Soft skills: emotional intelligence, communication, motivational, interpersonal skills
(3) Bespoke: how tailored will the coaching be to your individual needs
(4) The coffee/beer/bike ride test: are they someone you can chat to?
Not all of the qualities above may be important to you. Whatever you think about them, it's important that you reflect on it so that you are clear about what matters to you.
Step 3: Prioritise what you need
When it comes to reflecting on what is important to you, it is also important to give relative weight or priority to things. When you write down your list of qualities that a coach needs to have, be clear on what are non-negotiable versus what are 'nice to have'. Keep bringing it back to your 'True North' - what is the ultimate goal/dream that motivates you to find a coach in the first place?
Step 4: Google, ask around, get to know your options
Now that you are armed with your goal(s) and prioritised ideal qualities, it's time to find out what's available. Make time to speak to coaches and to people who work with coaches. Ask questions about the things that are important to you. For example, in most potential business relationships, I will always ask a person what their motivations are. The answer to that question never fails to provide me with useful insight into that individual.
I joked about dating in the video blog, but it is actually a bit like Tinder in the way that you want to find someone who you feel that you get on with. The athlete-coach relationship is a human relationship like any other, so it's important to feel that it works for you.
Step 5: Make a decision
Now that you know what your options are, it's time to make a decision. How exciting! One more point though.... the above is a good framework for decision-making. But...it should not overrule any gut feelings that you have. Humans have incredibly good gut instincts, and sometimes they can tell us much more than an excel spreadsheet or a cost-benefit analysis. If your gut is telling you something, listen to it!
Good luck, and please get in touch if you want a sounding board or to ask a question about anything that's been covered in this blog :-)
Finally... Professionalism and boundaries
I made a joke about dating your coach. It was a joke, but it also prompted me to address the important topic of professionalism and boundaries. The close nature of an athlete-coach relationship means that boundaries can be blurred easily. We have to talk about lots of personal things, so it can get blurry pretty quickly. Despite that, it is vitally important that a coach always remains respectful and professional in their conduct, just like any other professional who might have a close relationship with an athlete, such as a doctor or a teacher. This is especially true for coaches working with youth, junior and U23 athletes.
Whenever you are having conversations with coaches, make sure you feel comfortable in that relationship and that a coach doesn't appear to flout professionalism or otherwise overstep boundaries. Coaches occupy a position of trust and power whenever they work with athletes; it is a great joy to work closely with athletes and to build positive trusting relationships. It is unacceptable for coaches to exploit this privileged role, whatever the age of the athlete. Most coaches are well-intentioned, but it's important to highlight this aspect of the coach-athlete relationship so that every athlete of every age and gender knows how they can and should expect to be treated.
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