Interviewing Coaches

Despite my disappointment in the recent elections, I’m confident 2017 is going to be a great year! I turn 40 and I want to chase my dreams! So, I’ve decided to hire a coach to help me get closer to achieving my dreams! This means I’ve been interviewing coaches and I’ve learned a LOT in the process!

Before I share what I’ve learned, let’s back up this train just a bit…I had a coach from January of 2010 – May of 2014. I am forever grateful to her for getting me across the finish line of many races, including my first 70.3 and first Ironman, and for all of the knowledge and encouragement she bestowed on me in that time.

I decided to cut ties with her when I realized I was often injured and overtrained. Having to make the decision to pull out of a 70.3 race in June of 2014 due to injury about killed me was very hard on me mentally, but I knew this was the right decision if I was going to set myself up for success and get to the start line of my Ironman race in September.

I decided to self coach and see where I could take myself. I took myself from a 16:15:00 at Ironman Wisconsin 2011 to a 15:15:56 at Ironman Wisconsin 2014. In 2015 I put up a 14:04:37 at Ironman Boulder and this year I had a 14:34:11 at Ironman Wisconsin. I have seen improvements in my training and racing because of my passion, hard work, dedication, determination, and commitment to the sport. I feel like I have plateaued a bit, and have decided to seek the expertise, guidance, and support from a coach.

I had no idea I’d learn so much in the process of hiring a coach! Some of the best advise that I received via social media was to listen to the questions that the coaches ask me and make sure our communication styles match. If they have no questions, they probably aren’t super invested in their athletes and might not be the right coach for me. If they have questions, what kind of questions are they asking? What is their focus?

I am seeking a coach who is hands-on and minds-on. Someone who is passionate about coaching, but even more passionate about helping ME become a better athlete. Someone who has the education AND experience to help me train smart. Someone who is knowledgable, motivating, supportive, and not committed to so many athletes that they can’t provide me with the attention I am paying them for. Someone who will push me and isn’t afraid to use tough love when training me. Someone who communicates effectively, who is honest and trustworthy, but also listens to me and makes adjustments to my plan if life happens or problems arise. Someone who is not all business, but also likes to have fun. Someone who cares about and is invested in ME!

I wrote out a list of questions that each of the prospective coaches answered via email. This did help me narrow down my prospects. Some answers to these questions I received felt very formal and impersonal; I felt like the answers were what they thought I wanted to hear. Because of this, I decided to give some of them a call to get a better idea of how we would fit together as we develop an athlete/coach relationship. After all, that is what I’m seeking…a relationship.

So…what did I ask each of the prospective coaches? Via email, I asked the following questions:

  1. What is your coaching philosophy?
  2. What is your coaching resume/experience?
  3. Since you are not a local coach, how will you help me improve form and make recommendations for improvement?
  4. I am looking to maintain balance between life (work, family, social) and training. How will you help me achieve this?
  5. How will you help me get stronger & faster without risking injury/overtraining?
  6. How will you help me physically reach my goals/dreams? Mentally?
  7. How many athletes have you coached to a Kona qualification? What experience do you have in coaching athletes to Kona qualification or 70.3 Worlds qualification?
  8. I have struggled with hyponatremia/nutrition in some of my previous Ironman races. How will you help me overcome this for future races?
  9. Will you customize my workouts based on “feel,” data (power/heart rate), or both?
  10. What are your coaching packages and prices? What do your coaching packages provide me with?

Over the phone, we socialized a bit more (getting to know each other personally is also important to me) and I asked a few additional questions while trying to get to know each of my prospective coaches:

  1. After Ironman Boulder, I ended up in the med tent and the doctor who met with me suggested that I have a sweat test done because of how salty I was and because I was experiencing early signs of blacking out again (this happened at IMWI 2011). I haven’t been able to find a place that does a sweat test in the Midwest (including the University of Iowa, which is a medical university). How will you help me overcome this problem?
  2. My husband is looking to hire a coach as well (he is talking with a coach who is more local). We are two very different people. I am VERY much an introvert, he is an extrovert. I am very goal-oriented and typically race with a time goal in mind. He races to have fun. If we were both on the Biggest Loser, I would be motivated by Jillian, while he would be motivated by Bob. Our relationship probably works so well because we are so different. We have been training together and competing in the same races for nearly 7 years now. Are you willing to work with me so that we can have a couple of workouts each week that are the same type of workout (maybe a trainer ride on Monday that we could both do, knowing that the workout would be very different; doing our long ride together for safety; doing a run together each week) so we can still train together on occasion and spend time together?
  3. For safety and convenience, we try to do our long rides and maybe a 2nd longer ride outside each week (even in the summer). Are you willing to work with me to make this happen? I really do prefer riding the trainer for anything under 2 hours for safety and convenience.

It was so nice to get to talk with each of my prospective coaches to get to know them a bit better and place a voice with their face!! If you are thinking of hiring a coach to help you get closer to achieving your dreams, spend time to find the right coach for you!! What kind of coach do you want…someone who is “high touch” or someone who is more “hands off”? What kind of relationship do you want with your coach? What do you want from your coach? What do you want to pay for? Do you want a coach who is local that you can see in person, or is an online coach able to meet your needs?

I’m hoping to have my final decision made by the end of this week. Stay tuned to see who I go with for a coach in 2017! 😉

Have you interviewed coaches? If so, how did you go about hiring him/her? What would you recommend for people looking to hire a coach?


21 thoughts on “Interviewing Coaches

  1. I don’t have any coach-selection advice, but regarding the sweat test: have you contacted the big regional reference labs like Quest and Abbot? I’m sure they do sweat tests, but you’ll probably have to get a doctor to order it and you’ll probably pay 100% out of pocket. There was a fitness lab at one of the universities in MS where they do all the VO2 max/lactate threshold testing, so maybe they can do the sweat test (also one of the universities in SC). I know neither one of those is close to you, but maybe they can at least point you in the right direction. Another option is ask a pediatrician- they do sweat tests for some genetic disorders (although I think they test for chloride, not sodium, but I’ve been out of the lab for a long time).

  2. Oh! Oh! I don’t know if it’s too late, but I would HIGHLY recommend my tri coach (Sami Winter with Without Limits – and text me if you want her number to call) Finding the perfect fit is critical to success when it comes to having a coach. I’ve had amazing coaches (Sami and Kristen) and some awful coaches before, which has helped me learn how to be a good coach myself. And coached athlete 🙂
    Best to you and the Hippie. It can be a hard decision to make! Looks like you’re def asking some great questions through the process!

  3. Wow what a cool interview process! I think a good coach would be excited for the challenge of your interview questions :)) I def think you’ll find the right fit just bc of how much you’ve thought about what you want

  4. I would suggest to anyone hiring a coach. Is to make sure he/she knows your goals and wants to help you achieve your goals. I have seen too many athletes post on social media how the coach would never listen to me and my goals and pushed me to do events/races I did not want to do or their goal was finish in the top ten and I only wanted to finish the race/event.

    Before he/she starts given advise to the athlete she/he should see what training and races/events the athletes have already completed. They should see where the athlete is in in their training. Ask the athlete what is your schedule, what time of day and what days do you have open to training.

    Some triathlon coaches specialize or focus on one leg or another in the triathlon. Their is one on facebook, that is he is a great cycling coach, but I would not trust him to write a run plan for a 9 year old. So, if your weak point is the bike, he is your man.

    1. I agree! Making sure the coach knows your goals and is willing to listen to you and help you achieve those goals is key! I’ve made this very clear with all of the coaches I’ve interviewed 😉

  5. This is very exciting!!! Great work on really being serious about getting a coach that is going to work for you!! Great questions too!! I can’t wait to hear about who you pick….are you going to tell us who was the top few?? When are you starting with the coach?! How did you find the coaches to interview?
    I’m pretty opposite of you…I want a coach to give me a plan…I don’t need them checking in…I don’t need them getting to know me….I just need them to tell what to do!! 🙂 Maybe that is part of my problem!! 🙂

    1. Thank you! It is pretty exciting! I found most of them thorough social media or because they are Coeur teammates of mine. My top two picks are Heidi Lueb and Kelly Hadiaris. I will start working with my coach after Christmas. I currently don’t have a bike (it was sent back to the dealer for a mechanical problem), so I’m waiting to see when I get that back. No point paying for a coach yet when I don’t have a bike 😉 There are many coaches out there that are more hands-off! 😉

  6. Good luck with your decision! A coach that gives you straight answers is important. While I was looking around for a running coach with experience with my knee condition, I came across one person who wouldn’t give me a straight answer about whether or not they had worked with a person who had my condition-that was an immediate NOPE.

    1. Sometimes it is hard to get straight answers from them. That’s why I wanted to talk with them on the phone. Definitely cleared up some thoughts I had from reading their responses to my questions via email. 😉

  7. There are all different types of coaches, there are head coaches, assistant coaches, strength coaches, player-development coaches, conditioning coaches, mind coaches and many others. If you are lucky you find the right coach to match the need at the point in time when that aspect of you needs direction. I say this because my need for emotional balance was the driving force behind my decision to get a coach in the 1st place. I interviewed a few coaches, mostly through email or over the phone and thought maybe this is not such a great idea. Spending any amount of money for someone you have no connection with would be a waste of time and money. But, just as I was getting ready to throw in the towel and go solo I took one last chance on Coach Sue. The conversation over the phone started out slow…Who is this woman? What are her qualification? Is she a triathlete.. Has she even coached before…did I get the second string coach?? (I was expecting to get a call from a man). And then the magic began.. ….Hey she said, don’t think I’m staking you but I can see the races you have been doing over the past few years and you have done some good stuff.. (OK now I’m thinking, she has done some homework) …Then she said…Let’s meet for coffee and see how things go… (Again thinking to myself, why not?? Wait is she interviewing me or am I interviewing her??) To make a long story short…within the 1st 15 minutes of meeting Coach Sue I knew dead on that she was the one that fit my long list of needs… She came to the table in my mind highly qualified, super motivated and more importantly we connected… I spent a long time after that wondering about the men vs women coaching thing. I guess some people have a preference but even though all of the coaches I did not choose were men I really don’t believe gender played a part of my decision. For years in the Marines I served under some of the most motivational Gunny’s and brother Marines that the Corp had to offer (and some stinkers too). But the great ones were and are still rock solid mentors who I’d willing lay down my life for. So I don’t have an issue with men or woman in leadership positions but there are a few elements that need to be present for me to connect. A true “great coach” has to know, live, and understand the qualities the he/she is expecting of you. Coach Sue came with the full package there so, I feel lucky to have her on my team, which has grown to now include my wife Abby. As my biggest fan she has stepped up to clear the deck so I can make the huge commitment to the time required to train. With a 4 AM start on most morning she is a constant source of encouragement during the dark moments. Even Izzy (my youngest daughter) got into the game early on with videos of my swim technique to send the coach. That’s a long funny story for another day… So, it is really a good investment of time and money to get a good coach.. Having each week’s training customized for you keeps you focused, mentally stable (By now I’d be in the fetal position) and it gives you someone to focus your anger on when the workload seems impossible and to praise when you get it all done.

    1. In having a coach before, I agree with you that there are lots of different types and people. I’m glad you’ve found an amazing coach and support team to help you on your journey!

  8. Very interesting post! I kind of feel that in have hit a plateau as well and am tossing around a few ideas myself. Great series of questions and good luck with the fimall decision!

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