For more than 15 years, my colleagues and I have been hiring and training cycling and other coaches and then watching them develop. In that time we’ve had a chance to see what makes for a successful coach and what has held others back. Many factors contribute, including experience, education, and teaching skills. We also find that personality, attitude and communication style can be just as beneficial or damning to a potential coach. Here’s a list of the key things that we look for in a coach and that we encourage our coaches to develop.
- Do lots of events in the sport(s) you want to coach. Before you give advice to others, become an expert at pacing, tactics, technique, mental approach, nutrition and other aspects of your competitive game. Study the entire game of your sport, not just the types of training. Winning is good, but knowing how and why you won is better. Make yourself aware of how your training or racing methods will or won’t work well for others.
- Coach as much as you can by volunteering at first. Learn all you can by mentoring new teammates, volunteering to mentor at beginner races, coaching for organizations such as Team in Training or other charity ride training projects and generally putting yourself in positions where you can learn to talk with confidence to athletes and potential clients. The more questions you’ve heard and answered before, the more quickly and accurately you can respond to current client questions.
- Volunteer as a club team director for a full season if you plan to coach racers. Learn how to recon a course, read a race, size up the competition and utilize the strengths of your riders, as well as debrief and help them learn from the race experience.
- Learn to analyze data from heart rate monitors, power meters and other training devices. Start with yourself since you’ll understand the perceived effort tied to the numbers. Subscribe to discussion lists such as the Wattage Google Group, and read the archives (especially if you plan to post or ask questions). Look at all the files you can — from posted champion rides to everyday files from friends.
- Study the anatomy, physiology and common injuries that relate to training and specifically to the events you want to coach.
- Read all you can about the sport and training for it, including everything from training manuals to racer memoirs, tactics articles, nutrition guides and studies posted on the web. Think critically about the studies and guides you read.
- Develop your personal coaching philosophy and make sure that your potential clients are aware of it. Be willing to stick to it as well as evolve it, always being careful to avoid telling athletes just what they want to hear in order to keep them happy.
- Write about what you know, and after you have others proof it for you, publish it to your blog.
- Market yourself. If you have five hours to coach each week and you have a client or two that take up one hour, the remaining four should be spent marketing. Realize that above all that word of mouth will always be your strongest advertising element, so responsive customer service is core piece of your marketing.
- Be willing to work with several kinds of riders. Success in coaching depends on establishing a robust stable of athletes. If you’re focused initially on coaching only certain kinds of athletes, you may miss out on opportunities. You may be able to find success working exclusively with aspiring elites, but given that most potential clients have other jobs, be open to working with employed athletes as well.
- Make yourself approachable. Our best coaches have magnetic personalities that make them leaders in their athletic communities. Athletes like to be around them because they are confident, positive, inspiring and realistic. They most often have athletes asking them for advice even before they officially decide to start coaching.
- Learn to communicate and follow-through. Coaches need to be able to respond in a timely manner to client needs and communicate instructions and expectations. A good coach spends more time listening than talking because every angle should be checked to see that your advice fits the client’s situation. If the client isn’t talking, you aren’t coaching. Coaching can be an inconvenient profession for those who don’t like to talk on the phone or respond to emails promptly. Timely responsiveness is key.
I leave you with the last tip on communication and follow-through. Wenzel Coaching doesn’t have many unhappy customers but the few times when we do, it’s usually because of a lack of communication and follow-through from a coach who got to busy or wasn’t focused on coaching. Excellent communication and processing of feedback help retain clients and helps them to avoid or get past any setbacks.
If you have the above traits and think you have what it takes to be an excellent coach, we’d like to hear from you! Check out our Jobs page at www.wenzelcoaching.com/jobs/Inquire about cycling coach jobs at Wenzel Coaching
Kendra Wenzel has been coaching since 1996 when she began mentoring and coaching teammates. She now specializes in elite riders and development and in coach training. Learn more about the coaches of Wenzel Coaching.