How to select a Coach

**UPDATED 10/26/2015**

When I found Coach Liz, I interviewed several coaches. I thought it would be helpful to outline the process that I went through.

First, it is ok and expected for you to interview coaches. These are people who you really need to trust, and they need to trust you. You will be in the position where (at times) you might need to share with your coach very personal information.

More than likely, you have a short list of coaches you already want to interview. You've watched people improve.

Pre-Step: Follow different Coaches on FB or Twitter. You see how coaches interact with athletes. I'm on a couple of triathlon related FB pages. Often times, coaches offer up their advice when athletes post questions. I also follow a number of coaches on Twitter.

Social Media is constantly changing the landscape of how we interact. Expect my opinions on this matter to change on a regular basis.

Here are the benefits:

Facebook: Coaches can easily interact with athletes. You get to know them.

Twitter: I use this to get information. All of the coaches that I follow post articles (research) or inspirational things they've seen. Some post their own race reports. Some mix in really damn funny stories.

I use social media on a limited basis, but it helps to get an initial reaction as far as personality fit.

As far as "friending" coaches....
Pay attention to what they post personally. You can learn a lot about Coaches by what they post on their FB wall.....and read the comments.

Ultimately, you can decide how to use social media. I'm giving you a few ideas. I followed my Coach's page and friended her prior to signing up.

Blogs are different. Blogs should be used to see the more athletic side of a Coach. You get the opportunity to see that they have the same thoughts and training that we....mere mortals....have. Coach Liz writes an amazing blog. If you haven't read her IMWC post, it's a must read.

Step 1:
Get recommendations from friends (first). If you have a coach in mind, make sure to get recommendations of current and former athletes. Talk to those athletes. Find out why an athlete left. Find out why they stay. (Finding out why someone stays is actually a really important question. It's just as important as why someone left). Most of the time when an athlete leaves, the reason will simply be "I stop competing" or "I lost my job" or something completely unrelated to the coach's ability.  But, it's important to know. When I asked around about Liz, I got answers ranging from, "I'm taking a short time off" to "I'm done with triathlon/running, etc."

Step 2:
I was particular about education. I wanted a USAT certified coach. More importantly, however, I wanted to know that my coach had other certifications or degrees.

Once you have choices narrowed down to about 3, move forward with your interview. These questions are in no particular order.

1.) Don't be afraid to ask their monthly fee. Coaches range from $100 per month to over $500 per month.  It doesn't make sense to interview someone who is out of your budget. Ask if there are set up fees. Find out if there is a minimum contract. Are they requiring you to sign up for a minimum of 3-6-9 months?

2.) How do you stay up on the latest research?  A coach who stays up on research (not fads) will keep you healthy and have you recovering better than you ever have.

3.)Will the coach educate you on supplements? Will they help you with race day fueling? Can they give you pointers on daily nutrition? If necessary, can they put you in touch with a nutritionist? There is a lot of misinformation out there nowadays. Should I drink this? Should I take this pill? A Coach is by no means an expert (unless they are certified in nutrition). However, they should be kept up on the latest research and help you identify "fads" versus "well documented research", and they should be able to provide you with links to the research or articles.

4.) Ask how YOUR training will be different from another athlete. Specifically, I asked, "how will my training (a 48 year old life long athlete) be different than a 25 year old man's training."

5.) Ask what you can expect in your training the first month, the next 2-3 months and so on. Even though a new Coach won't know all your hopes and dreams, they should have an understanding of periodization and the number of hours you will need to commit to in order to be your best.

6.) Ask, "Do I sound like someone you would like to work with?" Nothing like letting your future coach know that you want feedback. After all, this is a two way street. Remember. You're paying a Coach to help you improve in one way or another. That requires getting feedback....sometimes feedback that is hard to hear.

7.) Ask about communication: what type on 1-1 communication does the coach prefer? Phone? Text? Email? Skype? How often does the Coach communicate with athletes as a group? Ask if the coach communicates ahead of time when they won't be available. (Hey....they're racing too. They're also regular people with families and probably enjoy vacations and holidays, just like you take when you need a break from work).  Do athletes have an opportunity to interact with each other? (Virtually and in real life) I love that Liz's FB page offers the opportunity for us to interact together. I really appreciate that she sends out a weekly email to all her athletes. These are some ideas for you to consider. With Liz being in Chicago and I'm located in CO, the steps she takes to make us feel like we are all part of a team, are appreciated.

8.) If this didn't come up during the "athlete recommendation stage" ask about athlete successes. Ask. Most of the time, Coaches will have a story about someone who started as a back of the pack athlete and through their coach/athlete relationship and the athlete's willingness to do what the coach said.....that athlete is now an elite athlete.

9.) Will you help me understand "why" I'm doing certain workouts? Let's face it. Training is hard. If a Coach doesn't explain, ahead of time, what you're doing and deserve to ask. This is about YOUR training. Training that you are paying for, take an active role in your improvement.

10.) Will you adjust my training if you notice something seems off or not right? How far in advance will you upload my workouts? How often will I get rest days?

11.) Most importantly: (to me anyway) Will you give me honest feedback? This means, even when you aren't asking for it. A Coach will hold you to high standards. If they don't feel like you are giving it everything, either your goals need to be adjusted or you need a kick in the butt. Be ready for both.

Ultimately, it comes down to "fit". Sometimes you just click with people right away. If that happens, it's great but make sure they meet the items that are most important to you. If you find someone you click with and offers you everything you need, well you've hit the jackpot.

Remember, a Coach is on YOUR side. They will only be successful if YOU are successful.

If you decide to give Liz a call, let her know that I sent you. She has two other coaches working with her: Amanda and Val. Amanda is a pretty rocking Coach also. A friend of mine is working with Amanda and really likes her. I don't know Val personally, but I've heard good things about her.

If you want my feedback on Liz, drop me a line. I'm always open to talk about my experience with her. I've been with her for 2014 and 2015.