March Feature

March Feature

by: Pat Fellows


Do I Need A Coach?

I have been coaching athletes on and off since I was 18 years old.  First as a swim coach for summer league teams and then for the past 8 years or so as a coach to runners, triathletes and cross country runners.  I’ve always said that I get more pleasure from watching someone I work with achieve a goal than if I achieved something I was working towards.  So as an athlete, when is the right time to hire a coach or do you even need one?  Like most things, the answer isn’t cut and dry, but there are a few things to consider and think about when making this decision. 


I think it’s important to consider what you think you want in a coach as what a coach does and how that relationship evolves is important.  You also need to think about where you are as an athlete.  Are you just starting out?  Back after a long hiatus?  Just need someone to keep you accountable?  All of these matters.  It’s important to define what you think you want from a coach going into the conversations. Yes, a coach can springboard a beginner ahead, but only if they commit to the consistent work.   


What many beginners find out quickly is that there aren’t any silver bullet workouts.  Consistency matters as much as what’s being done in each workout.  Does that mean a beginner needs a coach?  Not necessarily.  A generic plan and a partner or two to make us accountable goes a long way.  A coach can be that accountability and can also tailor the program to the athletes’ life.  So if that’s a benefit you need, you can give it a go. 


I tell anyone up front that they should give a coach a call and make sure that their expectations and personalities are a match.  Communication and how that communication takes place are important to building a relationship.  I am not a “talk on the phone for an hour a week” type of coach. I open myself up to my clients to texts/email/carrier pigeon from about 5:30 am until 8 pm 7 days a week.  I encourage them to reach out as needed.  I also will do a call if they need, but these are few and far between.  This works well for some people and not so well for others.  You need to know what will make the most sense for you. 


I will say that there isn’t a single situation I have encountered that having a coach didn’t make better, IF the above expectations and communication parameters are put in place.  Usually the accountability of reporting back workouts is enough to help build consistency.  In addition, a coach will usually push an athlete to higher levels by simply helping remove the self limiting constructs an athlete has created for themselves.  At all levels we create ceilings of what we think we can do. Sometimes the permission to push beyond that is all that is needed.   


The biggest benefit for most people though, is simply the having a workout schedule worked around your life.  Again, most people stress out about fitting in training around their life.  Sometimes simply by having someone lay it out for you, the athlete can just do what’s prescribed and trust the process.  AKA removing the walls that hold us back. 


So that answer to the original question is yes, IF you want to pay for some freedom and you want accountability,