From the Coach's Corner with Coach Samantha - The Art of Coaching

Two weeks ago we wrote about the scientific aspects when it comes to choosing a coach. Today we are going to tackle some of the more elusive points of coaching, but perhaps the most important things to look for when making the leap to hiring a coach. Coaching when done right (we say this a lot) is both an art and a science. The science in some ways is the easy part – but the art and even more so the balance of the art and science is what can take an athlete from an average coaching experience to one that is above average.

There is so much we could cover here, but again we are going to try to narrow it down to the big points.

When I sought out a coach, the number one thing that I looked for was a person who valued me as a coach, an athlete, a business owner, a mom, and a wife – for me this is hugely important. THIS IS A LOT TO JUGGLE! But if I am to be successful as an athlete, it is important that all facets of who I am as a human are taken into account. Which brings us to the only thing to look for when evaluating the art of coaching – creating a relationship where the athlete is valued as a whole person and not just a number on a piece of paper.

Pretty much everything stems from the relationship that is created with you hire a coach. When we chat with potential athletes at Evolve what we are looking for is an athlete who wants to engage in a meaningful athlete/coach relationship. Everything hinges on the relationship that is forged when an athlete finds the right coach.


Let’s break it down a little more into what to look for in the relationship:


a.       Communication.

Like all relationships in life, communication is essential for success. Communication is far easier when the athlete feels comfortable with the person with whom her or she is working. We are very lucky at Evolve to have a stable of coaches to choose from. This allows for a client to be able to pick the right person to fit his or her needs as an athlete and human. I hail from New York and have a fast paced way about me – I need a coach who can handle that. I need someone who I can feel comfortable swearing like a sailor around when I have a tough day working out. I also need to feel like the communication that I share with my coach is felt to be valuable. Here’s the crazy part about working with a good coach – the data will begin to reflect the stress, the lack of sleep, and life outside of working out in general. A great coaching relationship with a lot of communication can take the stress that is reflected (whether you choose to share it or not) and help an athelte deal with it and shape the plan around all that is happening in life outside of endurance sports. If you cannot reveal your highest highs and your lowest lows to a coach, you will never fully get out of them what you sought after to begin with. Here’s a great quote from an Evolve athlete that reflects this, “ Just hiring a coach is not that important but having the right coach is key. Having the right coach facilitates growth as an athlete in all facets of the sport versus the go it alone approach that lends its self to only focusing on your strengths. Also a coach is able to help balance the demands of triathlon/work/life and help guide you through the tough times.”


 I could not agree more as an athlete, all athletes need a coach for the tough times more than for the easy times – but we need to be able to communicate when those times occur in order for a coach to really be able to help out.


b.      Trust

This is the foundation of ALL relationships. Without this, there is really no way that you as an athlete will be able to achieve your true potential. We never ask for blind trust – we want our athletes to be able to understand the objectives and how they will get from point A to point B, but there needs to be a level of trust that is established on both the part of the athlete and coach. The athlete needs to trust that the coach will guide the ship in the right direction, but the coach needs to earn the trust of the athlete by affording them the chance to be valued in the process. Trust is built on solid communication and is fortified with the knowledge that the athlete is being held accountable to the plan.


c.       Accountability.

This is the number one reason our athletes give when they talk about why they hired a coach. Knowing that your coach is waiting on the other end for your workout to come through – knowing that there is a person in your corner who will support you through it all and hold you accountable to the goals that you set out to reach is one of the most important reasons to hire a coach. The art of accountability can be a hard thing to get as a coach – you need to know when to push and when to pull back. You need to know how to push one athlete versus another. Each athlete at Evolve is an individual and as such he or she is different in the way that he or she receives feedback. Once you are able to strike up a meaningful relationship with a coach, and establish a strong line of communication, then the coach is truly able to learn the style of the athlete – what makes her tick, what makes her work harder, or what will stop her dead in her tracks. None of our coaches approach each athlete the same – they have an arsenal of tools that they use to get the most out of each athlete – and that starts with holding them accountable to the work that we set out to complete.


d.      Flexibility

Flexibility is another key aspect of a great coach/athlete relationship. For most of our athletes they are competing at the AG level and life outside of triathlon is chaotic – it is really hard to find balance on any given day when you are dealing with all of the stress outside of sport. A coach who cannot be flexible in her or his plan and work with the demands of his or her athletes to find balance when life gets off kilter is not going to promote success in the long run. None of us want to miss workouts, none of us want to have a day that does not go according to plan and many of us will push too hard even when we need to rest more – this is where working with a coach who really knows you and truly tailors a plan for you can be vital to your success. The flip-side is that the coach also needs to know when to be flexible and when to hold the line – see where we are going with this – you can’t deliver this if you are not in a relationship built on trust and open communication.


e.      Support

 Finally, we work very hard to create a culture of support at Evolve. While we acknowledge that this is an individual sport where we are all hunting our own performances, we also know that a group that can work together will produce race day results that are far better than most can produce if they go at it solo. The team aspect that is the foundation of Evolve is one of the things that we are most proud of – “Before joining Evolve, I had a few coaches and I would stop using them after my big race. But now it is so different with Evolve, I know this is going to be a long term relationship. The team aspect is amazing. So supportive and encouraging.” While we do not all have the chance to work out as a squad on a daily basis – the team is there to support our athletes whether in person at races, during workouts, or virtually – knowing that you are surrounded by like-minded individuals who all “speak the same language”, can make the day in and day out of training an experience that is truly unforgettable.